Are you wondering whether you should get your dog 'fixed' (spayed/neutered) and what it would involve? Below, our Enterprise vets share some helpful pointers on the spay/neuter process, recovery and potential risks.
Why Does My Dog Need To Be Spayed Or Neutered?
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), about 6.5 million animals enter shelters or the animal rescue system across the United States every year. Unfortunately, only about 3.2 million are adopted by families.
By spaying or neutering your dog, you can help to reduce the overall number of unplanned puppies that grow into unhoused dogs that overwhelm already stretched-thin animal shelters and rescues. There's another bonus: this surgical procedure could improve your pet’s behavior and reduce their risk of developing several potentially serious health conditions.
Spaying Vs. 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 Dog)
Spaying involves the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs either via an ovariectomy (the removal of only the ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (the removal of both the uterus and ovaries). After your female dog has been spayed, her heat cycle will be eliminated and she will not be able to have puppies.
Neutering (Male Dog)
Neutering is also known as castration, wherein a vet removes both a male dog's testicles and associated structures. Your neutered dog will be unable to reproduce. Although there are some alternative options, such as vasectomies for male dogs (the severing of the tubes that conducts sperm from the testes), they are not often performed.
The Benefits Of Spaying / Neutering Your Dog
In addition to drastically reducing the risk of unwanted puppies, there are many other advantages to think of when it comes to spaying or neutering your dog.
By having your female dog spayed, you’ll prevent serious health problems such as mammary cancer and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection).
Though instinctive mating behaviors cease more often than not, 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 being hit by a vehicle.
Best Age At Which To Have Your Dog Spayed / Neutered
Traditionally, most vets recommended spaying or neutering dogs between 6 – 9 months of age, but that advice has recently come under question.
Some recent analyses appear to show that spaying or neutering pets at that age could, in some breeds, lead to an increased risk of conditions like joint disorders, cranial cruciate injuries, and some kinds of cancer. These increased health risks appear to be affected by how sex hormones affect each animal's musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and immune systems develop, and the age at which different breeds reach sexual maturity.
Toy, miniature, and small dog breeds reach maturity at a much younger age than larger breeds. In fact, toy breeds can reach full maturity as young as 6 – 9 months, whereas medium to large breed dogs typically reach maturity around 12 months of age, and giant breeds can take as long as 18 months to reach maturity. This means that while it is generally considered safe for small dogs to be spayed or neutered between 6 -9 months of age, some vets recommend delaying spay and neuter surgeries until the pet reaches maturity.
Your vet understands your pet's health better than anyone and is in the best position to recommend the ideal time to get your pet 'fixed' based on breed, overall health, and lifestyle. When attending your puppy's early appointments for vaccinations and checkups have frank and open conversations with your pet's veterinarian about the best time to have your dog spayed or neutered, and any concerns you may have.
It's important to note that if you are adopting an older dog, provided your vet deems them in good health, spaying or neutering an adult dog is just fine.
Risks Of Spaying / Neutering Your Dog
Spaying and neutering are common surgical procedures, but they must still be performed by a qualified and experienced veterinarian. There is some degree of risk 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.
For the most part, however, the advantages of spaying or neutering a dog will far outweigh the disadvantages.
Helping Your Dog Recover From Their Spay / Neuter Procedure
Your vet can recommend pain management strategies and prescribe pain medication in case it’s needed. Though your dog may be recovering well and feeling playful, do not let him or her run around before they are actually healed (your vet will let you know your dog's expected recovery timeline).
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 other accessory that will help prevent them from licking their incision site, which could lead to stitches reopening, or 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 2 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 dog's condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian.