Most new puppies will make lots of trips to the vet. Appointments may include blood testing, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering your pets. When you bring a new puppy home, you may be wondering “When can my dog be spayed?”
Most veterinarians suggest that dogs be spayed around six months of age. So, why six months? Keep reading to find out more about the benefits and process of fixing a pet as well as the best time to spay your dog.
What’s the Difference Between Spaying & Neutering?
Both spaying and neutering are veterinary operations that prevent overpopulation of pets. Spaying is a surgical procedure performed on female dogs to remove their uterus and both ovaries. Sometimes referred to as an ovariohysterectomy, the spay process involves an incision into a dog’s abdomen under general anesthesia.
Neutering a dog refers to the surgical removal of a male dog’s testicles. A neutering procedure, sometimes called castration, is also performed under anesthesia and is a less complicated surgery than a spay. When a dog is neutered, an incision is made near the front of his scrotum, and the testicles are removed through the incision.
Male dogs can be neutered when they are about eight weeks old, but some vet clinics may recommend waiting until six months of age. Canines that are fixed before they go into puberty will generally grow to be a bit larger than those neutered after puberty. Some believe this is because testosterone dictates when a dog’s bones will stop growing. With lower testosterone levels, some dogs may continue to grow. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best time to neuter your pet.
Most veterinarians recommend that dogs are spayed at six months because the procedure requires general anesthesia. Putting small puppies under anesthesia poses more risks than with slightly older dogs. In addition, some vets recommend that dogs hit puberty before undergoing the surgery, which is usually between five and nine months of age.
However, with modern technology and advanced protocols, many vet clinics can safely anesthetize even the tiniest pets. A veterinarian clinic with a highly trained staff may be equipped to spay young puppies at two or three months of age.
Some vets suggest that female puppies be spayed before their first heat, which may happen when they are as young as five months old. Evidence indicates that spaying a dog before her first heat may significantly lower the risk of cancerous mammary tumors. However, dogs that are spayed after their first heat also have a reduced risk of tumors compared to unspayed pups. Avoiding your dog’s first heat will be a help to you as the process involves lots of howling, whining, and urinating around your home. It’s up to pet owners to understand the benefits and risks associated with spaying or neutering a dog, but the process is generally safe.
Benefits of Spaying a Dog
Unless you plan to breed your dog, the best decision is to get them spayed. Unspayed dogs will go into heat every eight months which lasts for up to three weeks each time. Female dogs do not go through menopause and will continue to go into heat one to two times per year for their entire lives if they are not spayed. Around two million dogs are put down each year due to overpopulation, and spaying and neutering pets helps to reduce this number.
Although spays are more complicated than neuters, it will only impact your young pup’s life for about a week. Spaying your dog will prevent her from getting pregnant, leaving you to deal with unwanted puppies. After the procedure, your pup won’t run away to find a male dog while in heat. Female dog owners should also be aware that unneutered male dogs will go to great lengths to find an unspayed mate. Even some of the most cautious pet owners are unable to prevent unfixed pups from finding each other.
Although spaying a dog costs money upfront, the surgery will save you money in the long run. The price and time commitment of caring for a litter of puppies is much higher! Low-cost spaying may be available in your area. Research the veterinarians in your city to compare prices for spaying your dog. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has an online search tool for finding affordable neuter and spay clinics in your area. A low-cost operation does not necessarily imply that your dog will receive inferior surgical care.
In addition to preventing unplanned puppy litters, a spayed dog may live a longer, healthier life. Spayed dogs have a reduced risk of mammary cancer and pyometra which is a common life-threatening condition found in unspayed canines. Up to 25 percent of unspayed female dogs will develop pyometra by age ten. Furthermore, without a uterus or ovaries, dogs will not develop canine cancer or infections in those organs. Mammary cancer and uterine infections can be fatal in up to 50 percent of female dogs. Spaying your pup is the best way to help ensure she lives a long life.
Risks of Spaying a Dog
The spay procedure is a major abdominal surgery that has many benefits as well as some risks. In female pups, the ovaries sit near the kidneys, and the uterus extends from both ovaries down to the cervix. Spaying large dogs can be difficult compared to smaller breeds. A canine’s abdominal cavity will be much larger and more difficult to maneuver on a big dog, and they have a heavier blood supply. A difficult spay procedure is associated with a higher risk of complication. Luckily, veterinarians are seasoned in performing spays on dogs of all sizes. Unless a pup has an underlying health condition, complication rates are low, even for larger breeds. The size of a dog should not be a reason to avoid getting your pet spayed.
Canine urinary incontinence and obesity in dogs are health conditions associated with spaying dogs. However, the reason for obesity is unclear as there have been no studies showing a change in metabolism after the procedure. Also, pet owners are usually the culprit for overweight dogs. Overfeeding and lack of exercise are surefire ways for animals to pack on the pounds. Fortunately, urinary incontinence can be treated with medication, and obesity is treatable with diet and exercise.
The Process of Spaying a Dog
When you decide to spay your dog, pre-surgical bloodwork will typically be recommended to ensure your puppy is healthy enough for the operation. Some health conditions may impact the choice for your pet to undergo anesthesia.
The night before the dog surgery, carefully follow the directions from your vet clinic. More than likely, they will recommend that your pup doesn’t eat anything for at least eight hours before the procedure as anesthesia can cause nausea and vomiting. Some veterinarians may ask that you stop your dog from eating after midnight on the night before a spay, but drinking water should be fine.
Some vet clinics allow pet owners to pick their dog up on the same day as a spay surgery, while some may prefer to keep her overnight. While most dogs won’t need pain medication after being spayed, it can be prescribed, if necessary.
When you bring your pup home from the vet after getting spayed, she might be nauseous and have a decreased appetite for the first couple days. You’ll want to restrict your dog’s physical activity for a week following the operation as too much movement can cause swelling or tearing at the incision site. If you notice excessive bleeding or liquid draining from the incision, take your dog back to the vet as soon as possible.
When your dog is spayed, she will likely get stitches that will be removed after about ten days. It’s important for pet owners to regularly check the incision site and stitches to make sure everything is healing properly. If your pup can’t resist licking, scratching, or chewing on her stitches, an Elizabethan (plastic cone) collar will work to prevent this. Just remember your dog should sleep with her Elizabethan collar on.
Some pups will cough after being spayed due to irritation from the anesthesia tube in their throat during the procedure. Coughing is nothing to worry about unless it lasts for more than a couple days post-surgery. For ongoing canine coughing, call your vet clinic.
It’s Up to You to Decide When to Spay Your Dog
If you’re not planning to breed your dog, spaying is the smartest decision. Canines can go into heat for the first time at just six months of age, and it’s surprisingly easy for male dogs to find them. Keeping an unspayed dog away from male suitors every eight months is a serious commitment. Although there are lots of organizations and campaigns that push to prevent the devastating overpopulation of dogs, it’s up to owners to do their part and neuter or spay their pets. Not only does spaying a dog prevent unwanted puppies, but your pup will also enjoy many health benefits associated with the surgery.
When should your dog be spayed? All medical decisions, including when to spay or neuter your pet, are ultimately yours. Vet technicians are experts in spaying pups and will be able to make knowledgeable recommendations when you need guidance. Veterinarians will lay out the benefits, risks, and suggested timing for spaying your dog, but you’ll have to make the call in the end.