Unless you are a dog breeder, the decision to spay or neuter your dog is not always clear-cut. While there are many benefits to spaying or neutering your dog, there are also risks.
What is involved in the spay/neuter procedure?
A spay is the surgical removal of a female’s reproductive organs so she cannot become pregnant.
A neuter is the surgical removal of a male’s testicles so that he cannot impregnate a female.
Before the procedure, your dog is given a general anesthesia.
Some people are wary of spaying or neutering their dog.
Benefits of spaying or neutering your dog:
- Eliminates unwanted pregnancies. Spaying/neutering is the only 100 percent effective method of birth control for dogs.
- Your spayed female won’t go into heat. In an effort to attract a mate, female dogs will howl or wail and urinate more frequently. A heat cycle can last anywhere from six to 12 days, twice a year. During a heat cycle, dogs can be messy, getting blood on carpets and furniture. Females in heat give off chemical pheromones that can be scented a mile away and attract unwanted male dogs to your home.
- Reduces the odds of cancer and dangerous infections. Unspayed female dogs have a far greater chance of developing pyrometra (a fatal uterine cancer), uterine cancer, and other cancers of the reproductive system. Male dogs that are neutered eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer and reduce their chances of getting prostrate cancer, prostate cysts and infections.
- Curbs bad behavior. Unneutered dogs are prone to urine-marking their territory. Toy dog breeds and terriers are especially prone to urine marking. Spaying or neutering solves most of the marking problems. Unneutered or unsprayed dogs also have the tendency to howl or wail in an effort to find a mate. Neutering or spaying eliminates the frustration in resisting the urge to mate. Unneutered males will do just about anything to find a mate. Some have been known to dig their way under a fence or chew through screen to escape the house. Spaying or neutering will eliminates your dog’s need to roam in search of a mate, decreasing the chances that he will become lost or hit by a car. Neutering can eliminates inappropriate sexual behaviors. Unneutered males are more likely to lick their genitals excessively. They may hump people’s kegs or ankles or objects like pillows or stuffed animals.
- Reduces aggressive behavior. Studies show that most dog bites involve dogs that are not neutered or spayed. Spaying or neutering reduces the tendency to bite. Unneutered or unsprayed dogs can be more destructive or high-strung around other dogs. Serious fighting is more common between unsprayed or unneutered dogs of the same gender and can incur high veterinary costs.
Disadvantages of spaying or neutering your dog:
- Spaying can double the risk of obesity. Spayed dogs become overweight when owners feed the same amount of food as before their dog was spayed. Spaying, you see, changes a dog’s hormonal make-up and metabolism so that she doesn’t require as much food. Extra weight leads to debilitating joint disease, arthritis, heart disease, pancreatitis, and diabetes.
- Spaying is major surgery, which can have complications. Studies show that about 20% of spay procedures have at least one complication, such as a bad reaction to the anesthesia, internal bleeding, inflammation or infection, abscess, sutures coming undone, etc. Fortunately, most complications are minor. Less than 5% are serious, and the death rate is low – less than 1%.
- Spaying can increase the risk of a deadly cancer called hemangiosarcoma, which typically attacks the heart or spleen of female dogs. Spayed females are twice as likely to develop hemangiosarcoma of the spleen and 5 times as likely to develop hemangiosarcoma of the heart, compared to unspayed females. The reproductive hormones offer some protection against this type of cancer. Certain small dog breeds are more at risk for this type of cancer such as Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Scottish Terriers and Skye Terriers. If you are concerned about this effect in your small breed dog, speak with your vet.
What age should you spay or neuter
The traditional age for neutering is six to nine months; however puppies as young as eight weeks old can be neutered. Dogs can be neutered as adults but there is a higher risk of post-operative complications.
Once male pups are eight weeks old, their testicles have fully descended, which is a necessary condition or performing surgery.
Female dogs that are spayed too early can increase the risk of hip dysplasia, bone cancer and urinary incontinence. Reproductive hormones are essential for helping your dog’s bones, joints, and internal organs develop properly; however, there are cases where female dogs reach the age of maturity a little early (around 5 months) and begin displaying signs of their first heat, like a swollen vulva. If you suspect this may be the case, bring your female small dog to a vet right away to be examined and to determine the best course of action.
Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best time to spay or neuter your dog.
After surgery care for your dog
Your veterinarian will provide pre and post surgical advice for you to follow for your dog. In general, they will likely advise no food the day of surgery. To keep your dog comfortable, the vet will prescribe pain medication to be sent home with your dog.
- Provide your dog a quiet, warm place to recover indoors away fro other animals.
- Prevent your dog from running and jumping for up to two weeks after surgery.
- Prevent you dog from licking the incision site, which may cause infection. Many veterinarians will provide you with a cone shaped collar to help keep the dog from licking.
- Do not bath your dog for at least ten days.
- Be sure to check the site of the incision daily. Call the vet if you see any redness, swelling or discharge or opening of the sutures.
Any pet owner who loves their dog will be nervous about submitting their dog for surgery. However, the benefits of spaying or neutering far outweigh the risks and it is better to have it done before the dog reaches sexual maturity. This is a fairly simple, routine procedure that veterinarians perform frequently.