Are you curious about whether or not you should have your dog 'fixed?' How about what is involved in the spaying or neutering procedure? Here, our Gilbert vets are some advice and pointers for the spay and neuter process for your pup, including expected recovery and possible 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.
Neutering or spaying your dog is the best way to help reduce the overall number of unplanned puppies born each year as well as reducing the number of animals overwhelming the American shelter system. On top of all of this, these surgical procedures will improve your pet’s behavior and reduce their risk of developing numerous serious health conditions.
The Difference Between Spaying & Neutering
First, let's examine what 'fixing your dog' even means. 'Fixing' is a commonly used term to describe the spaying or neutering of your pup.
Spaying Your Female Dog
Spaying involves the removal of a female dog's reproductive organs either through an ovariectomy (the removal of only her ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (the removal of both her ovaries and uterus).
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 will prevent serious health problems from arising such as pyometra and mammary cancer.
And, while your dog's instinctive breeding behaviors will usually stop, this isn't the case for every pooch.
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 recently conducted studies seem to show that neutering or spaying your pet at this age may, in some breeds, lead to an increased risk of conditions like cranial cruciate injuries, joint disorders and some varieties of cancer.These health risks appear to be related to how the sex hormones affect the development of each animal's musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular health and immune systems before they 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 knows your pet's health far better than anyone and is in the best position to recommend an ideal time to get your pet 'fixed' bad on their lifestyle, breed and health. When attending your dog's early appointments for vaccinations and checkups, have an open conversation with your pet's veterinarian about the best times to have your dog spayed and neutered in addition to any concerns that you might 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 prostate cancer can be slightly more common in dogs that have been spayed or neuetred.
With that being said, the advantages of neutering or spaying your dog will far outweigh any disadvantages.
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:
- Contact your vet if your dog seems lethargic, uncomfortable, has a reduced or non-existent appetite, has diarrhea or is vomiting.
- 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.
- Refrain from bathing your dog for at least 10 days following surgery.
- Have your dog wear a cone (commonly known as a “cone of shame”) or other accessories 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.
- Keep your dog inside, away from other animals as he or she recovers.
- For up to two weeks after surgery (or as long as your vet advises), prevent your dog from running around or jumping.
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.