Spay or Neuter: It's Best for Your Pet

For a longer, healthier life for your dog, here are the simple facts of spaying and neutering.


Two simple surgical procedures, spaying and neutering, are performed on dogs to prevent reproduction. Spaying is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs of the female, and neutering is the surgical removal of the reproductive glands of the male.

These quick and routine procedures are done by a veterinarian and with anesthesia. Often, a dog will enter the hospital in the morning and be home in the evening.

Aftercare depends on your vet and your dog. Some dogs are up and running in a day or two. Others may need quiet and reduced exercise for a week or so after the surgery.

The majority of veterinary practices offer spaying and neutering services. And because animal health professionals feel so strongly about the importance of preventing unwanted litters, the cost is a relative bargain by surgical standards: generally around $100 for males, under $200 for females. Many humane societies offer the procedures at an even lower cost.

Six months is the average age for spaying and neutering in dogs, but some vets do the procedure on puppies as young as 8 weeks old. Older dogs can be spayed or neutered, too, if they are in good general health. (It's a myth that neutering adult males makes them aggressive.)

1. Your pet is likely to live longer. Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and other testicular diseases, and reduces the incidence of prostate disease and hernias. Spaying eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, Pyometra (a life-threatening uterine disease), and uterine infections. If you spay your female dog before her first heat, her changes of getting breast cancer are practically zero. She also will never be at risk for the complications associated with pregnancy and giving birth.

2. You'll be helping reduce overpopulation. If you think you're sure to find homes for all the adorable puppies from your dog, think twice. Millions of unwanted dogs are euthanized each year, and for every dog reclaimed or adopted from a shelter, there are already two or three waiting for a home. Why add to those numbers?

Think just one litter won't hurt? Here's another mind-boggling statistic: In six years, one dog and her puppies can produce 67,000 puppies. Unless you are a committed, accredited breeder, spaying or neutering your dog is the only sensible option. If you want to work with a breeder to mate your purebred dog, make sure you keep the animal out of situations where an accidental pregnancy could occur.

3. You'll have a stay-at-home dog. Spayed and neutered animals are not seeking a mate, so they have less of an urge to roam. They are happy to stay close to home and avoid cars, fighting dogs, and contagious diseases.

4. Your dog will be more sociable. A dog's natural affection for the people around him can get sidetracked by his reproductive urges. Without the distractions of finding a mate, your dog is free to focus his love and attention on you and your family. Spayed or neutered animals can be less aggressive, which allows them to get along better with the people and other animals they live with.

Some dog owners take this to mean that their dog's protective instincts will be affected by neutering. The fact is that heredity, personality, and training are what make your dog a good family companion. Protecting the rest of his "pack" is an instinct unaffected by the reproduction cycle.

5. You may not have to buy as much dog food. Due to hormonal changes, dogs often need a smaller caloric intake after spaying or neutering. If you continue to feed your dog the same amount she was eating before she was spayed, she will likely become obese. If you feed your dog a smaller portion and exercise her regularly, she will retain her healthy form.

You may hear someone attribute a reduction in a dog's activity level to spaying and neutering. It is more likely that the puppy is merely maturing, and the changes in his eating and sleeping patterns reflect that.

6. It's worth the expense. Consider the alternatives, like paying for health care expenses from the diseases you could have avoided if you had spayed or neutered your dog; paying for puppy care; and paying health care costs related to roaming, like wounds and infections from dog fights or broken bones and lacerations from car accidents. In some areas, annual animal license fees for neutered pets are reduced. Do the math.

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