As a responsible dog owner, you should be considering having your dog spayed or neutered if you do not intend to breed from them. For first-time dog owners, this process can seem confusing as there is lots of contradictory advice, so you should always get your veterinarian’s advice.
What is the difference between spay and neuter?
Many people confused the two or believe they are the same, but this is not accurate. Female dogs are spayed and male dogs are neutered.
Spaying involves surgically removing a female dog’s ovaries to prevent her from falling pregnant. This procedure is called an ovariectomy. Sometimes the vet will perform an ovariohysterectomy: removal of both the ovaries and uterus. This means the dog will not go through her heat cycle.
Male dogs are neutered. This involves surgical removal of the testicles. While neutering is the common name, this procedure is sometimes referred to as castration. Removal of the testicles means the dog cannot produce sperm and therefore means he cannot reproduce.
Other less invasive procedures such as vasectomies – severing the tubes that transport sperm from the testes – are available but are fairly uncommon.
Why do vets recommend spaying and neutering?
While there are several benefits to having your dog desexed, the biggest benefit is that it prevents any unwanted pregnancies, which all reduce the number of unwanted dogs ending up in shelters.
Other benefits of spaying or neutering include:
- Reduces or eliminates the chances of your dog developing ovarian or testicular cancer
- Reduces the risk of a male dog developing prostatic hyperplasia
- Reduces or eliminates the risk of a female dog developing uterine infections (pyometra)
- Potentially lessens aggression or breeding related behaviors such as mounting and marking
While any surgical procedure is not without risk, the benefits of desexing your dog certainly outweigh any potential side effects.
Recovery from spaying or neutering is generally less than one week provided you do not allow your dog to run around or jump on and off furniture. After a check-up one week after surgery, your dog should be able to resume daily walks.
There is a popular belief that spayed or neutered dogs gain weight, however, this is untrue. Healthy dogs will only gain weight if they are not exercised regularly and fed an appropriate amount of food.
Similarly, spaying or neutering does not change a dog’s personality, but it can prevent unwanted behaviors such as mounting, humping, marking and dog aggression.
What is the best age to spay or neuter a dog?
Traditionally, the recommended age for spaying and neutering dogs is between 6 and 9 months. However, there are some considerations to be made.
For example, large-breed dogs tend to mature at a slower rate than smaller breeds, so it is recommended to wait until at least 9 months. Giant breeds like Great Danes and Newfoundlands should ideally not be neutered before they reach one year old.
The advice for female dogs is to have her spayed before she experiences her first heat cycle to reduce the risk of her developing mammary cancer in later life. Typically, a female dog will have her first heat cycle between 5 and 10 months old.
If you have a male and female dog in the home and neither is desexed, you should consider having one or both dogs desexed to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
Your dog should be thoroughly assessed by a veterinarian before being spayed or neutered to ensure they have no undiagnosed medical issues and that they are developing normally.
What are the considerations of spaying or neutering your dog?
Most pet insurance companies consider spaying or neutering to be elective procedures and do not offer coverage in their policies. Some may offer add-on preventative care or wellness coverage, but it is best to check so you are not left with a surprise bill.
Cost depends on a number of factors including gender, size and where you live. Typically, the cost for a male neutering procedure is between £100 and £220. For females, spaying may cost between £150 and £400. It is important to note that every vet has their own pricing. Some include after-care in the cost, while others offer this as an additional cost.
Spaying female dogs is more expensive since the procedure is more invasive. Small breed dogs cost less to desex than large or giant breeds. This is because the procedure may take longer for larger dogs and they also require a larger dose of anesthetic.