Getting your dog spayed or neutered is very important but can be very scary for pet owners. Here's some advice from our Zeeland veterinary professionals about these procedures and the recovery process to help ease your mind.
Spaying or Neutering Your Dog
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) notes that about 6.5 million animals go to shelters or rescues across the United States every year but only about 3.2 million are adopted by families.
Spaying or neutering your dog is the best way to reduce the number of unplanned litters each year and reduce the number of overwhelmed shelters and rescues. Plus, this surgical procedure will improve your pet’s behavior and reduce their risk of developing a number of 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
Not only will you be reducing the risk of unwanted puppies, there are many other benefits to consider when it comes to spaying or neutering your dog.
Getting your female dog spayed can prevent serious health problems such as mammary cancer and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection).
Instinctive breeding behavior will usually stop but is not always true for every dog.
By getting your male dog neutered 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 your neutered dog safe from fights or roaming onto the road and getting hit by a car.
When should you get your dog fixed?
There are number of factors you’ll need to consider when thinking about the right time for the spaying or neutering procedure. Both procedures can be performed on puppies as young as a few months old but puppies are usually fixed when they are between 4 and 6 months old.
A dog's breed can be a determining factor for when they should get spayed or neutered. Large dogs mature a bit slower than smaller dogs.
Adopting a male and female of the same age range? Have them spayed and neutered 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 a significant consideration for male dogs. While small and medium male dogs can generally be neutered at a younger age (at about 6 months old), our Zeeland vets sometimes recommend waiting until your giant breed puppy has reached a year old before being 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, there is always a chance of risk involved in 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 risks 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, you must wait until they are fully healed before you let them run around.
You can help ensure your dog has a comfortable, safe recovery from a spaying or neutering procedure by taking some of these precautions:
- Contact your vet if your dog seems lethargic, uncomfortable, has a reduced appetite, has diarrhea or is vomiting
- 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
- Have your dog wear a cone 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
- Don't give your dog a bath for at least 10 days after surgery
- Prevent your dog from running around or jumping for up to two weeks after surgery (or longer if your vet advises)
- 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.