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If you’ve recently welcomed a new puppy or dog into your life, you might be wondering whether you should have your canine companion spayed or neutered. Below are answers to some of the most common questions people have about these surgeries.

What is the difference between spay and neuter?

  • Spaying. A “spay,” or ovariohysterectomy, is a veterinary surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia. It involves removal of the female dog’s uterus and both ovaries through an incision made in the abdomen. A spay can also be performed laparascopically (usually with ovariectomies).
  • Neutering. Neutering, or castration, is the surgical removal of a male dog’s testes. Also performed under general anesthesia, it is a simpler surgery than a spay. An incision is made near the front of the scrotum, then the testicles are removed through that incision.
Corgi puppy sitting

Why spay or neuter your dog?

Here are three of the top reasons to spay or neuter your canine companion from AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jerry Klein:

  • Prevent unplanned puppies. If your female dog is unspayed, she will come into breeding season or “heat” for several weeks once or twice a year. Each time this happens, she’ll be very alluring to male dogs that can smell the scent from far away. This can bring unwanted canine visitors to your yard and might produce a litter of unplanned puppies. Having a litter is expensive and involves a lot of time and energy on your part. The bitch will require veterinary care during pregnancy. Delivery can sometimes be difficult and involve costly surgery or result in the loss of the bitch or puppies. The litter will also require veterinary care and shots after birth. On top of that, finding good homes for puppies can be very difficult. Spaying and neutering is a responsible way to prevent accidental breeding resulting in unwanted puppies. Breeding should be left to breeders who have an organized plan and knowledge about canine genetics, and who are concerned with preserving a breed’s best qualities for future generations.
  • Reduction of certain health risks. Spaying or neutering can lead to a reduction in certain health risks for both female and male dogs. Unspayed females can develop a painful and life-threatening infection of the uterus called pyometra. Unspayed females are also at a higher risk of mammary tumors than females that have been spayed. Neutering a male dog prevents testicular cancer and reduces the risk of other problems, such as prostate disease. A neutered male dog might also have less desire to roam.
  • May help with certain behavior issues. In addition to reducing roaming in male dogs, neutering can often, though not always, help reduce or eliminate undesirable behaviors, such as leg-lifting and mounting. Neutering may also decrease aggressive behavior in some dogs. Spayed females are also less likely to roam.

It’s important to note that recent data suggests neutering before puberty may instill a tendency toward shyness and insecure behavior.

Dal adult and pups

At what age should a dog be spayed or neutered?

Though these procedures can be done on puppies as young as a few months old, dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine the best age to spay or neuter their pet. The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation sponsored research that indicates there may be long-term health benefits to spaying or neutering dogs after they have passed through puberty. Benefits to neutering after puberty can include a reduction in orthopedic health problems, a possible reduction in certain cancers in specific breeds, and possible improved behavior. More research is ongoing in this area to compare differences among breeds and size of dogs.

Many recommend for female puppies to be spayed before their first heat, which can occur as early as 5 months of age. However, there is increasing evidence that this is too young as the dogs have not been allowed to fully develop and grow.

If you elect to spay or neuter your dog, you should consult with your breeder and your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate age for this surgical procedure.

puppy at vet

What is the recovery time for spaying or neutering a dog?

  • Spaying. After spay surgery, some clinics will want to keep your dog overnight, while others will let her go home on the same day. Your dog may have some post-surgery discomfort, and the veterinarian might provide pain medication. The clinic may send your dog home with a protective collar to keep her from licking the incision. She will probably need to have her activity restricted for 7 to 10 days while she heals. Your veterinarian may have you return for a follow-up visit to check on how well your dog has healed and to remove the stitches.
  • Neutering. If there are no complications or other health issues, male dogs can usually go home on the same day of the procedure. The veterinarian will discuss with you any pain medication and aftercare for your dog. She will probably recommend that you restrict his activity for a few days while the incision heals. The clinic may send your dog home with a protective collar to help keep him from licking the incision. As with many surgeries, your veterinarian might have you return for a follow-up visit to see how the incision is healing and to remove the stitches.

What does it cost to spay or neuter a puppy or dog?

The cost of spaying and neutering varies across the country, and depending on the facility where the surgery is done, the procedure can set you back several hundred dollars. You should check with a trusted veterinarian to determine prices in your area. Some communities offer low-cost spay/neuter programs to help reduce the number of unwanted pets.

How can I find out about low-cost spay/neuter programs in my area?

Check out the links below:
ASPCA Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Programs

Talk to your veterinarian for advice on spaying or neutering your puppy or dog. She will be able to address any questions or concerns you may have.
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