When Should I Neuter or Spay my Puppy? [plus reasons not to]
Spaying and neutering are essential parts of responsible pet ownership. New puppies should be spayed or neutered early in their lives to prevent unintended pregnancy, first heats, and other potential medical issues. It is also likely that this procedure will increase your dog’s lifespan. Female dogs are spayed and male dogs are neutered.
We are not medical professionals and the information in this article is intended to be for informational purposes only to assist dog owners in learning more about the subject.
What is Neutering?
Neutering is the simple term for an “orchiectomy.” An orchiectomy is the medical removal of a male animal’s testes.
This will prevent your male dog from impregnating an unspayed female and will also prevent him from developing testicular cancer later in life.
What is Spaying?
Spaying is the simple term for an “ovariohysterectomy.” An ovariohysterectomy is the medical removal of a female animal’s uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
This will ensure that female pets such as cats and dogs do not become pregnant or later develop cancer in the reproductive tract.
History of Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering were not always as common as they are today. Before the 1960s, sterilizing your pets was considered a convenience rather than a necessity for most.
It wasn’t until 1969 when the first low-cost spay/neuter clinic opened in California that people began to consider the benefits of spaying and neutering their pets.
Since then, animal shelters and other adoption agencies have made spaying and neutering a norm for most adopted pets.
Preventing unnecessary pet pregnancy became recognized as a necessity for decreasing the number of homeless pets in the world.
By reducing the number of puppies and kittens that are brought into shelters, shelters can reduce the number of animals that must be euthanized due to a lack of space and resources.
Importance of Spaying or Neutering Your Puppy
As previously mentioned, spaying or neutering your puppy is important to reduce the number of puppies and adult dogs that get left in shelters nationwide.
If shelters have to deal with chronic pet overpopulation, they may euthanize healthy pets due to a lack of space and resources.
Spaying or neutering ensures your pet will never end up accidentally pregnant with a litter you need to find new homes for.
In addition to reducing pet pregnancies, spaying and neutering reduce multiple health risks in your dog.
Health Benefits of Sterilizing Your Dog
Diseases such as uterine cancer, testicular tumors, ovarian cancer, or uterine infection, will no longer be possible in puppies that are spayed or neutered as they will no longer have those reproductive parts.
Spaying and neutering can also reduce undesirable behaviors in your pets such as urinary territory marking, aggressiveness, and yearly heats.
Spaying Medical Process
Spaying is a more intensive surgery than neutering.
Because the female reproductive tract is made of more parts (and they are all inside your female puppy!) it carries a slightly higher risk than neutering.
However, with a professional veterinarian, these surgeries carry low risk compared to the risks involved with leaving your pet unspayed.
What Age Should a Female Dog Be Spayed?
Female puppies should be somewhere between six months and 15 months of age before getting spayed.
This typically depends on the type of dog you have. Dogs of smaller breeds are normally safe to get spayed around six months of age.
Recent research suggests that puppies of large breeds such as German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers should wait until they are between nine and 15 months of age before getting spayed.
This is because the hormones produced by the reproductive tract play a role in the growth and development of your puppy.
Neutering Medical Process
Similar to females and spaying, male dogs should preferably be between 6-15 months of age before getting neutered.
Puppies should be in good health and your vet will take your dog’s size and breed into consideration before deciding the best age to schedule a neutering appointment.
What Age Should a Male Dog Be Spayed?
Small dogs are safer to be neutered around six months, while large dogs should preferably reach full size before getting neutered.
If your puppy is not done growing, removing these organs and stopping the presence of those hormones can negatively impact your puppy’s development.
It is usually considered good practice to wait until a dog reaches sexual maturity for this procedure to be done.
Is Early Neutering Bad for a Dog?
Early neutering can result in increased health problems so should be avoided unless necessary.
Talk to your vet to decide on the best time to spay your puppy to reduce any potential issues with her development.
To learn more about what age your dog should be spayed or neutered you can visit see the guidelines the American Animal Hospital Association posts on their website.
Can Older Dogs Be Spayed or Neutered?
Yes, most agree that it is possible to safely spay or neuter an older dog. Your veterinarian will help you make this decision for your particular situation.
Female puppies being spayed will be given anesthesia so they are unconscious during the surgery.
During surgery, your vet will make a small incision below your dog’s belly button to have access to the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
After removing these organs, your dog’s lower abdomen will be sewed up using absorbable sutures and she will wait in recovery to wake from her anesthesia.
Make sure your pet does not have any food before surgery.
If there is food in your dog’s stomach when she is given anesthesia, she runs the risk of vomiting while unconscious which can cause suffocation and even lead to death.
Your vet can tell you what time to last feed your puppy the night before surgery.
Because a male puppy’s testicles are on the outside of his body, neutering is typically seen as a less invasive surgery.
However, there are still factors to consider before making an appointment at the vet.
Here is some additional information about the neutering procedure and how it is actually performed.
After going under anesthesia, your vet will carefully make a small incision on your puppy’s scrotum.
He will then carefully remove both testes and tie the spermatic cord and large blood vessels to keep them from bleeding.
Your veterinarian will then sew up your puppy’s scrotum using dissolvable stitches and allow him to wake naturally from his anesthesia in recovery.
As with female puppies, make sure you talk to your vet about dietary restrictions before surgery.
Your puppy cannot have food in his stomach before going under anesthesia due to the risk of vomiting and suffocation.
What are Dissolvable Stitches?
Dissolvable stitches are also called absorbable sutures.
These are stitches that are made from the fibers of animal intestines and can therefore be absorbed by the body as the wounds being held together heal.
Dissolvable stitches are much more flexible than non-dissolvable stitches, making them the perfect choice for energetic puppies getting spayed and neutered.
Healing Process and Aftercare
The healing time for spaying and neutering is typically around 14 days without complications.
Your puppy will likely have to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from licking or biting their incision wounds after surgery.
You will also want to regularly assess your puppy’s incisions to make sure they are healing properly and not tearing or becoming infected.
Watch Out For Signs of Infection After Surgery
If you notice bleeding, excessive swelling, discharge, or discoloration in your dog’s incisions, contact your veterinarian immediately as they could be infected.
If this is the case, your vet will provide you with either oral or topical antibiotics to treat the infection. The earlier the treatment, the better the outcome for your pup.
Please note that most spay and neuter surgeries are done with dissolvable stitches. This means your puppy will not need to be brought in for any stitches to be removed.
These stitches will dissolve as the wound heals over the course of two weeks.
Potential Risks of Spaying and Neutering
Because spaying and neutering are surgeries, they will always carry a risk of infection, injury, and even death with putting your dog under anesthesia and cutting into them.
If you spay or neuter too early, you may also run into issues with your dog developing growth plate or joint disorders as they may not grow properly after the removal of their hormonal reproductive tract.
Females that are spayed too early may develop urinary incontinence in the years after being spayed.
Research in recent years points to a reduction in estrogen being the primary cause of this incontinence, as it can cause developmental issues in the urethra.
Rates of lymphoma also increased in male dogs that were neutered before six months of age.
Risks of Not Spaying and Neutering
Not spaying or neutering your loving puppy comes with consequences.
By neutering or spaying your furry friend, you prevent them from developing preventable medical conditions and can also improve behavioral issues in your dog.
Consider the below risks of not spaying or neutering your puppy before making a final decision with your veterinarian.
Aggression from Other Dogs
If your unspayed female dog is in heat, she may attract the aggressive attention of male dogs in the area.
Unneutered male dogs may also compete for territory and may continually mark their territory with urine or fight with one another over shared spaces.
Unneutered males have more testosterone which can lead to more aggressive behavior in their interactions with other dogs and even people.
Greater Territorial Behaviors
Dogs that are not neutered will display territorial behaviors in and out of the home.
Your unneutered male dog may “mark his territory” by urinating in random places in the yard or house.
Male dogs may also become aggressive if around a female in heat that he is trying to claim or mount.
The main reason most owners spay or neuter their pets is to prevent unwanted pet pregnancies.
Unwanted pregnancies lead to puppies without homes and can also lead to medical issues or side effects in your pregnant pup.
Pregnancy is tough on the body and your dog will need lots of care leading up to and after birth if spaying is not done to prevent it.
Greater Risk of Cancer or Other Illnesses
Dogs that are not spayed or neutered run the risk of developing common cancers such as ovarian or testicular cancer.
They can also develop uterine infections as they age and enter menopause, which can cause the uterus to fill with pus and cause significant pain in your female dog.
In addition to cancers and infections, unneutered males can develop prostate disease which can cause difficulty in urination and bowel movements.
Will Being Spayed or Neutered Increase My Dog’s Lifespan?
According to a recent study by the University of Georgia, life expectancy is longer for dogs that have had these procedures.
Sterilized dogs tend to live about 1.5 years longer according to the results of the study.
What Are The Reasons I Shouldn’t Neuter My Puppy?
Reputable breeders registered with the AKC often will not spay or neuter their dogs as they intend to breed them and keep breed bloodlines pure.
These breeders are responsible and follow strict genetic guidelines when choosing to promote specific breeds.
Beyond this, any other reasons to not spay or neuter may stem from specific medical issues with your puppy which your vet can discuss with you further.
What are the Chances of My Unspayed Dog Developing Uterine Cysts?
Unspayed female dogs have a 10% chance of developing uterine cysts as they age.
What Happens if a Dog is Spayed or Neutered too Early?
Dogs that are spayed or neutered too early may face a number of developmental problems, especially with larger dogs.
Removing the source of several reproductive hormones by spaying or neutering can cause dogs to grow either too quickly or too slowly, resulting in growth plates (soft areas at the end of large bones) and joint disorders as your dog ages.
Females that are spayed too early may also suffer from urinary incontinence due to a drop in estrogen levels during development.
How Many Puppies and Kittens are Born Each Year?
Over 27 million puppies and kittens are born each year in the United States alone!
It is important to spay and neuter your pets so we can reduce this number and reduce the number of homeless and euthanized pets in the US.
The decision to spay or neuter your puppy is an important one for all pet owners and you should educate yourself fully on the matter.
Make sure you find a reputable veterinarian that can safely perform this operation on your dog after they reach the proper age.
Once you find a vet, be sure to discuss with them your pet’s needs and decide on the best time possible for your dog to be spayed or neutered.