A Quick Guide to Spaying or Neutering Your Dog

Whether to spay or neuter a dog is a question most puppy parents are faced with, and while it is an obvious choice for some, it is perfectly normal to have doubts. This article will shed some light on the procedure, what to expect, the pros and cons of spaying and neutering, and much more. It is a great way to reduce the risk of unplanned litters, but what other reasons are there to have your dogs neutered or spayed? Let’s have a closer look.

Rossi recovering from his neuter

After reading this, you will hopefully be closer to making the right decision for you and your dog.

What are the Benefits of spaying/neutering your dog?

Before we look at different procedures and what you can expect as a dog owner, we’ll start by going over some of the main benefits. One of the most common questions is why you should neuter or spay your dog, and these are some potential answers. Keep in mind that spaying and neutering benefits are subjective and may depend on your lifestyle and expectations.

Unplanned Litters and Overpopulation

Dogs don’t have the urge to have children the way humans do, and procreation is instinctual. With this in mind, you first need to forget the idea that your dog wants puppies. Having puppies is physically exhausting for a dog and can be dangerous, and if you choose to breed, it can’t be because you think it benefits the dog.

Thousands of dogs end up in shelters every month, and reckless and irresponsible breeding is undoubtedly a contributing factor. Choosing to spay or neuter your dog is a way to help reduce overpopulation. Even if you don’t plan to breed, you never know if your dog could escape one day, jump the neighbor’s fence, etc.

Hormone-Related Stress Symptoms

Both male and female dogs can experience hormone-related stress. Many male dogs get stressed when in close proximity to a female dog in heat. It could be the neighbor’s dog or another dog in your home. If you’ve noticed your dog getting more restless or unwilling to eat during certain times of the year, this could be the explanation. Neutering may help reduce these types of stress symptoms.

In female dogs, pseudopregnancies are common, and you often see dogs that get grumpier while in heat or that experience some type of personality change.

Reduced Risk of Some Cancer Types

If the ovaries and the uterus are removed during a spay, the dog is no longer at risk for ovarian and uterine cancer. Additionally, malignant mammary tumors are common in female dogs, and a spay significantly reduces the risks.

For male dogs, it was previously believed that neutering reduced the risk of prostate cancer, but new studies appear to debunk this theory. There are many benefits for male and female dogs, but when it comes to reduced cancer risks, female dogs likely benefit the most from spaying.

Inappropriate Marking

No one wants their home drenched in dog urine, and it can be difficult to break bad habits like indoor marking. Worth noting is that it isn’t only male dogs that mark territory, and many owners of female dogs also find themselves struggling. While spaying and neutering can contribute to reducing or eliminating the behavior—it is not a guarantee.

It is not recommended to base your decision on this alone, as some dogs are not affected by being spayed or neutered and continue to mark territory just like before.

Admissibility at Boarding Facilities and Daycare

It may depend on where you live, but many doggy daycare centers and boarding facilities only accept spayed and neutered pups. For those who plan to travel frequently or hope to have their dog at daycare, check the rules at your local centers.

Are there any downsides to spaying/neutering my dog?

Pros and cons come with every decision we make for our dogs, and spaying and neutering are no exceptions! We want to give you an unbiased view of these procedures in this article, so here are some potential downsides to consider before you make your decision.

The Risks of Anesthesia

It is rare for there to be any life-threatening complications as a result of the surgery itself, provided a licensed veterinarian performs it. However, there are certain risks associated with anesthesia if there are underlying health conditions. Book an appointment with a trusted veterinarian and discuss your options from a health perspective. 

Some Dogs May Gain Weight

Weight gain isn’t unheard of in spayed and neutered dogs, but what is the correlation? Interestingly, it isn’t the procedure that causes dogs to gain weight, but there is a connection. Removing certain hormones in the body could affect metabolism. In turn, this could lead to weight gain. The solution here is to adjust the amount of dog food you feed after the surgery (reducing the amount if you start noticing weight gain), and to ensure your dog gets enough physical exercise.

Deciding When to Spay or Neuter Your Dog

The recommendation for when to have your dog fixed will differ depending on who you ask. It is frequently recommended to wait until the dog is finished growing, which tends to be between 18-24 months. The argument is that spaying and neutering sooner could stunt the dog’s growth and potentially have a negative effect on bones and joints. Still, some veterinarians recommend having dogs fixed sooner, sometimes as early as 6+ months.

Until we know more about the effects early castration has on dogs, the best thing to do is listen to the veterinarian performing the surgery.

Neutering: Different Procedures

Neutering male dogs is reasonably straightforward, but did you know there is more than one procedure to turn to? Here are your options.

Orchiectomy

An orchiectomy is a procedure most people think about when they hear the word “neutering,” It is when a surgical incision is made to remove both testicles from the dog’s scrotal sac. This is a minor surgery that usually heals quickly, but it is also permanent.

Chemical Castration

If you are not ready to commit to a permanent solution, chemical castration involves no surgery, and the effects last for a few months. Calcium chloride is injected into the scrotal sac and works similarly to human birth control. It does not guarantee a dog’s inability to produce a litter or impregnate a female dog, but it significantly reduces the risk.

Other Options

There is also a third option that some veterinarians will perform. While an orchiectomy removes the testicles, a vasectomy only cuts the tubes, just like when a human opts for a vasectomy. Yes, it may sound like an easier and less invasive procedure, but veterinarians rarely recommend it. The reason is that there isn’t a point in letting the dog keep its testicles. This procedure also doesn’t help with any hormone-related behaviors.

Spaying: Here are Your Options

There are alternatives for female dogs, too, with three main techniques you might come in contact with. All three have the same goal—to stop the dog from having babies, but there are things you should know before making the final call.

Ovariohysterectomy

When the veterinarian removes the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes, it is called an ovariohysterectomy. It is currently the most common way to spay a female dog, and it is a technique used worldwide. Ovariohysterectomy prevents pregnancies and stops the dog from going into heat.

Hysterectomy

During a hysterectomy, only the fallopian tubes and uterus are removed. While rare, it might be an option if your dog has a specific type of health condition that could be worsened by removing the ovaries and/or altering the hormones in the body. Your dog will continue going into heat just like before but won’t be able to become pregnant.

Ovariectomy

The results of an ovariectomy are similar to those of an ovariohysterectomy, with no heats and no pregnancies. Here, the uterus is left intact while the ovaries are removed. It is not as commonly used as the ovariohysterectomy, but your veterinarian may have a preference.

Post-Surgery Care

The dog should be kept under close supervision after surgery, which is just as important when you opt to spay or neuter your dog. Use an Elizabethan collar (also known as a collar of shame) or a recovery suit if your dog tries to lick or scratch at the incision.

There is a company called suiticals that sells specific recovery onesies for dogs and cats. When Rossi got neutered I didn’t know of them and bought a child’s onesie at Target and cut a tail hole in it. While this didn’t fit as well as a suitical’s it worked great too!

The Recovery Process—How Long Does It Take?

It takes approximately 14 days for a dog to heal after being neutered or spayed, and keeping your dog calm during this time is essential. This means no running around, jumping, or rough play, and your veterinarian might want you to come in for a checkup a few days after the procedure. If the clinic used ​​dissolvable stitches, you don’t have to remove them but double-check with your vet what they recommend during recovery.

This is a great time to take out the mental enrichment games and touch up on some basic training like touch to keep your dog stimulated but not running crazy.

Final Words

Now that you have all the information, it is up to you to make the right decision for your dog. Spaying and neutering are common procedures in the United States but may be less common in other areas of the world. If you are unsure what to do, your best option is to contact a trusted veterinarian for guidance and advice.

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