Spaying or neutering your dog, otherwise known as "fixing" your dog, are elective surgeries that involve the sterilization of an animal.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the ASPCA, around 6.5 million animals enter rescue shelters across the United States every single year. Of those animals, fewer than half are ultimately adopted as pets.
One of the best things you can do to prevent unplanned puppies that may be added to those huge number of animals in the shelter system is to have your canine companion spayed and neutered.
What are the differences between spaying and neutering?
Neutering Male Dogs
Neutering, often called castration, involves the removal of both testicles from male dogs as well as any associated internal structures. After this procedure, your dog won't be able to reproduce.
There are alternative options for male dogs like vasectomies that can also put a stop to their ability to reproduce, but these procedures aren't usually performed.
Spaying Female Dogs
Spaying describes the removal of a female dog's reproductive organs, either by a ovariectomy( removing the ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (the removal of the uterus and ovaries).
After being spayed, your dog won't enter heat any longer and will not be able to have puppies.
When should you have your dog spayed or neutered?
There are a range of factors to keep in mind when considering when to have your dog spayed or neutered. Both procedures can be performed on a puppy as young as a couple of months old. Traditionally, puppies are fixed by the time they are between 4 and 6 months old.
The precise timing of a spay or neuter for your dog will depend on a number of different things. For example, larger breeds of dog mature slower than medium or small breeds, so they should be fixed later on in their life. Many vets recommend that female dogs be spayed before they enter their first heat cycle. And finally, if you have both female and male dogs that are around the same age, make sure that they are both fixed before the female dog's first heat cycle to prevent the chance of having a dog that has become pregnant too young and new litter of puppies on your hands.
You should always consult your vet about the timing of your pup's spay or neuter. They will conduct a full physical exam and consult your dog's medical history before conducting the procedure to minimize the risk of complications.
What are the benefits of spaying or neutering my dog?
On top of eliminating the risk of an unwanted litter of puppies, there are a wide range of benefits to consider when neutering or spaying your dog.
Spaying your female dog will drastically reduce their risk of developing mammary cancer and pyometra, two potentially life-threatening conditions. And while it is not always the case, generally being spayed will put a stop to your female pup's instinctive breeding behaviors.
Neutering a male dogs will help to prevent testicular cancer as well as curb a number of undesirable behaviors. These include howling, humping, roaming and aggression. All of this can help to prevent fights with other dogs and crub the urge to escape the house and wonder your neighborhood - potentially being struck by a vehicle in the process.
What are the risks of spaying or neutering my dog?
While these surgeries and quite common and safe, they still should be performed by an experienced and qualified vet, as there is some small risk involved. But this is the case with any surgery which require general anesthesia.
What does the recovery process look like?
Your vet will recommend specific pain management and post-operative care for you to provide your pup after surgery, but here are some general rules to keep in mind while your dog recovers.
- Refrain from bathing your dog for at least 10 days following surgery.
- Keep your dog inside and away from other animals as they heal.
- For up to two weeks after the procedure, prevent your dog from running, jumping, or undertaking other strenuous activity.
- Check your dog’s incision daily to ensure it’s healing correctly. Contact your vet if you notice swelling, redness, or discharge.