What is the difference between dog spaying and neutering?
Spaying, the term spaying, which makes me cringe as a veterinarian. If you ever come to my clinic and you say “spading”, I don't know if you can be a client anymore. I'll just throw that out there. Spaying, with a Y, which is still a term I don't like, is an ovariohysterectomy on a female dog. Neutering, while that term can be used on both males and females, technically neutering is usually affixed to male dogs, and that is the act of castrating a male dog.
How does dog spaying or neutering impact the health and wellbeing of my pet?
In many ways. Number one, we are physically removing the producing organ of either testosterone or estrogen. Those two hormones, in a lot of ways make the world go round, as they can affect a dog's behavior in so many different ways—their territorial nature, their roaming, their aggressiveness, those kinds of things. So, all of that can be changed when these procedures are done.
And then there is the physical aspect, more on a female, but the physical aspect of uterine infections, obviously unwanted pregnancies, heat cycles, and those kinds of things are avoided if these procedures are done.
How soon should I bring my pet in to see a veterinarian to get my dog spayed or neutered?
Eight to nine months is the average age that an animal will be spayed or neutered. The average male dog, depending on size and breed, will come into sexual maturity at about the eight to nine month range. In the cases of your giant breeds, like your Great Danes and your Pyrenees and your Newfoundlands and all those guys, it could be as long as a year and a half, almost two years before they reach maturity.
That being said, females typically have their first heat cycle between six and eight months of age. It varies. But normally I want to spay them at about six or seven months—before their first heat cycle—of course, that is, if you're sure that this is not going to be a breeding animal. So, having them seen and checked out before then would be wise.
What will my veterinarian need to know about my dog before spaying or neutering it?
On a male, they can have what's called cryptorchidism or monorchidism, basically where a testicle, sometimes two testicles, don't descend into the scrotum. That's a game changer. We have to approach surgery completely differently and go find that retained testicle.
On a female, is she in heat? Is she already pregnant? Those are things that might affect our decision to spay or neuter the dogs, or if we are still going to go ahead with the procedure, how do we prepare for it because there might be certain differences in that procedure.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from being spayed or neutered?
The recovery's surprisingly fast. I mean, if I can be blunt, they make me realize just how wimpy we are, because I can't tell you how many times I will spay a female dog, which literally, guys, the procedure's exactly the same as if ... Any of you women out there that may have had a hysterectomy, it's the same thing. I mean, we open them up, we take their ovaries, their uterus. It's all out. These dogs are running around by the same afternoon like you didn't do anything. It's crazy.
They're down for that day. I want them to stay down for about a week or so, so we're going to tell you that with either one of these procedures to limit their exercise...certainly no swimming, bathing, things like that. Leash walks, maybe put them in a kennel. We're going to typically recommend doing that for about a week, but by then, trust me, they're going to be back to feeling like their old selves and ready to go.
What care should I be prepared to provide at home while my dog is recovering from their spay or neuter surgery?
I don't want to say minimal aftercare because, like I said, once again, it varies on the animal and how well they tolerate it, but some of the things I just alluded to. It'd be wise to have maybe a good kennel area set up, maybe some extra bedding or cushion in there, just because if they are going to be kenneled, you want to let them rest comfortably if you can.
Depending on the time of year that it's done, and if they're inside or outside dogs, maybe have a fan if it's summertime to keep them nice and cool, some good shade. And if it's the wintertime, you might want to have a heat source or at least be able to close in a certain space so they can stay warm.
FAQ - Why Is Getting My Dog Spayed/Neutered So Important
Does my dog have to be spayed or neutered?
No, of course not. Nope. Nope. No, no. No. They don't have to be spayed or neutered. I'm stumbling on the question because very few people have that standpoint. Obviously, if your dog is going to be a breeding animal, well then, hello, you can't do that. Do they have to? No. Do I think it's a wise decision for dogs that are not going to be bred? Yes.
Why is spaying or neutering a dog so important?
Dogs that are not spayed or neutered will be under the influence of testosterone or estrogen depending on their sex. We were all 18 once. You remember what those things made you want to do, so dogs are no different. So it can avoid any unwanted behaviors, any unwanted litters to overpopulate our little pet community. And it also prevents several medical issues that are very, very undesirable as well. Uterine infections, aggression, unwanted marking, all those kinds of things can be avoided if they are spayed or neutered at an early age.
Shouldn't I let my dog have a litter before I spay her?
No. Just in case that wasn't clear on tape, no. No. There's no evidence or proof that that is a positive thing. Look, I grew up with people telling me that my whole life. "Oh, I heard it's a good thing to let them have a litter," and the simple fact is, there's no truth to that. I will tell you that in recent years, certain research has come out that shows that large breed dogs may benefit from not being spayed or neutered until closer to that year of age. Okay? You can find plenty of information about that if you look, and I think there's some truth to it. What it implies is that dogs that are spayed or neutered at a later age have a less likely chance of developing hip dysplasia, or if they do develop it, they don't develop it as early. So that's very intriguing to me. I have to heed that and I do want to pay attention to that.
At the same time, normally I will spay or neuter animals before their first heat cycle. Why? Because there are also studies that show that with every heat cycle that a female dog goes through, she is more likely to develop mammary cancer later in life. So which way do you go? It varies on personal opinion. It varies depending on the veterinarian that you use. But for the average case, usually before the first heat cycle is when it's done on females and about six to seven months or so on a male as well.
My dog urinates all over the house, so will spaying or neutering help?
Maybe a male dog who is becoming territorial. So the answer to that question could possibly be yes. If you had an intact male dog that was urinating in your house, then absolutely I would recommend neutering him and see if that curbs that unwanted behavior. A female is a little less prone to do so based on territorial reasons. Usually you have either a bladder infection or just a not so well trained dog. So they can help is the short answer, but I wouldn't hang my hat on that for certain.
Will spaying or neutering my dog prevent future illnesses?
Let's talk about cancer. Testicular cancer in a male dog can't happen if he doesn't have testicles. Ovarian cancer in a female dog can't happen if you don't have ovaries. So those kinds of things are true. So the most common thing, and the most realistic thing that we do see is pyometra.
Pyometra is the medical term for an infection of the uterus itself. And oftentimes it is a very large, distended pus-filled uterus that can become life threatening, especially if it's a closed pyometra. Closed means the cervix is closed, so the infection doesn't drain out. It just stays in the dog and they become very ill very quickly. That is serious. And it's not all that uncommon. After a female dog comes into heat, the cervix tends to relax or open, and it's much easier for bacteria to get in there and kind of wreak havoc.
Spaying or neutering, can it fix that? Yes, because when we spay them, I'm sorry, it is an ovariohysterectomy, meaning we take the ovaries and the uterus. Everything from the cervix beyond is no longer there. So those dogs are now incapable of really developing a uterine pyometra beyond that point. Long answer to a good question, but hopefully that clears up a few things for you guys.
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