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There are many benefits of spaying and neutering your dog, but some dog owners wonder if these surgical procedures are actually safe for their pups, including the risk of their dog dying during surgery. How safe are spaying and neutering? And what are some potential complications from these surgeries?
As with any surgery, there are some risks. Your vet will put your dog under general anesthesia for spaying and neutering. However, spaying and neutering surgeries are widely considered very low risk — reported death rates from these procedures in dogs and cats are less than 0.1%.1 See what the process is really like for your dog.
Here’s what some of the most frequently cited studies found about complication rates for male and female dogs. Keep in mind that most neuter and spay complications are typically minor and require little to no treatment.
Spay Complication Rates
One study of tracked complications at a U.S. veterinary teaching hospital found that the rates of postoperative spay complications were 14.1%, the intraoperative (during surgery) spay complications were 6.3%, and the total of all complications were 20.6%.2 A study of five Canadian veterinary private practitioners found total complication rates of 22% for spaying female dogs.3
While the studies above were relatively small, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) charity branch, RCVS Knowledge, collects data from 30,000 practices around the country — a much larger data set than other statistics we’ve found. Their reported outcomes from spaying surgery included:1
- 73.7% had no abnormalities or complications
- 13.2% had abnormalities but no treatment was required
- 11.8% had complications that required treatment
- 1.1% had complications requiring surgical intervention
- 0.2% fatality
Neuter Complication Rates
A study of five Canadian veterinary private practitioners found a total complication rate (both during and after surgery) of 19% for neutering male dogs.3
The RCVS Knowledge database’s reported outcomes from neutering (castrating) surgery included:1
- 78.6% had no abnormalities or complications
- 11.4% had abnormalities but no treatment was required
- 9.3% had complications that required treatment
- 0.7% had complications requiring surgical intervention
- 0.1% fatality
The most common postoperative complications following spaying and neutering include:
- Infection of the incision
- Opening up of the incision/broken sutures
- Swelling under the incision site
- Skin infection
- Urinary incontinence (mostly for females)
- Scrotal bruising and swelling (for males)
Many of these complications result from self-inflicted trauma to the surgical site from chewing, licking, and scratching or overactivity following surgery. An Elizabethan collar can help prevent self-inflicted trauma.
This brief video has some excellent information from a certified U.S. veterinarian on things to consider when deciding whether or not to spay or neuter your furry friend.
There are many benefits of spaying and neutering your dog, including the improved overall health of your pup, an enhanced temperament, a declining homeless pet population, and more. In our comprehensive guide on spaying and neutering, you can learn more about the benefits, when to get your pup “fixed,” what the surgeries entail, how much it costs, and more.
If you’d like to move forward with getting your dog spayed or neutered, but the cost is concerning to you, we recommend considering a pet wellness plan. A wellness plan can help cover routine expenses like spaying and neutering surgery in addition to vaccinations, microchipping, and more. Depending on the company you choose, you can purchase it as an add-on to a pet insurance policy or on its own.