Are you wondering whether you should get your dog 'fixed', or what spaying or neutering your dog would involve? Below, our Ambler vets share some helpful pointers on the spay/neuter process, recovery and potential risks.
Why You Should Have Your Dog Spayed or Neutered
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) states that about 6.5 million animals go to shelters or the rescue system across the United States every year. Only about 3.2 million are adopted by families.
Spaying or neutering your dog is the best measure you can take to help reduce the overall number of unplanned puppies each year, and reduce the numbers overwhelming shelters and recues. Plus, this surgical procedure will improve your pet’s behavior and reduce their risk of developing numerous serious health conditions.
The Difference Between Spaying & Neutering
Let’s first establish what 'fixing your dog' means. ‘Fixing’ is a popular term used to describe spaying or neutering a dog.
Spaying Your Female Dog
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 Your Male Dog
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.
The Unexpected Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Dog
In addition to drastically reducing the risk of unwanted puppies, there are many benefits to consider when it comes to spaying or neutering your dog.
By spaying your female dog, you’ll prevent serious health problems such as mammary cancer and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection).
Though instinctive breeding behavior will usually stop, that is not always true for every dog.
Neuter your male dog and 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 them from such tragedies as getting into fights with other dogs or hit by a car.
How Old Should Your Dog Be When You Get Them Spayed or Neutered
Traditionally, most vets recommended spaying or neutering dogs at between 6 - 9 months of age, but that advice has recently been questioned.
Some recent studies appear to show that spaying or neutering pets at that age may, in some breeds, lead to an increased risk of conditions such as joint disorders, cranial cruciate injuries, and some cancers. These increased levels of health risks appear to be related to how sex hormones affect each animal's musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and immune systems develop, and the age at which different breeds reach sexual maturity.
Toy, miniature and small dogs reach maturity at a much younger age than larger breeds. In fact toy breeds can reach full maturity as young as 6 - 9 months, whereas medium to large breed dogs typically reach maturity around 12 months of age, and giant breeds can take as long as 18 months to reach maturity. This means that while it is generally considered safe for small dogs to be spayed or neutered between 6 -9 months of age, some vets recommend delaying spay and neuter surgeries until the pet reaches maturity.
Your vet understands your pet's health better than anyone and is in the best position to recommend that ideal time to get your pet 'fixed' based on breed, overall health, and lifestyle. When attending your puppy's early appointments for vaccinations and checkups have frank and open conversations with your pet's veterinarian about the best time to have your dog spayed or neutered, and any concerns you may have.
Of course, it's important to note that if you are adopting an older dog, provided they are in good health, spaying or neutering an adult dog is just fine.
Risks Involved in Spaying or Neutering Your Dog
Spaying and neutering are common surgical procedures, but they still need to be performed by a qualified and experienced veterinarian, as some degree of risk is involved with any 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 disadvantages in most cases.
Helping Your Dog Recover From Their Spay or Neuter Operation
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, do not let him or her run around before they are actually healed.
You can help ensure your dog has a comfortable, safe recovery from a spaying or neutering procedure by taking some of these precautions:
- 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.
- Also contact your vet if your dog seems lethargic, uncomfortable, has a reduced or non-existent appetite, has diarrhea or is vomiting.
- Have your dog wear a cone (commonly known as a “cone of shame”) or other 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.
- Refrain from bathing your dog for at least 10 days following surgery.
- For up to two weeks after surgery (or as long as your vet advises), prevent your dog from running around or jumping.
- 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 dog's condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian.