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Spaying & Neutering Your Dog (Why It’s Important & What to Expect)

“Help control the pet population - have your pet spayed or neutered.” This phrase made famous by legendary game show host Bob Barker virtually embedded the concept of canine spaying and neutering into our minds. So we know it’s something we should be doing, but why?

Spaying and Neutering: A Video Overview

There are plenty of reasons why you should spay or neuter your pet. Just as importantly, the reasons to consider keeping your pooch intact are scant at best. This video does an outstanding job of providing a quick overview of why there is such an overwhelming case against not going through with the basic pet procedure.

What Is Involved in a Spaying or Neutering Procedure?

We know that the end result of spaying or neutering involves removing the ability for a female dog to get pregnant or a male dog to impregnate. However, that’s just the quick and easy overview of the procedure. If you are planning on getting either procedure done on your pooch, it’s important you know the procedures’ ins and outs.

In a neutering surgery, the male dog will have both his testicles removed – a procedure commonly known as castration. This procedure is a delicate one involving careful cutting through various layers of flesh and tying up of major blood vessels. With that being said, it is by and large considered to be a simple surgery.

Spaying a female dog, on the other hand, is a major surgery that has a greater level of complexity. Essentially, the procedure involves the removal of her uterus and both of her ovaries. Because these components are located on the inside of her body, an incision involving her abdomen is involved.

Not surprisingly, the neutering procedure takes substantially less time to complete than spaying. Typically, a male dog can be neutered in about five to twenty minutes. The time variance is caused by factors such as age, size, and time of the neuter.

Conversely, a female dog spay can range from twenty to ninety minutes. This broader range is not only due to the dog’s age and size, but it’s also due to whether or not she’s in heat. Females in heat could take longer because they are engorged with blood and are therefore much more delicate to handle.

Prepping Your Dog for the Paying or Neutering Procedure

Spaying or neutering your dog is not just a matter of taking your pooch to the local vet and getting the procedure done. There are a few things you should do to help ensure the surgery can go as smoothly as possible.

The first thing you should do once the decision is made is to consult your veterinarian about the process. Your vet will be able to give you pointers on what to do at home with your dog in the days leading up to the procedure, such as dietary tips. He or she may also take blood work to make sure your dog is healthy enough for the procedure.

What Should I Expect to See After the Procedure is Completed?

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There are several things you’ll need to keep an eye on during your pooch’s recovery stage. This shouldn’t be too surprising to hear. After all, your dog did have a surgical procedure performed. As is the case with any surgical procedure, they will need some recovery time to fully bounce back.

The first thing you’ll need to do for your dog should occur before the two of you leave the vet’s office. Make sure you put a post-operative check-up on the books before you take your pooch home. In some cases, you may find your clinic will provide such a visit for free, thus leaving you no excuse to not do so.

Your vet may give your pooch prescription painkillers to help them cope with the pain. If this is the case, be sure to keep the prescription filled and use it only as directed. You may be tempted to give your pooch a little extra if you notice them in a certain level of discomfort, but remember – the vet’s the doctor and you’re not.

Chances are, you’ll be able to bring your pooch home with you the same day of the surgery. But keep in mind that their recovery can last up to a couple of weeks. So don’t expect your four-legged buddy to get back to their old self right away.

In fact, you should ensure your home is equipped with a quiet place for him or her to recover silently and comfortably for the first few days. On the first night post-surgery, it’s especially important to leave them isolated in a space they find familiar. It’s also important that you keep children or other pets away from them during this time.

Eventually, your pooch may develop a desire to lick or chew at the incision site once they’re on the mend. It’s important that you prevent this from happening as much as you can. Repeated licking or chewing could easily tear open the incision site and could lead to all sorts of nastiness.

Ideally, you’ll want to pick up your dog an Elizabethan collar and put it around their neck for about a week. Your dog will be annoyed by its presence, but they will eventually grow used to it being around their necks. This will allow the incisions to heal fully without being stressed by the attacks of canine teeth or tongue.

You should also make sure you’re checking your pooch’s incision a minimum of twice daily. When you do, keep in mind that a small amount of blood or discharge is common for a few days, particularly within 24 hours of the surgery. However, if this persists or looks to be severe, seek an emergency vet visit right away.

Finally, you should limit your dog’s outdoor activity for about a week, even if they are a breed that thrives on being outside. While short walks on a leash are fine to give them some sort of energy outlet, you should work to refrain them from jumping, running, or playing for about of week. This also includes any lively indoor activity your dog may like.

At What Age Can Spaying or Neutering Occur?

The age at which a dog can get spayed can be a hot-button topic in some circles. Technically speaking, puppies as young as eight weeks can get spayed or neutered, provided they are at a healthy clinical weight – typically at least two pounds. However, some uncontrolled studies claim links to early neutering and joint problems or cancer.

As a rule, most vets in the U.S. will recommend spaying and neutering for dogs between 6 to 9 months. This number is not necessarily one that's been derived from scientific research. Rather, it's generally thought to have ties to the post-war financial boom that occurred after World War II.

In the years after the war, the rising financial gain across the country made it more feasible to own pets. This led to an increase in interest regarding not only pet population control, but also issues involving reproductive hormone secretion. At the time, spaying and neutering techniques necessitated the dog be at least six months.

With that being said, it has been shown by reputable studies that dogs even as young as six weeks could undergo the procedure. Obviously, the call regarding the age of spaying or neutering is left in the hands of you and your veterinarian. Make sure you have a nice long talk with your vet on the subject before jumping into something rash.

What is the Cost of Spaying and Neutering?

As a rule of thumb, you can expect to pay up to $200 for a spaying or neutering procedure. There are a few factors behind the overall price tag of the operation, such as the vet and the facility where the procedure is being handled.

If you deem the cost of the procedure to be too pricey, have no fear. Groups like the ASPCA offer several cost-effective spaying and neutering options available for those who want to get the job done but don't have the funds to do so. In some cases, you may find clinics who will do the procedure free of charge.

Benefits of Spaying and Neutering: A Quick Video Overview

The number of benefits associated with the act of neutering and spaying your dog is staggering. From population control to long-term health benefits, each of these benefits serves to effectively weaken the vast majority of any argument you can create for keeping your pooch intact. This video gives a nice summary of these wide-ranging benefits.

Bob Barker Was Right: Sterilization and the Pet Population

The notion of controlling the pet population through spaying and neutering almost seems intangible to a dog owner, if not abstract. After all, the one or two dogs you own are your focus, and it’s easy to pay no mind to the rest of the canine kingdom. That is, until those depressing ASPCA ads with Sara McLachlan pop up on your TV.

Yes, they are gut-wrenching. In fact, McLachlan herself has admitted that she has to turn the channel when the ads come on her tube. Yet the anguish that these infamous ads create serves a much more important and noble intention beyond merely making us feel bad.

Simply stated, there are way too many dogs and cats than there are prospective pet owners on the market. Studies show approximately 3.7 million animals are euthanized in shelters annually. Spaying and neutering your dog helps put a dent in this number.

You may think that you keep enough precautions in place to protect your pooch from producing spawn, even without the procedure. It would behoove you to think again; just like humans, accidental pregnancies can happen to dogs owned by even the most conscientious of dog owners. Spaying and neutering are the only true ways to halt litters.

The Health Benefits Behind Spaying and Neutering Your Dog

We all want our four-legged friends to live as long and as healthy of a life as possible. And while spaying or neutering your pooch does involve a surgical procedure that could cause a bit of discomfort for a few days, it goes a long way toward preserving long-term health for the rest of their lives.

Some of these health benefits seem obvious. For instance, a spayed female dog will see a dramatic decrease in the development of uterine cancers and cancers pertaining to the reproductive system. Conversely, neutering your male dog will prevent him from developing testicular cancer.

Studies have also shown spaying or your female pooch will cut down on the potential to develop uterine infections. Studies have also linked the procedure to lessening the risk of breast cancer. Considering the disease is fatal in roughly 50 percent of dogs, this is not something to be taken lightly.

These health benefits are a big reason why it’s important to spay your female dog sooner than later. Doing the procedure before her first heat will provide your pooch with the best protection from these diseases. With that being said, if you do spay her after her first heat, there will be some measure of protection in play.

The Behavioral Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Dog

Proceeding with the spaying or neutering procedure will also have dramatically positive effects on your dogs’ behavior. It must be noted that these changes have nothing to do with your pooch’s overall personality. They will still be the same loveable buddy they always have been, eager to please and happy to share a home with you.

The behaviors that are altered are ones that are significantly more instinctual in nature. These instincts drive unpleasant behaviors that you would want to discourage your dog from doing in the first place. If anything, the procedure makes your dog more enjoyable to be around.

For instance, a spayed female dog won’t go into heat, which is a biological behavior you’ll want to avoid at all costs. Although the instance only happens about twice a year, the instance is marked with some rather troublesome behaviors that she would normally never do.

The behaviors go beyond expected issues, such as bleeding or spotting. She may start urinating in the home or start howling incessantly. These behaviors are intended to attract the attention of every intact male dog that can smell her handiwork.

From the male side of things, neutering your buddy will help curb his desire to break free from your house and roam. This desire to strike out in search of a mating partner could inadvertently lead to some other cringe-inducing behaviors, such as digging his way under your fence and out of your yard.

This also helps keep your dog safer. After all, if your pooch decides to explore the world on his own, he may end up putting himself in some pretty dire situations, such as oncoming traffic. And nobody ever wants to get a call from someone letting you know your dog met an untimely demise.

Neutering will also put the kibosh on your male dog marking his territory, which also means you’ll see a dramatic decrease in turf-defining pee in your home. The procedure also goes a long way in helping your dog curb aggressive behaviors, both toward people and other animals.

The Financial Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Dog

You may not think that there is any cost-effectiveness associated with spaying or neutering your pooch. After all, you’re most likely going to have to pay to get the procedure done, plus there’s probably going to be some cost to the post-surgery recovery process. However, the long-term financial gains far outweigh the short-term losses.

Over the course of your dog’s life, spaying or neutering means you won’t have to worry about shelling out money to correct certain behavioral issues that are commonplace with intact dogs. You also dramatically lower your chances of having to pay for medical treatments regarding certain diseases, like specific cancers.

And it should be reiterated that the short-term cost of spaying or neutering your pet not bad, especially considering the savings you may experience by not having to pay for certain things down the road. Considering the vast number of cost-effective sterilization programs available, you really shouldn’t use cost as an argument against the procedure.

Debunking Certain Spaying and Neutering Myths

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Even though it’s generally accepted that spaying or neutering your pet is a good idea, there are still some that detract from the notion because of certain myths associated with the procedure. Fortunately, the most prominent myths that exist about spaying and neutering can easily be debunked.

Perhaps the biggest myth out there concerns female dogs and litters. The basis behind the myth is that it’s better for her to have one litter before getting spayed. However, there is overwhelming medical evidence in existence that demonstrates the exact opposite is true.

The big reason why this myth can get debunked goes back to a dog’s health. As mentioned earlier, female dogs derive a much greater instance of health benefits from being spayed before she goes into her first heat. If your dog hasn’t hit her first cycle yet, it may be of interest to schedule an appointment with your vet post haste.

Another spaying and neutering myth involves your pooch's weight. Specifically, some are concerned that either your dog's metabolism will slow down or their drive to be active will grind to a halt. The origins of this myth may come from the fact that dogs may be lethargic in the post-surgery recovery stage.

However, if your dog develops a weight problem or a tendency for laziness, the weight of such behavioral change falls on the owner, not the dog. Once the recovery stage is complete, it’s up to you to get your pooch back in the swing of things, including reacquainting them with their diet and exercise habits. They’ll fall back in line.

There is also concerns that a spayed or neutered dog will suffer from an altered personality. While there will be differences with your dog, the changes you’ll see are behavioral and have nothing to do with their personality. In fact, the behaviors that are altered tend to be miscreant behavior that you don’t want your dog doing anyway.

Some of the myths that exists regarding spaying and neutering are a little more esoteric in nature, to the point where they almost seem selfish. The big one here is the notion of you, as a pet owner, wanting your children to witness birth. If they see the family dog producing puppies, the narrative goes, they’ll better understand the miracle of life.

Frankly, this argument is completely irrelevant in this day and age, where online videos of dogs giving birth aren’t exactly uncommon. Besides, while the circle of life is cool, it shouldn’t mask the fact that there is a large amount of shelter dogs that will be euthanized because there aren’t enough potential owners to go around.

Finally, some may argue against neutering because they like the look of an intact male dog because he doesn't as gender neutral as he does without testicles. This argument fails these days because there are prosthetic testes that your male dog can receive to retain his natural look. It is indeed a case of plastic surgery going to the dogs.

Do the Right Thing – Spay or Neuter Your Dog!

It shouldn’t take the wise words from a now-retired game show host to inspire you to spay or neuter your dog. You should be compelled to do so simply because it’s the responsible thing to do as a pet owner. Remember, you’re not only helping control the pet population – you’re ultimately creating a better life for your pooch.

Yes, your dog may not act like your dog for a couple of weeks during the post-surgery recovery process. But considering that the long-term benefits of the spaying or neutering procedure provides massive long-term dividends, this time frame is small potatoes. After all, what’s a few days of recovery when it could mean a few extra years for your buddy?


Laura Harris

Dr. Laura Harris is our resident dog health expert. She started to fact-check dog health-related information for HerePup during her internship and contributes since then. Her expertise is in dog nutrition, senior dog care, especially critical care medicine and internal medicine.

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