Getting a new puppy or kitten is always exciting. Most pet lovers can’t wait to bring home the newest member of their family. However, a new puppy requires a great deal of care and attention as he or she adapts to your new home. And, spaying or neutering a dog is a part of being a responsible pet owner, right?
Most people and pet owners assume that they need to get their new puppy or kitten snipped right away. However, the majority of pet owners are not aware of the risks associated with spaying and neutering a dog or cat.
The majority of pet owners are encouraged and advised to spay and neuter pets for various health reasons. Although a great deal of research and studies suggest the benefits of spaying and neutering a dog or cat, other studies do not. As a result, pet owners are frustrated, and left with many unanswered questions.
If you want to learn more about the health risks and benefits to spaying or neutering a dog, then this article is for you. This article will discuss the health risks and benefits to spaying and neutering. We will also take a look at some medical research and studies behind spaying and neutering. It will also provide some guidance for pet owners to help make a decision. Readers will also learn about how to care for a dog post-op.
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons to spaying and neutering a dog or cat.
What is Spaying or Neutering a Dog?
As we mentioned above, spaying and neutering a dog or cat often seems like the necessary and responsible thing for pet owners to do. Spaying and neutering involves the “snipping” of—you know— male dog or female dog reproductive parts. Medically speaking, spaying is the surgical removal of the uterus of a female dog and neutering is the castration of a male dog’s testicles. The overall goal of spaying and neutering is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and control aggression and behavior.
What is the Spaying or Neutering Process for a Male and Female?
The process behind spaying and neutering a dog or cat might seem obvious, but here are the medical and technical differences between the two:
Spaying. Spaying female dogs involves a ovariohysterectomy. This is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the uterus and both ovaries. This procedure involves making an incision in the abdomen to remove the vital reproductive organs. It is also performed under general anesthesia.
Neutering. Neutering male dogs involves the castration, or the surgical removal, of the dog’s testicles. It is true that neuter surgery for a male dog is significantly easier and less invasive than female dog spaying. But like spaying, neutering involves making a small incision near the front of the scrotum to remove the testicles. It is also performed under general anesthesia.
What Does Spaying or Neutering Cost?
Depending on the vet or animal hospital facility, the cost for spaying and neutering can vary. For some facilities, spaying and neutering can cost upwards of several hundred dollars! Spaying often costs more than neutering simply due to what is involved in each procedure. However, many communities have animal shelters that offer low-cost spay / neuter programs. These programs help control the pet overpopulation risk.
If you are thinking of having your puppy spayed or neutered, then have a talk with your vet. Your vet will educate you on the cost of spaying or neutering your cat or dog. Be sure to also ask him or her about any reputable programs available in your area. You can also visit spayusa.org to find low-cost spay/neuter programs or a free spay / neuter clinic in your community.
To Spay or Neuter Or Not to Spay or Neuter?
Most pet owners spay or neuter cats and dogs to help reduce the risk of pet overpopulation. As it is, many cats and dogs do not have homes, and animal shelters are already overpopulated. Therefore, pet owners want to do their part.
However, there are pros and cons to spaying and neutering, and leaving your animal intact. Here is a summary of the pros and cons to spaying or neutering your dog.
Pros of Spaying or Neutering Animals
Here are some advantages to spaying and neutering your dog:
Prevent Unplanned Pregnancies
Many pet owners spay female dogs as a form of birth control. Female dogs that remain intact or “un-spayed” will have periods of being “in heat” several times per year. During these periods, your female dog will become very alluring to other male dogs in your neighborhood.
When female dogs are “in heat”, they give off a scent that male dogs can pick up from miles away. If a male dog comes into contact with your female dog, well, your female dog may become pregnant.
A litter of puppies might be exciting and joyous, but they require a great deal of care. Caring for a litter of puppies can also be time consuming and expensive. Pregnant female dogs require a great deal of veterinary care and attention. Furthermore, once her puppies are born, they will need their shots. Finally, once the puppies are old enough, they will all need homes.
As a result, spaying a female dog can prevent unplanned pregnancies or unwanted puppies. If you are up for caring for the mother as well as the puppies, then great! However, this really should be left for an experienced breeder who understands canine genetics.
Reduced Cancer Risks
Spaying or neutering both male and female dogs may reduce some health risks. For example, unspayed female dogs may be at a higher risk for developing infections of the uterus or pyometra. Additionally, unspayed female dogs are also at a higher risk for mammary cancer than spayed female dogs.
However, some studies show that dogs that are spayed under 2 1/2 years of age are at a lower risk for mammary cancer.
Similarly, unneutered dogs are at a higher risk for testicular cancer and even non-cancerous prostate issues and disorders. Unneutered dogs may also be at risk for prostate disease. Furthermore, although studies remain inconclusive, some research suggests that spaying or neutering may reduce the risk of diabetes.
Control Behavioral Issues
Neutering and spaying cats and dogs can help prevent unwanted or inappropriate behaviors, particularly aggressive or territorial behavior. For example, many unneutered or intact male cats and dogs will often develop unwanted behaviors. The most common example is claiming their territories by urinating on furniture.
Unneutered or intact male dogs or cats are also known for mounting. They might do this to your furniture, other small pets, family members, or visitors. Furthermore, unneutered male dogs and cats may also tend to be more aggressive than neutered animals.
Risks of Spaying or Neutering Animals
Most risk of spaying or neutering animals and pets are centered around long-term health. However, some risks that do develop in male cats and dogs are often a result from early neutering or spaying. The age factor plays a role in the long-term health of neutered or spayed dogs and cats.
Here are some of the most common health risks associated with spaying and neutering.
Studies have shown that spayed or neutered Golden Retrievers have the highest risk for hip dysplasia than intact male or female dogs. However, these cases are most common in dogs that were spayed or neutered under the age of six months. In fact, research suggests that dogs neutered before six months old have a 70 percent increase in the risk for developing hip dysplasia.
Cruciate Ligament Tears
Some spayed or neutered dogs less than a year old can suffer from cruciate ligament tears. In fact, studies have shown that 5 percent of neutered male dogs suffered with ligament tears. Additionally, 8 percent of female dogs that were spayed old suffered tears.
As mentioned above, unspayed and unneutered dogs and cats are at risk for developing certain types of cancer. The most common types of cancer are mammary cancer and testicular cancer. However, spayed and neutered dogs and cats may not be any better off…
Studies have shown that cancer is 6.5 times greater in spayed female dogs and 3.6 times greater in neutered males. These types of cancer include lymphosarcoma and mast cell cancer. Neutering male dogs that are under a year old may also increase their risks of osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that is common in large dog breeds. Unfortunately, this type of cancer also has a poor prognosis.
All in all, the younger the animal is spayed or neutered, the more likely he or she will develop cancer.
In addition to various types of cancer, neutering dogs may increase the risk of cardiac diseases or even cognitive issues. In some cases, it may even triple the risk of hypothyroidism and obesity.
Female dogs don’t have it any easier. The majority of spayed female dogs are at risk for obesity. Spayed female dogs are also at a higher risk for developing urinary incontinence issues from illnesses such as Cushing’s Disease. For example, “spay incontinence” is common in up to 20 percent of spayed female dogs. This condition is most common in dogs that are spayed under one year of age. Female dogs are also more susceptible to recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) throughout their lives.
In fact, because there are so many health risks involving spaying female dogs, many vets have stopped recommending spaying. Some vets and pet owners believe that the risks for spaying female dogs outweigh the health benefits. All in all, the outcome varies greatly. The dog breed and the age of the dog at the time of surgery play a role in long-term health.
Yes, unspayed and unneutered dogs and cats may develop unwanted and inappropriate behaviors. However, spayed and neutered dogs and cats can also develop behavioral issues. So pick your poison.
Some of the most common behavioral issues include the following.
- Fear of storms
- Fear of loud noises
- Increased anxiety
- Increased aggression
- Increased shyness
- Separation anxiety
- Urinary incontinence
- Increased biting or nipping
- More fearful
- Less trainable
This is because spaying and neutering animals ultimately stops the development and production of hormones. Yes, these hormones are crucial for reproductive purposes. However, they are also important for the development of other natural processes.
Some of these processes include the following:
- Body condition
- Cholesterol levels
- Energy levels
- Muscle development
- Cognitive processes and development
- Immune system responses
Spay and Neuter Procedural Risks
Yes, there are numerous long-term health risks associated with spayed and neutered and intact dogs and cats. But, there are also risks associated with undergoing the spay and neuter procedure itself. Because spay and neuter procedures involve making an incision and therefore require general anesthesia, the risk for death increases.
All in all, reducing the population of dogs and even feral cats in animal shelters is crucial. Furthermore, reducing the number of euthanized animals is just as important. For example, behavior issues are the top reasons why many families give up their dogs and cats. And if behavior issues develop as a result of spaying or neutering—what exactly are we trying to save?
Why You Should Never Spay or Neuter Too Early
Early neutering or spaying is one of the most common reasons why long-term health risks and behavioral issues develop in puppies and kittens.
According to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, many vets in the United States recommend spaying or neutering dogs and cats between five and nine months of age. Some vets recommend spaying a female dog after she experiences her first “heat” session.
On the other hand, some studies show that spaying female dogs before their first “in heat” experience reduces health risks. The most common health risks include mammary cancer or tumor development. Early neutering in male dogs may reduce the risks of leg-lifting, mounting, aggressions, and other inappropriate behaviors.
However, as we explored above, some dogs are at a greater health risk. For example, some dogs (such as Golden Retrievers) that are spayed or neutered under a year old are at a greater risk for health issues.
In some cases, early neutering may be a good idea, but some vets believe the opposite. All in all, if you are unsure of when you should spay or neuter your dog, then speak with a vet. A vet will outline the possible risks to help you make an informed decision.
What is the Recovery Time After Spay or Neuter Surgery?
If you do decide to pursue spay or neuter surgery, what can you expect afterwards? Although neutering or spaying should be done after a dog is five months old, surgery later in life is also possible. Of course, like any type of veterinary or medical procedure, reactions can and may differ. For example, different dogs can experience different reactions. An older dog might take longer to recovery from surgery than a younger dog.
Here are some things you can expect after spaying or neutering your dog:
Spaying a Dog
After spay surgery, some vets may keep your dog overnight to evaluate her progress. Other vets will allow her to go home the same day.
If your dog experiences some pain or discomfort after the procedure, this is completely normal. Some dogs may not show any signs of pain or discomfort at all! Regardless, your vet will likely prescribe your dog some medication in the event that she needs it. Some vets might send your dog home with a protective collar to keep prevent aggravating the incision. Many vets also recommend reducing physical activity for at least seven days. Your vet will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to evaluate your dog’s healing process and/or to remove any stitches.
Neutering a Dog
Most male dogs can return home the same day as the procedure. If there are complications or other issues that arise during surgery, then a male dog may be kept overnight.
Again, like female dogs, your vet will likely prescribe pain medications (if needed). Your dog may need to wear a protective collar or cone. In addition, your dog will likely need to follow physical activity restrictions. These recommendations will allow the dog’s incision to properly heal. Your vet will likely schedule a follow up appointment to evaluate progress and to also remove any stitches.
All in all, most young and healthy dogs typically heal within up to ten days after a spay or neuter procedure. However, if after a procedure you notice that your dog isn’t feeling like him or herself, then call your vet. If your dog is showing a lack of appetite, a disinterest in playtime or outdoor activities, or other health issues, then alert your vet. Some health issues, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea could be a sign of an infection.
What You Can Do For Your Dog or Cat After Surgery
Again, if you choose to undergo spay or neuter surgery for your dog or cat, then you have a very important job as a pet owner. In addition to following your vet’s recommendations and advice, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that your dog or cat has a healthy and speedy recovery.
- Ensure proper and sufficient nutrition
- Follow a routine medications schedule (if your dog needs pain medications)
- Provide your dog with a comfortable and quiet place to rest (preferably indoors)
- Protect your dog from other animals
- Prevent your dog from running, jumping or intense playtime for up to 10 days after surgery
- Avoid bathing or grooming for up to 10 days after surgery
- Prevent your dog from licking or aggravating the surgical incision as this can cause infection or further irritation
- Distract your dog with treats or toys
- Keep an eye on the incision area to ensure proper healing or possible infection
Again, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, then contact your vet. Be on the lookout for any redness, inflammation, swelling, or any form of discharge near the incision. All of these could be signs of an infection. So, don’t wait—contact your vet immediately.
Spaying or Neutering a Dog: Who Decides?
In summary, there are certain risks as well as advantages and disadvantages to spaying and neutering dogs and cats. However, a great deal of the information available to the general public is in question. Many spaying or neutering information contains exaggerated or controversial details. As we explored above, in many cases, the risks of spaying or neutering exceed the benefits.
Unfortunately, little evidence indicates whether one way or the other is safer for your dog. Many vets have differing opinions as to what and when is an appropriate age for spaying or neutering. However, early neutering and spaying definitely definitely has its risks. While we can’t tell you whether or not to spay or neuter your pet as that is ultimately up to you, we definitely don’t recommend doing it too early.
Of course, pet owners are encouraged to speak with their vets about the advantages, disadvantages, and risks. Again, age, breed, and other existing health issues all play a factor.
Finally, it is up to the pet owner to decide what is best for his or her pet. A pet owner should also consider a pet’s lifestyle. For example, if a female dog is at a high risk for pregnancy, then it may be best to have her spayed. All in all, the overall long-term health of your dog should be the primary deciding factor.
Although information may be scarce, there are programs and professional vets available to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet if spaying or neutering is right for your dog. Once you have the information you need, you can then make the best decision for your dog or cat. Taking time to make a decision is the best thing you can do.