Benefits Of Spaying And Neutering Your Dog (Stats & How It Works)

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Dog being held by vet (Caption: Benefits Of Spaying And Neutering Dogs)The topic of spaying and neutering is most often brought up by dog owners; however, it’s a subject that should be addressed by all pet owners. There are many benefits of spaying and neutering, including improved health outlook, enhanced temperament, a declining homeless pet population, and a reduction in the expense associated with breeding.

Article Overview

What Is Spaying?

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Spaying is the practice of sterilizing female animals by removing the reproductive organs, including the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.

A female dog who’s pregnant or in heat can be spayed. Spaying during pregnancy will terminate the pregnancy and can be performed until just a few days before delivery, although this is not recommended.

A spayed female typically takes longer to recover than a neutered male but is sterile immediately following her surgery.

What Is Neutering?

Neutering (also referred to as orchiectomy or castration) is the practice of sterilizing male animals by removing the testicles. The penis is not operated on during this procedure, and the outer scrotal sac is left in place.

A neutered male isn’t sterile immediately following his surgery. On average, it can take around two weeks or as long as six weeks for a neutered male to be considered sterile. It’s important to keep a neutered male away from any females in heat for around six weeks to ensure that pregnancy will not result from the encounter.

Male dogs generally recover much more quickly following neutering than females do from spaying since spaying is much more invasive and involves a larger incision.

When Should I Get My Dog Fixed?

Many shelters routinely sterilize puppies and dogs to help control overpopulation. With privately-owned dogs in secure homes, here are the most recent recommendations:1 

  • Small-breed dogs (under 45 pounds projected adult body weight) should be neutered at six months of age or spayed before their first heat, typically at five or six months of age.
  • Large-breed dogs (over 45 pounds projected adult body weight) should be neutered after growth stops, usually between nine and 15 months of age. When to spay a large-breed dog depends on several factors. The recommended window is anywhere between five and 15 months, depending on your dog’s disease risk and lifestyle. Consult with your veterinarian to help narrow down the window.

If you’ve adopted an older dog who hasn’t been sterilized, spaying and neutering are generally considered safe as long as they’re in good health.

How Much Does Spaying & Neutering Cost?

German shepherd with barbell in mouth (Caption: Pet Wellness Plans)The cost of spaying and neutering depends on a wide range of factors including the overall health of the animal, the size and weight of the animal, geographic location, and whether the surgery is spaying or neutering. A lot of pet owners choose to have their regular veterinarian perform their animal’s spaying or neutering surgery.

The price range for spaying and neutering from a regular veterinarian ranges so significantly that there’s no way to portray it accurately; however, many clinics provide affordable spaying and neutering for $40 to $150 per pet. You can also find affordable spaying and neutering at your local animal shelter. Another option is to purchase a wellness plan, which will cover a portion of the procedure done by your veterinarian.

Is It Worth Paying More?

Vet performing a spay operationThe first priority of pet owners should be providing a safe spaying and neutering experience for their pet. This type of experience is provided by all licensed veterinarians regardless of whether they work at a private clinic, a low-cost clinic, or at the ASPCA or Humane Society.

With that said, there are benefits to going with a private veterinarian clinic for your dog’s spaying or neutering surgery. Using a private vet will allow you to build a relationship with your vet whom you and your dog will have a lifelong relationship.

In addition, many lower-cost clinics utilize glue to close spaying incisions rather than stitches. Glue will hold an incision together, but it can result in skin reactions, slower healing, and reopening of the incision (although this can happen when using stitches as well.) While the choice between stitches and glue is a personal one for the veterinarian doing the surgery, lower budget clinics opt to use glue over stitches more often.

What Are The Benefits?

There are many reasons why pet parents should spay and neuter their pets.

Fewer Homeless Pets

Three stray puppiesLocal shelters are often overpopulated. If all pet owners spayed and neutered, their local animal shelters would experience a reduction in their populations.

This reduction would not only result in fewer animals living on the streets and being euthanized, but it would also increase the available space in shelters for animals that may otherwise be thrust into homelessness.

Medical Benefits

Neutering male dogs eliminates the risk of testicular cancer reduces prostate problems. Spayed females have a reduced risk for uterine infections and mammary and breast tumors.1, 2

Behavior Improvements

Behavior can be affected by whether or not you spay or neuter your pet. One of the most obvious differences between a spayed or neutered pet and an unaltered pet is the need to “roam.”

Male pets will go to great lengths to get to a female that’s in heat; this includes behavior such as tunneling under fences and leaping over gates. The scent of a female in heat can carry for considerable distances making it extremely difficult to contain a male pet that smells a female in heat.

Another consideration is the effect that hormone release has on the behavior of an animal. Males, in particular, can become extremely dominant or bullheaded as a result of surges in testosterone. These pets can be extremely difficult to control and train.

Hormones also play a role in instincts, such as marking behavior and shows of dominance and aggression. The majority of dog bites involve dogs that have not been fixed.3 Spaying and neutering can reduce these behaviors and make animals easier to manage, which can result in fewer frustrations for the animal.

Less Mess

Mating is a messy business. Not only do males release ejaculate, but females experience menstruation.

In dogs, the heat cycle during which the female bleeds can begin as early as five months old. This cycle occurs approximately twice a year and lasts for three weeks. In cats, the heat cycle occurs every three to four weeks from spring until fall.

During heat cycles, females need to wear protective garments which must be changed frequently; this prevents the spotting of blood on furniture and around the home.

Females in heat must be kept away from all males. This means the female must not be allowed unsupervised access to anywhere she could potentially be mounted by a male. The act of mating can occur in seconds and result in an unwanted pregnancy.

Cost Of Pregnancy

Many people think that they would like their dog to have babies once in their lifetime; these people rarely understand the cost of both pregnancy and raising puppies.

Litter of puppiesThe pregnant female requires supplementation with vitamins in addition to a higher-quality dog food. Regular veterinarian check-ups are a must to ensure the health of the mother to be. All of these expenses occur before the youngsters are even born.

The birthing process is another potentially expensive experience. Several conditions can arise that require veterinary intervention, which can be costly. It’s also possible for the birthing female to experience complications that cost her her life.

Assuming the mother and babies make it out of delivery, there is then the added cost of raising young. The nursing mother requires premium food, and her babies require both regular medical checkups and preventative medication.

After raising babies to approximately eight weeks, they must all be found safe and responsible homes. As a responsible pet owner, it’s up to you to raise the young until such a home can be found. Many pet owners shirk this responsibility, and if a home cannot be found for offspring, puppies are dumped in a local shelter, feeding a vicious cycle.

Benefits Of Spaying And Neutering Your Dog Infographic

Benefits Of Spaying And Neutering Your Dog Infographic

Excuses For Not Spaying And Neutering

German Shepherd being spayed by vetPet owners have many excuses for why they don’t want to “desex” their animal.

  • I want another dog just like Fido – We are not duplicates of our parents and the same goes for our dogs. Each living thing is unique.
  • Spaying and neutering will make my pet fat – Fixing your dog can reduce their level of activity and cause hormonal changes, but poor diet and exercise is the cause of their weight problem.
  • We could become breeders and make money – Breeding is done for the love of the breed and isn’t always a profitable business. There are many fees associated with breeding that cause breeders to lose money.
  • My pet will change after they get spayed or neutered – Pets typically change for the better. They become less aggressive and are less hardheaded.
  • My pet deserves the chance to be a parent – We tend to put human emotions and desires on our animals. Being a parent as a human is different from being a parent as an animal. Animals care for their young for a set period, and it doesn’t consist of enrichment activities as it does for humans.
  • What if the surgery goes wrong – This is a valid concern but rarely does anything go wrong. These are routine surgeries, but there are instances where a dog reacts to anesthesia.
  • We always find homes for our puppies – The people who take in the puppies you have are people who could have saved a dog from a local shelter or rescue group. This means there’s one less home and one less second chance for a dog in need.
  • My dog is always contained – Dogs can escape back yards and other dogs can break into your back yard. Dogs get lost and run away every day.
  • It’s not natural to spay or neuter dogs – It’s also not natural to own dogs as possessions, but we domesticated them.
  • I couldn’t look my dog in the eye if I cut off his boys – Could you look him in the eye if he developed testicular cancer that you could’ve prevented?
  • My dog will feel less like a man – Dogs don’t have a concept of sexual identity; neutering them will not cause an identity crisis for them.
  • It’s healthier for female dogs to have a litter before being spayed – There is no medical research supporting this.
  • Spaying or neutering is too expensive – Many vet clinics and shelters offer discount spay and neuter services to help families with financial constraints to provide for their pet.
  • My children should experience the miracle of birth – There are other ways to educate your children than them witnessing it first-hand. Show them a video, share an article with them, etc.
  • My dog is a purebred – If you aren’t a certified breeder, you have no place breeding your dog.
  • Spaying and neutering will make my dog less protective – A dog will not lose their natural instinct to protect their family.
  • My dog should experience a heat cycle before being spayed – Spaying your dog before her first heat greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors.

Statistics

These statistics about euthanasia in animal shelters and spaying/neutering are shocking.

  • Every year approximately three million shelter animals are euthanized.5
  • 80% of these euthanized shelter animals were healthy/treatable and could have been adopted.5
  • Every six seconds in the United States alone an animal is euthanized.6
  • Approximately 25% of shelter pets are purebred. 5
  • Only ten percent of animals that find their way to local shelters have been spayed or neutered.6
  • 78% of owned dogs (87% of cats) are spayed or neutered. While this is a good start, it is not nearly enough considering the number of pet dogs and cats in the nation.6

What The Process Is Really  Like For Your Dog

Humans can never be truly sure what a dog feels, but here’s a glimpse into the procedure based on vet knowledge and research.

No matter your dog’s sex, the first thing that will happen is the dog is placed under general anesthesia. This usually involves a quick injection, which vets are trained to perform while keeping the dog calm. All the dog experiences after that are sleep and no pain, much like a human in surgery.

A tube is fed into the dog’s airway, and his/her breathing is ventilated throughout the procedure and heart rate is monitored. This is where it begins to vary for males and females

Your Male Dog’s Neutering Experience

After anesthesia is administered, breathing is ventilated and vitals are monitored, the fur in front of the scrotum is clipped or shaved, and the skin is sterilized using a topical antiseptic wash.

A small incision is made in that location using sterile surgical tools. For puppies with both testicles descended, the next step is the clipping of the vas deferens and the removal of the testicles, which takes 10 to 20 minutes. (An undescended testicle, while rare, will take a bit longer as it presents a minor complication to remove a testicle from the abdomen.) The vas deferens and the blood supply to the area are tied off, and the small incision is closed with surgical glue, staples, or in rare cases, sutures.

Post-Neuter Care

Puggle puppyThe dog wakes up without pain or numbness when the anesthesia wears off and is often able to go home that day. He may be sore, and your vet will supply minor pain medication as well as instructions for how to check for infection. Dogs can eat and drink normally when they get home but require gentle, monitored walking and should refrain from jogging or rough playing with other dogs or people who might accidentally worsen the surgery wound.

If your dog looks like he’s going to lick his stitches, a cone will be placed around his neck until the wound heals. Although this might be annoying to him, it’s important that he doesn’t aggravate the sensitive spot of the incision until after the stitches are removed or the wound is fully closed up. The wound should be healed after about one week, and the dog can resume his usual antics.

Your Female Dog’s Spay Experience

After anesthesia is administered, breathing is ventilated and vitals are monitored, the skin on the abdomen is shaved or clipped and treated with an antiseptic. A small abdominal incision is made, the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes are removed, and the blood supply sealed off.

The procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes or more if your dog is overweight. The wound is sealed with surgical glue, staples, or sutures. The stitches are in two to three layers so if one layer starts coming undone, the other layers remain intact.

If the surgery is performed during estrus (while the dog is in heat), expect it to take longer, require more supplies, and be a little riskier. The medication used before, during, and after surgery may vary as well. These adjustments often lead to a more expensive vet bill.

Post-Spay Care

The surgery is deeper into the abdomen than neutering, so it can take a bit longer for dogs to heal after being spayed. The dog wakes up and will not be sore immediately. Vets usually prescribe minor pain medication for the days after the surgery, and once again you’re required to check for infection. The dog will not be able to eat normally until the day after returning home to give the wound time to heal enough before pressure is put on it from a full stomach.

Nausea is a common symptom that may make her not want to eat. Home remedies may be recommended for this, or in some cases, medication will be prescribed. The vet will instruct you on how to feed and water her before then. Since female spays are more likely to have sutures or staples, those require a return visit to the vet’s office within 10 to 14 days for removal.

It’s often reported that after spaying your dog, her metabolism slows, so for adults, this may require lower calorie food or a special diet. Like with a neuter, the first week after a return home will be especially gentle for your dog, but after a week she can resume all her usually playful activities.

Can I Use A Discount Spay And Neuter Clinic?

The cost of spaying and neutering pets is often enough to turn a pet owner away from following through with the process. Fortunately, most communities offer discount spay and neuter clinics to help these pet owners afford this important procedure. You can easily search for a list of low-cost spay and neuter clinics near you on the North Shore Animal League America website.

Most dog owners become nervous when they hear the term “discount” when it pertains to something like surgery for their furry family member. In the majority of instances, these spay and neuter clinics are sponsored or held at local SPCA shelters and humane societies. These agencies provide this discounted service because they’re the ones who will have to pay for the pet overpopulation if pets are not spayed and neutered.

Learn About Financial Assistance For Vet Services

How Do Clinics Work?

Spay and neuter clinics work by asking clients to call and make surgery appointments for their pets. Making surgery appointments is just like making any other veterinary appointment. Generally, these services will ask pet owners to call or submit forms online to request spay and neuter appointments.

Who Performs Discount Surgeries?

Some people are under the impression that because the service is a discounted service, that poor quality or non-licensed or veterinary students will be permitted to conduct sterilization surgery.

This assumption is simply not true. Sterilization clinics employ only licensed veterinarians not only because it’s not ethical to do otherwise but also because of the potential for other needs while a pet is in surgery.

What Is The Cost Of Discounted Surgery?

Dog in fenced yardDiscount spay and neuter clinics vary in their cost based on a variety of factors. The base fee for sterilization surgery is determined by the area in which the client lives. For example, Furry Friends Community Spay Clinic in Des Moines, Iowa, charges $80-$100+ for a female dog (depending on dog’s weight), $60-$80+ for a male dog (depending on dog’s weight), $55 for a female cat and $45 for a male cat.

Clinics may also charge an added fee for pets that are in heat, pregnant or obese at the time of their sterilization.

What’s Included?

As with the question above, what is included in the price of spay and neuter surgery at a discount clinic varies depending upon the clinic. Items may include the sterilization process, a 1-year rabies vaccination, distemper, and any other core vaccinations and a pain relief injection for the surgical procedure.

Add-on services are also offered based on the individual needs of a client, and these can include: additional pain relief medication for recovery, microchipping, heartworm testing, heartworm prevention, flea and tick prevention (applied at the hospital or provided to take home,) Feline leukemia testing, Feline leukemia vaccination, canine kennel cough vaccination, cone e-collars, and cardboard carriers.

Importance Of Supporting Clinics

Even if you choose not to utilize spay and neuter clinics, you can still support local clinics by making donations of supplies or monetary donations. These donations go into allowing clinics to provide discounted sterilization surgeries to prevent pet overpopulation.

The higher the population of homeless pets, the larger the stray pet population which increases the risk of disease among feral animals as well as increases the financial strain put on locally-owned animal shelters and animal control centers.

If you have a dog that’s not spayed or neutered yet, you may want to consider getting a pet wellness plan for them. Many wellness plcans cover a portion of the expense associated with “fixing” a dog in addition to many other things including vaccinations, microchipping, annual exams, teeth cleanings, flea, tick and heartworm treatments, and more.

Why are you for or against spaying/neutering your pet?

Sources: [1] American Animal Hospital Association; [2] ASPCA; [3] Petpedia; [4] New Hope Clinic; [5] Humane Society; [6] Petfinder

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets). Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

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