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Spaying & Neutering 101 - A Dog Owners Guide

Do you want to know if you should get your dog 'fixed,' or what the process of spaying or neutering your dog entails? Our Springfield veterinarians provide some helpful tips on the spay/neuter procedure, recovery, and potential risks below.

Why You Should Have Your Dog Spayed or Neutered

According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), approximately 6.5 million animals enter shelters or the rescue system in the United States each year. Families adopt only about 3.2 million.

Spaying or neutering your dog is the best measure you can take to help reduce the overall number of unplanned puppies each year. It also helps reduce overwhelming shelters and rescues. 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, also known as castration, involves a veterinarian removing both testicles and their associated structures. Your neutered dog will no longer be able to reproduce. Although alternative procedures, such as vasectomies for male dogs (in which the tubes that transport sperm from the testes are severed), are available, they are rarely used.

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.

You can help prevent testicular cancer in your male dog by neutering him, as well as reducing unwanted behaviors like humping (usually - depending on the age of the dog and other factors) and behavioral issues like aggression and straying. This helps to keep them from getting into fights with other dogs or being 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 between 6  and 9 months of age, but that advice has recently been questioned. 

Recent research appears to indicate that spaying or neutering pets at that age may increase the risk of conditions such as joint disorders, cranial cruciate injuries, and some cancers in some breeds. These increased health risks appear to be related to how sex hormones affect the development of each animal's musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and immune systems, as well as the age at which different breeds reach sexual maturity.

Toy, miniature, and small dogs mature much sooner than larger breeds. Toy breeds, for example, can reach full maturity as young as 6 - 9 months, whereas medium to large breed dogs typically reaches maturity around 12 months, and giant breeds can take up to 18 months. While it is generally considered safe for small dogs to be spayed or neutered between the ages of 6 and 9 months, some veterinarians recommend delaying spay and neuter surgeries until the pet reaches maturity.

Your veterinarian understands your pet's health better than anyone else and can recommend the best time to have your pet 'fixed' based on breed, overall health, and lifestyle. When your puppy's early vaccinations and checkups are due, have frank and open discussions with your pet's veterinarian about the best time to have your dog spayed or neutered, as well as 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 must be performed by a qualified and experienced veterinarian, as any veterinary surgery requiring general anesthesia carries some risk.

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 veterinarian can advise you on pain management techniques and, if necessary, prescribe pain medication. Even if your dog is recovering well and acting playful, do not let him or her run around until they are completely 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.
  • Wear a cone (also known as a "cone of shame") or another accessory to prevent your dog from licking the incision site, which could lead to infection. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best 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.

Want to learn more about getting your dog spayed or neutered? Contact our experienced Springfield vets to book an appointment for your pet.

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Greenbrier-Springfield Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Springfield companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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