We all know that owning a dog can be expensive – sometimes much more expensive than we expected! Between food, toys and regular vet bills, the average dog owner can expect to spend around $1,000 a year on their dog, and that’s not including major vet expenses like getting your dog fixed.
It pays to be prepared so that you aren’t taken by surprise when a major expense, like spaying your dog, hits your wallet. Read on to learn why you should spay your dog, what to expect from the process, and, of course, how much it will cost.
Why Should You Spay Your Dog?
Responsible pet owners have their dogs spayed.
Leading animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA recommend that all pet owners spay their female dogs. And yet, up to 25% of pet dogs in the US are not fixed. Spaying your dog is one of the best things that you can do as a pet owner to ensure that your dog lives a long, healthy and happy life.
Benefits of Spaying Your Dog
Having your dog spayed has many benefits, both for you and your dog, and for society as a whole.
Spaying your dog is good for her health, your wallet and society.
- Health: Spaying your dog, especially before her first heat, offers protection against reproductive cancers and other health issues.
- Behaviour: A spayed dog will not go into heat, meaning you won’t have to deal with yowling, urination or spraying while she tries to attract a mate. A spayed female will also attract less attention from aggressive males looking to mate.
- Financial: Paying to have your female dog spayed is much less expensive than paying for her care during pregnancy and for the care of her puppies, which can cost $3,000 or more.
- Societal: Spaying your pets is the best way to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that end up in shelters every year.
Risks of Spaying Your Dog
Like with any surgery, there are risks associated with spaying your dog. There are also many myths about spaying. Contrary to what you may have heard, spaying your pet will not make them more prone to being overweight. Many people believe that female dogs should be allowed to have a litter before being fixed, but in fact this can increase their risk of reproductive health issues later in life.
Spay surgery, like any surgery, comes with some risks.
That said, there are some real risks to be aware of:
- Surgery Risks: The biggest risk associated with spaying your dog are the standard risks that come with any surgery – bad reactions to anesthesia or drugs, bleeding and infections. Your vet will work with you and your dog to mitigate these risks.
- Pure-Bred Dogs: Some recent studies have shown a link between spaying pure-bred dogs and an increased risk of health issues, such as hip dysplasia and certain cancers. These studies focused only on pure-bred dogs who were already prone to health issues due to their breed, so much more research is needed to see if these trends apply to all dogs. In the meantime, work with your vet to determine if spaying is right for you and your dog.
Although there are some risks associated with spaying your dog (it is a surgery, after all), overall the benefits to you and your pet are huge. Spaying your dog is a responsible choice, and it’s the best way for you to do your part to alleviate the homeless pet crisis.
What To Expect From The Spay Process
Plan ahead so that you and your dog will have the best possible spaying experience.
Now that you’ve decided to have your dog spayed, it’s time to prepare yourself for what to expect from the process so that you can ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible for you and your dog.
What Is Spaying
Female dogs are spayed in order to prevent them from being able to reproduce and to end their heat cycles. When spaying a female dog, the vet will make an incision in the dog’s abdomen and remove her reproductive tract, including her uterus and ovaries. The incision is then closed with two layers of stitches that will dissolve as she heals.
When To Spay
The most common age to spay a female dog is between six and nine months old, but healthy puppies can be spayed at any time after they are 8 weeks old. Vets generally recommend spaying female dogs before their first heat, which usually happens around 6 or 7 months old. Adult dogs can also be spayed, but the vet will want to make sure they are not in a heat cycle, and the dog may be more prone to complications from surgery. You should talk to your vet to determine the best time to spay your dog.
Preparation and after-care are essential to ensure a smooth spaying experience for you and your dog.
Preparing for Surgery
Before your dog goes in to the vet be spayed, your vet will likely run blood work to make sure she’s healthy enough for surgery. Even if your dog is healthy, this blood work is important and can serve as a baseline for future tests.
Your vet will provide specific pre-op instructions, but generally your dog should not eat for about 8 hours before surgery because the anesthesia may cause nausea.
Since your dog will need to take it easy for a few days after surgery, you may want to invest some time before surgery getting them comfortable in a crate or confined area so that you can leave them somewhere safe if you can’t be with them after surgery.
The best thing you can do for your dog before their spay surgery is to stay calm. Our dogs can pick up on our emotions, so staying calm and reassuring will help keep your dog relaxed.
Your dog will require some special care and extra attention while recovering from her spay surgery.
Your dog will require some special attention for at least a few days after her surgery. It may take a few weeks for her to get completely back to normal.
Some vets may let you pick up your dog on the same day as their surgery, but others may want to keep your dog overnight, especially if she is at a higher risk for complications due to her age, weight or health. Talk to your vet ahead of time so you know what to expect.
After the surgery your dog may experience some nausea, so don’t be alarmed if she refuses food for the first few meals after coming home. Contact your vet if she still won’t eat after a few days.
You may notice that your dog is coughing after surgery – this is normal, and caused by the breathing tube inserted into her throat during surgery. Again, contact your vet if the coughing lasts more than a few days.
Your dog may be extra tired and lazy for a few days as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. Once she is feeling better you’ll see her personality return, but you’ll need to keep her calm and limit her activity for a few days or weeks until her incision heals fully. This might mean crating her when you’re out of the house. If your dog doesn’t bounce back after a few days, contact your vet.
Your dog might need a “cone of shame” to keep her from licking her stitches after her spay surgery.
You’ll need to keep a close eye on your dog’s incision as it heals. Check daily for signs of infection, and contact your vet if you notice any redness or discharge. If you notice that your dog is licking or biting at her incision, you may need to use an Elizabethan cone (AKA a “cone of shame”) or a t-shirt to keep her from irritating the area.
In most cases, your dog will be back to her normal self after a few days of rest and pampering, and your vet is always a phone call away if you have any concerns or questions.
The Cost of Spaying Your Dog
The cost of spaying a dog varies widely across different geographical regions. Your dog’s age, weight and breed can also be a factor. On average, it can cost up to $300 to spay a female dog. Below we breakdown the costs involved in spaying your dog, and later we’ll look at ways to bring that cost down without compromising on your dog’s care.
The cost of spaying your dog can vary depending on their age, weight and health, as well as where you live.
Since spaying a female dog is a more complex surgery than neutering a male dog, you can expect to pay more for the procedure itself. Private clinics can charge between $200-$300 to spay a dog, and there can be added costs if your dog is in heat, pregnant, older or obese (up to an additional $125 charge).
Pre-op blood work can cost an additional $65, but it’s worth the cost to ensure your dog is fit for surgery. Having the results as a baseline for future visits is a bonus.
There may be additional costs to consider, such as preparing your home for your dog’s recovery. You may need to budget for a crate, gates or other barrier systems.
There may be costs associated with your dog’s after-care after her spay surgery.
If your dog needs to stay overnight at the vet’s clinic, you can expect to pay an additional $30-$50 a night. You may need to return to the clinic for a follow-up visit and to have your dog’s stitches removed. Many vets don’t charge for this service as they include it in the cost of the spay procedure, but be sure to ask before surgery. If not included, this follow-up visit can cost you another $30-$100.
If you can’t be home full-time with your dog after their surgery, you may also need to hire a pet sitter to check on your dog a few times a day. This can run you another $30-$50 per day.
If your dog is licking or biting at her stitches, you may also need to fork over the $25 to buy a “cone of shame” to keep her from irritating their incision.
Be sure to talk to your vet before surgery to make sure you understand what’s included in the surgery fee and what extra expenses you may need to be prepared for.
Complications after spay surgery can cause costs to skyrocket.
Spaying is a major surgery, and unfortunately surgery can sometimes come with complications. Be sure to discuss this with your vet prior to surgery so that you understand the risks, and also understand what additional costs you may have to pay if there are any complications. Many vets will not charge for follow-up visits related to a surgery, but you’ll definitely want to confirm that with your own vet.
Common complications include infections of the incision, adverse reactions to the anesthesia, and incontinence after surgery. If your dog requires an exam or treatment that is not included in the surgery costs, you can expect to pay an additional $100 or more. If your dog needs to stay overnight at the vet’s clinic to be monitored, expect at least $30-$50 per night in extra costs, in addition to any equipment or medication.
Overall, you can expect to spend around $300 to spay a healthy female dog, but it pays to be prepared for the extra costs and for any potential emergencies. Costs can soar if your dog has any health issues, is older or overweight, or has any complications due to surgery. That said, spaying your dog costs quite a bit less than it would cost to care for her through pregnancy, and to care for her puppies until they can be rehomed.
How to Save on Spaying Your Dog
There are ways to reduce the costs of spaying your dog.
While spaying your dog is the responsible thing to do, many pet owners put it off because the costs can be so high. Thankfully, there are a few ways to save on the cost of spaying your dog.
When considering adding a new dog to your family, adopt from a reputable organization that offers discounts or reimbursements on spay costs, or even spays dogs before sending them to their new homes.
Some vet clinics specialize in spaying and neutering pets, meaning they can offer lower prices than a full-service, private clinic.
The ASPCA has a great resource to help you find low-cost spay and neuter clinics near you.
Some pet insurance plans may help cover the cost of routine surgeries like spaying your dog. Be sure to read the fine print so you understand exactly what is and what isn’t covered, and make sure you can afford the ongoing premiums.
Spaying Your Dog
Spaying your dog is good for your dog’s health and happiness, as well as your wallet in the long run.
Spaying your dog is one of the best ways to help alleviate the homeless pet crisis while making sure your dog will have a long, healthy and happy life.
The surgery itself, the pre-op blood work and the after-surgery care can cost upwards of $300, and complications and additional services can drive that price up.
Although spaying is certainly not cheap, it’s much less expensive than paying to care for a pregnant dog and new litter of puppies. It’s also the best way to protect your dog from future health issues like cancer and other reproductive issues, which can cost quite a bit more to treat.
Planning ahead, pet insurance and low-cost spay options are a few of the many ways you can mitigate some of these costs, so you can focus on keeping your dog healthy and happy for years to come.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.