Why should I spay or neuter my dog?
Shouldn't I let nature do its thing and maybe have a litter or two first? Everybody loves puppies. Right?
Why do shelters and rescue organizations require that dogs are spayed and neutered before allowing adoption?
Overpopulation and pet homelessness are the main reasons. For every human child born each day, 7 puppies and kittens are born each day according to the American Humane Society. So, at these current rates, there will never be enough homes for all the dogs and cats born each day. According the the American Society for the Prevention of cruelty, 6.5 million dogs enter shelters each year. Of those animals, only 3.2 million find their way out of shelters and into homes. Because the overpopulation is so excessive, many of these animals will, sadly, be euthanized. The shelters and rescue organizations cannot handle the daily influx at the current birth rates. There simply isn't enough resources or space to care for all of them. One or two litters per dog WILL worsen the problem. But, this isn't the only reason.
What is the difference between spaying and neutering?
Spaying is done in female dogs and it removes the ovaries and uterus of the female dog.
Neutering is done on male dogs and it removes the testicles and the related systems. It is also known as castration.
There are health reasons to spay and neuter pets
Spaying females reduces the risk of mammary cancer and eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer. My first dog, Sally, a purebred Cocker Spaniel had mammary tumors that became cancerous. Back in the 1980’s when she got sick, there weren’t treatments for dogs like there are now. Our veterinarian told us that if we had spayed her, she would have lived a longer and healthier life. Because she was a purebred, we thought we shouldn’t spay her. But, unfortunately, she never had a litter of purebred puppies. She wasn’t a show dog either. She did have two oops litters of puppies though that we had difficulty placing in new homes. We didn’t know what we didn’t know at the time.
Male dogs that are neutered have reduced risk of several types of reproductive cancers too: testicular, prostate, and perianal. Neutering also reduces the risk of hernias.
There are also behavioral problems that may be reduced by spaying or neutering. Males that are intact are much more prone to aggression, dominance, food guarding, and marking. For this reason, dogs are usually required to be neutered to enjoy most dog parks and daycares. Animals that have been neutered at a young age, generally behave better around other dogs. There are exceptions of course. But as a rule, they do behave less aggressively and they hump less too. They also won’t have the overwhelming instinctual drive to escape the yard when a neighboring female dog goes into heat. Don’t get me wrong, they will still be interested and may try some shenanigans but it won’t be overwhelming like it is with an intact male dog. Because they are less driven to escape, it reduces the risk of them getting lost or hit by a car.
Spaying a female will eliminate her heat cycle and the mess that comes with it. If you have ever had a female dog that went into heat, you know that they become very nervous, anxious, and do everything in their power to escape their surroundings so they can find a mate. The natural instinct to breed can overwhelm them. They also attract every intact male dog in the neighborhood. As a kid, I saw this in action and was pretty shocked at the whole thing when we had dogs trying to jump our fence to get to my cocker spaniel. The crying, barking and howling was incessant as well. We thought we kept her pretty secure but a stray dog got to her each time. One hopped the fence and the second time it happened, they actually dug under the fence to get to her. It wasn’t romantic like Lady and the Tramp either.
Spayed and neutered pets in both sexes are generally less dominant and easier to train too.
When do you spay or neuter pets?
For females, any time after 8 weeks of age but before their first heat cycle is recommended.
For males, they can also be neutered any time after 8 weeks. A few years ago, many advised people to wait until the dogs hit puberty and some still will recommend waiting until puberty for males.
Talk to your veterinarian to decide what is right for your pet. However, many shelters and rescue groups will not allow adoption until the pet has been spayed or neutered.
Many senior dogs can also be spayed or neutered. Only your veterinarian can assess whether your pet is too old for surgery. Age alone is not a deciding factor. The overall health of the pet is really the deciding factor.
Many areas in the United States have low-cost spay and neuter options and cost can vary depending upon your location. Check with your veterinarian or local shelters and rescue organizations. They will be able to refer your to low-cost options in your area.
So, now you may be wondering…
How long it takes for a dog to recover from spaying or neutering?
The incision takes about 2 weeks to heal.
The veterinarian will tell you to keep the dog calm and try to keep them from playing, running, jumping around or walking off leash while healing. You don’t want the sutures to come loose and have the incision pop open (intestines falling out would be very bad for females…) or have internal bleeding for males. It is very important to keep them as calm as possible! If you need to restrict their area during this time, it is better to be safe than sorry. Check the incision for signs of infection, like oozing, redness or swelling that may indicate infection twice per day. No baths during this time either! Bathing can introduce bacteria to the incision area. Your dog will need to wear a cone to prevent them from licking at the surgery site and possibly removing their stitches especially after the healing has started. About 5-8 days after surgery, they will get very itchy as the healing process progresses. They will need to wear the cone until the stitches are removed. Supervise them as much as you can. Don’t put them in the backyard to play by themselves where you cannot watch them. Using a crate or pen at this time can be very useful. When you take your dog out for potty breaks, keep the breaks as short as possible and keep the dogs on a lead. Walk them very gently until their post-op visit at the veterinarian.
There are always risks associated with this or any surgery and the decision to spay or neuter your dog is yours to make. I am not a veterinarian so I cannot make any medical recommendations. I do work with dogs and my goal is to share what I know so you can take really great care of your dogs and enjoy the bond that only a pet owner can appreciate. Dogs are awesome! I hope this article helped answer your questions and helped you to take the best care possible of your pet.