Pet Care

Spay-Neuter

a small dog held by a woman in an orange shirt

What Is Spaying and Neutering? Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures performed by veterinarians that render dogs incapable of breeding by removing their reproductive organs. When a female dog is spayed (also called an ovariohysterectomy), the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed. Neutering commonly refers to the castration of males and the complete removal of their testicles.

What Are the Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering?
Spayed dogs are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine tumors.  Neutered male dogs will not get testicular cancer and they will have a decreased chance of developing prostate enlargement. By neutering male dogs, you lessen their desire to roam, thus decreasing their risk for injury and transmission of infectious disease.

Why Should I Spay or Neuter My Dog?
In addition to the many health benefits, spaying or neutering your dog ensures that he or she won’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. Even an unsterilized dog who lives primarily indoors may escape or break away from a leash on a walk and could mate and produce puppies. Each year, millions of homeless dogs are euthanized or end up in shelters simply due to a lack of good homes.

What Are Some Behavioral Issues Associated with Dogs Who Aren’t Spayed or Neutered?
Both male and female dogs will show general behavior signs such as howling, barking and urine marking. There is also a strong need to roam and find a mate, often leading to fighting.

When Is the Best Time to Spay or Neuter My Dog?
It is generally considered safe for puppies as young as eight weeks of age to be spayed or neutered. In animal shelters, surgery is often performed at this age so that puppies can be sterilized prior to adoption. In an effort to avoid the start of urine marking in male dogs and eliminate the chance of pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your dog reaches six months of age. It’s possible to spay a female dog while she’s in heat, but not always recommended since she may be susceptible to increased blood loss. Though older dogs can be good candidates for sterilization surgery, your vet can best determine if the procedure can safely be performed. Please check with your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet.

What Happens When My Dog Is Spayed or Neutered? Will He or She Act Differently?
After sterilization, your dog may be less likely to exhibit certain behaviors, but his or her personality will not change. Spayed and neutered dogs may be predisposed to weight gain, but proper body condition can be maintained with appropriate diet and exercise. Your vet can help you choose a proper diet for your dog.

How Do I Prepare My Pet for Surgery?
Your veterinary clinic will provide pre-surgical advice for you to follow. In general, you should avoid giving your dog any food after midnight the night before surgery. A puppy, however, needs adequate nutrition, and your veterinarian may advise that food not be withheld. Water should generally not be withheld from any canine patient prior to sterilization surgery.

What Is the Recovery Process for Recently Spayed or Neutered Dogs?
Your veterinarian can provide post-operative instructions for you to follow. Although your dog may experience some discomfort after surgery, your vet can take various measures to control pain. Depending on the procedure performed, medication for pain may be sent home with your dog. Here are tips for a safe and comfortable recovery:

  • Provide your dog with a quiet place to recover indoors and away from other animals.
  • Prevent your dog from running and jumping for the first few days following surgery.
  • Discourage your dog from licking the incision site, which may cause infection, by distracting your pet with treats or by using an Elizabethan collar.
  • Avoid bathing your dog for at least ten days after surgery.
  • Check the incision site daily to confirm proper healing.

If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your vet. Also call your vet if your dog is lethargic, has a decreased appetite, is vomiting or has diarrhea following surgery.