Should You Spay vs Neuter Your Dog – Pros and Cons

New dog parents find themselves wondering whether and when they should have their canine companion spayed or neutered.

Is it time to spay your new female pooch? Or neuter your male canine companion? Knowing when to spay a dog, especially when they have already reached adulthood can be harder to determine.


Excited about bringing your new companion home? Wondering when to get her/him spayed? Well, the decision is all up to you. As a dog owner you are responsible for making decisions in your dog’s best interest. 

When female dogs reach puberty, around six months of age, their reproductive cycle begins. That’s when your dog is in season or heat. During this period, your pooch can quickly become pregnant.

Most vets recommend that dogs be spayed when they are around six months old. Why six months? Read on to find out more about spaying and neutering, the benefits, and the process of fixing your dog and the best time to do so.

What’s The Difference Between Spaying & Neutering

Spaying

Known as ovariohysterectomy in the veterinary parlance. This is the surgical removal of the female dog’s ovaries and uterus.

The surgical procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and an incision is made in her abdomen. It can also be performed with ovariectomies (laparoscopically), where the ovaries are removed but the uterus remains.

Spaying is meant to prevent reproduction. However, spaying is not just limited to preventing unwanted puppies. It can also help avoid the possibility of pyometra and also reduce the risk of your female dog developing certain types of cancer. Also prevents uterine infections that tend to be painful and dangerous sometimes.

Spaying your female dog involves major abdominal surgery, and like all surgeries, it carries with it risk and benefit.


The decision to spay or neuter your dog is dependant with whether you want to deal with a litter of puppies when your canine companion gets older. 

Neutering

Also known as castration. This procedure is meant for male dogs. While still a significant surgery, it is not as complicated as spaying.

The vet removes the testicles from the male dog without entering the abdominal cavity. However, this is not applicable for dogs with cryptorchidism (a retained testicles).

The Process, Advantages, and Risks of Spaying/Neutering a Dog

Process of Spaying a Dog

When you finally decide to spay your pooch, the vet will recommend pre-surgical bloodwork to ensure she is healthy enough for the procedure. Because she has undergone anesthesia, the vet has to make sure there are no health conditions that can impact the operation.

The night before the surgery, the vet will give you directions that you should carefully follow. In most cases, the vet clinic will recommend that you don’t feed her anything for at least eight hours before the surgery.

This is to prevent nausea and vomiting that can be caused by the anesthesia. Some vets will ask that your pooch doesn’t eat past midnight on the night before the procedure. In both cases, drinking water should be fine.

After the surgery, some clinics may want to keep her overnight, while others will let you leave with her on the same day of the operation. Pain medication will only be prescribed when necessary.

Following the operation, you may be asked to restrict her physical activity because too much swelling can lead to tearing or swelling at the incision. She might also have a decreased appetite or be nauseous for the first couple of days.

You should take your pup back to the vet clinic as soon as you notice excessive bleeding or any liquid draining at the incision site.

After ten days, you will be required to take her back to get the stitches removed. Before then, it is your responsibility to continually check the stitches and the incision site to ensure everything is healing well.

If your dog can’t resist scratching, chewing, or licking, you can prevent this by putting an Elizabethan collar on her.

If your dog experienced irritation from the anesthesia tube, he would experience coughing after being spayed. However, this is not a cause for concern unless it continues for a couple of days post-surgery. Call your vet clinic if the canine coughing persists.


Spaying or neutering is the best choice unless you intend to breed your dog. 

Advantages of Spaying

Spaying is the best decision unless you plan to breed your pup. Failure to spay your female dog means having to deal with a bitch on heat every eight months and this can last up to three weeks.

Unlike women, female dogs don’t go through menopause and so once or twice per year her entire life; she will be on heat unless she is spayed.

Even though this procedure is a surgery, it only impacts your dog’s life for just a week. Spaying will prevent your canine companion from getting pregnant and leaving you to deal with unwanted puppies.

After spaying her, she won’t run to find a male pooch every time she is in heat. However, dog owners with female dogs should be very aware of unneutered male dogs because they can go to great heights to find an unspayed female mate.

Even though the surgery costs you money, it will save you in the long run. Imagine how much higher the cost of caring for a litter of puppies is.

A spayed dog could also live a longer and healthier life. Spaying also reduces the risk of pyometra and mammary cancer, which commonly threatens unsprayed dogs.

Up to 25% of unsprayed dogs tend to develop pyometra by the age of ten. Spaying also prevents your dog from developing canine cancer or infections in her uterus or ovaries.

Hence, spaying your dog could be the best way to make sure that she lives a longer life.


Spaying your dog could help her live a longer, healthier life. 

Risks of Spaying

Because the spay procedure is also a major abdominal surgery, it has some risks as well. Spaying large dogs can be more complicated than spaying small dogs. This is because their abdominal cavity is much larger and hence much harder to maneuver and their blood supply is more substantial.

When the spay procedure is complicated, the chances of complications are high. Hence, small pups are much easier to spay.

However, even with a large breed, when the procedure is done correctly, the complications are low. Unless the dog has an underlying heart condition, there, the size of your dog should stop you from getting her spayed.

There are certain health conditions associated with spaying dogs such as canine urinary incontinence and obesity. The reason for obesity remains unclear because studies show no change in a dog’s metabolism after the procedure.

Hence, dog owners are the biggest culprit for overweight dogs after the procedure. This is because you are overfeeding and not giving her enough exercise when causes her to pack on some extra pounds.

Canine urinary incontinence can easily be treated with medication, while obesity can be reversed with a healthier diet and exercise.

Process of Neutering a Dog

With neutering, both testicles will be removed to take away the primary source of testosterone (male hormones). This procedure is also carried out under general anesthetic.

Usually, the vet clinic allows you to take your canine companion home if there are no complications or other health issues.

The vet will give you instructions on any pain medication prescribed and give you’re the crucial tips for his aftercare.

The vet will recommend restriction of physical activity for a couple of days until his incision is completely healed.

They may also send him home with a protective collar to restrict any lick or scratching of the incision. Then you will be required to return a couple of days after surgery for a follow-up visit to remove the stitches and see how the incision is healing.

Some dog owners worry that the procedure also changes the dog’s personality. This is unlikely. However, you may notice a fall in some behaviors such as mounting, roaming, spraying urine, and fighting.

To maintain your dog’s average weight, you might have to watch how much food you give him.


Behaviorally, neutered male dogs are less likely to roam around and get injured or hit searching for a mate, they are less aggressive, and they exhibit less humping behavior.

Advantages of Neutering

Other than the apparent reason for neutering, which is birth control, testosterone has many effects on your canine companion that are also eliminated or decreased as a result of this procedure.

Behaviorally, neutered male dogs are less likely to roam around and get injured or hit searching for a mate, they are less aggressive, and they exhibit less humping behavior.

Neutering also reduces the chances of your dog getting prostate diseases or also reduces the risk of prostate cancer.

Risks of Neutering

For dog owners of male dogs, there is leeway in terms of timing compared to spaying. Some breeders and veterinarians recommend that you wait until your dog reaches his full size before you get him neutered.

This is because dog neutered early are exposed to the possibility of cancers and increased joint diseases, especially for large dogs. Allowing pups to grow to maturity before removing his sex organs can help with hip dysplasia issues and bone density.

The main deciding factor of whether you want to neuter your dog or not is based on your willingness to put up with his behavior every season. Neutered dogs are also at a higher risk of dementia.


The clinic might put a protective collar on your dog, to prevent licking and scratching of the incision. 

Possible Complications of Spaying & Neutering and Signs to Watch For

While determining whether or not to spay/neuter your canine companion, you need to be aware of the recovery time for your dog.

Though rarely possible issues could arise after the procedure, including torn stitches, excessive pain, or an infection. Watch out for the following signs:

  • An open incision or torn stitches
  • Redness or swelling
  • Bad odor or discharge coming from the incision site
  • Pale gums
  • Bleeding
  • Whimpering or whining from pain
  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

If you notice any of these signs contact your vet. Excessive panting, pale gums, bleeding, and crying could be a sign of emergency and so make sure your dog is seen by a vet as soon as you notice these signs.

As long as you prevent your canine companion from moving too much or bothering the incision, the complications are unlikely. Make sure you follow the vet’s clinic instructions and prepare a plan for emergencies even during clinics off hours.


It is crucial to follow the vet’s instructions after the procedure to ensure a positive prognosis. 

How Much Does It Cost to Spay or Neuter a Dog?

The cost of spaying or neutering varies depending on the country you’re in or the facility why you intend to have the procedure done.

All in all, these procedures will set you back a few hundred dollars. The best thing is to find a trusted vet to help you determine the prices in your region.

You can also find communities that offer low-cost spay or neuter programs in an effort to help reduce unwanted pets.

The Humane Society will help you find a helpful guide who will match you with an affordable, local clinic. They will also provide you with a page of funding options that will help you cover the surgery cost.


Whether or not to spay or neuter your dog is entirely up to you.

It is Up to You to Decide When to Spay/Neuter Your Dog

When to get your dog spayed or neutered is entirely up to you. If you plan to breed your dog, then spaying or neutering is not the smartest decision.

However, it is a smart decision if you don’t want to deal with a litter of puppies as your pup gets older. Canines tend to go in heat when they get to six months of age. Male dogs can easily find a female dog in heat.

It is a very serious commitment to always keep your unsprayed or unneutered dog from suitors every eight months don’t you think?

Hence it is up to you to decide whether you want to take part in it. Both procedures further allow your dog to enjoy more health benefits associated with the procedure.

Conclusion

So, when should your dog be spayed or neutered?

All medical decisions, including whether or not to spay or neuter your dog, are ultimately yours as the dog owner.

Veterinarians are experts in neutering and spaying, and they will give you a proper recommendation when you need further guidance. They will layout the benefits as well as risks, and the suggested recovery time for your dog after the procedure. However, it is up to you to make the last call!

A lot of patience and understanding will help you go a long way if you do decide to have your dog spayed or neutered. Therefore, you must take your time before you can make this informed long-term health care decision for your dog.