Wondering what spaying or neutering your dog actually entails, when you should get it done, what to expect from the recovery process and which risks are involved? Our Richmond vets share everything dog owners need to know about reproductive surgery.
Spaying or Neutering Your Dog
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) states that about 6.5 million animals go to shelters or the rescue system across the United States every year. Only about 3.2 million are adopted by families.
Spaying or neutering your dog is the best measure you can take to help reduce the overall number of unplanned puppies each year and reduces the number of unwanted births that can overwhelm shelters and rescues. Plus, this surgical procedure will improve your pet’s behavior and reduce their risk of developing numerous serious health conditions.
What is the difference between spaying and neutering?
Let’s first establish what 'fixing your dog' means. ‘Fixing’ is a popular term used to describe spaying or neutering a dog.
Spaying Female Dogs
Spaying involves removing a female dog’s reproductive organs via either an ovariectomy (removing only the ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (removing both uterus and ovaries.
After the vet has spayed your female dog, her heat cycle will be eliminated and she will not be able to have puppies.
Neutering Male Dogs
Neutering is also known as castration and involves a vet removing both testicles, along with their associated structures. Your neutered dog will be unable to reproduce.
Though alternative options, such as vasectomies for male dogs (where the tubes which conduct sperm from the testes are severed) are available, they are not usually performed.
Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Dog
In addition to drastically reducing the risk of unwanted puppies, there are many benefits to consider when it comes to spaying or neutering your dog.
By spaying your female dog, you’ll prevent serious health problems such as mammary cancer and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection).
Though instinctive breeding behavior will usually stop, that is not always true for every dog.
Neuter your male dog and you’ll help prevent him from developing testicular cancer, along with cutting back on unwanted behaviors such as humping (usually - depending on the age of the dog and other factors), and behavioral issues such as aggression and straying. This helps keep them from such tragedies as getting into fights with other dogs or hit by a car.
When should you get your dog fixed?
There are a number of factors you’ll need to consider when thinking about the right time for the spaying or neutering procedure. However, both procedures can be performed on puppies as young as a few months old. Traditionally, puppies have been fixed when they have reached between 4 and 6 months old.
Did you know a dog’s breed and living situation can make a difference when it comes to when you should neuter or spay them Larger dogs tend to mature a little slower than smaller pups.
Adopting a male and female from the same age range? Have them spayed and neutered earlier before the female goes into heat. But if your new puppy is the only “intact” dog who will be living in the house, you can wait a little longer.
Adult size is an important factor for male dogs. While small and medium male dogs can generally be neutered earlier (at about 6 months old), your vet may recommend until your giant breed puppy matures to a year or older before having him neutered.
Most vets would recommend having your female dog spayed before she enters her first heat cycle to significantly reduce her risk for developing dog breast (mammary) cancer. Though this timeline varies, this usually happens somewhere between 5 to 10 months of age.
Ask your vet about when the best time would be to spay or neuter your dog. No matter when you choose to have the procedure done, ensure your dog gets a complete physical exam (your vet may order blood work if required) before to ensure he or she does not have any existing health issues.
Discuss your dog’s full medical history with your vet, as current prescription medications or underlying conditions such as heart murmurs, kidney or liver issues may need further investigation.
Are there risks involved in neutering or spaying my dog?
Spaying and neutering are common surgical procedures, but they still need to be performed by a qualified and experienced veterinarian, as some degree of risk is involved with any veterinary surgery requiring general anesthesia.
Some orthopedic conditions and diseases such as prostatic cancer are slightly more common in dogs who have been spayed or neutered.
However, the advantages of spaying or neutering a dog will outweigh the disadvantages in most cases.
What should I expect from the recovery process?
Your vet can recommend pain management techniques and prescribe pain medication in case it’s required. Though your dog may be recovering well and feeling playful, do not let him or her run around before they are actually healed.
You can help ensure your dog has a comfortable, safe recovery from a spaying or neutering procedure by taking some of these precautions:
- Check your dog’s incision daily to ensure it’s healing correctly. If you notice swelling, discharge, redness, or a foul odor, contact your vet immediately as this could be a sign of infection.
- Also contact your vet if your dog seems lethargic, uncomfortable, has a reduced or non-existent appetite, has diarrhea, or is vomiting.
- Have your dog wear a cone (commonly known as a “cone of shame”) or another accessory that will help prevent them from licking their incision site, which could lead to infection. Your vet can recommend the appropriate cone for your dog.
- Refrain from bathing your dog for at least 10 days following surgery.
- For up to two weeks after surgery (or as long as your vet advises), prevent your dog from running around or jumping.
- Keep your dog inside, away from other animals as he or she recovers.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.