Neutering and Spaying Your Dog: What You Need to Know

October 31, 2022by petpal0

“Your dog lives longer when spayed!” “Don’t get your dog neutered! It messes with their hormones!”

As a dog owner, you likely have seen others advocating for or against spaying or neutering your pup. However, what does it mean for your furry pal? It’s a huge decision, and its implications should not be taken lightly. 

We all want the best for our dogs, so it’s only natural that you’d want to read up on everything there is to know about spaying and neutering. As with all medical procedures, there are pros and cons to consider, especially because the consequences are permanent. If you want to learn more, read on!

Neutering and Spaying: An Overview

An ovariohysterectomy, more commonly known as spaying, is a surgical procedure where both the ovaries and uterus of the female dog are removed. Performed under general anesthesia, this traditional approach to spaying involves an incision made on the abdomen. 

An ovariectomy, or laparoscopic spay, can also be performed. This involves the removal of only one of the ovaries. It’s a minimally invasive alternative to the traditional spay procedure and usually requires a smaller incision. 

Castration, more popularly known as neutering, is the veterinary surgical procedure for the removal of the testes of a male dog. This is done by making an incision in the front of the scrotum while the dog is under general anesthesia. It is considered to be a simpler procedure compared to spaying. 

In short, the difference between spaying and neutering is based on the animal’s sex. Whereas spaying involves the removal of the female dog’s uterus and ovaries, neutering refers to the removal of the male dog’s testes.
Both neutering and spaying share the same goal: sterilization. Removal of the reproductive organs helps prevent dogs from mating, which can, in turn, reduce the risk of animal overpopulation.

Pros of Neutering Your Dog

Reducing Aggressive Behaviors

Dog relaxing on his own bed
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Remember how neutering basically means surgical removal of the male gonads? These said organs produce testosterone in male dogs, and testosterone increases their desire to mate, aggression, and territorial behavior. Having the source of testosterone removed means having a less aggressive dog asserting less dominance. 

Because they are less aggressive, neutered dogs are generally more affectionate and gentler compared to male dogs who aren’t neutered. There is also a lesser chance of non-neutered dogs seeing them as a rival. This also means that they are less likely to get into fights with other dogs, which saves you from having to pay additional vet bills related to injuries. 

Promoting Prostate Health

Prostate problems occur in about 80% of unneutered male dogs over eight years of age. This can manifest as prostate cysts, enlarged prostate, and infected prostates. The good news is, having your baby boy neutered reduces his chances of having prostate problems. Another benefit of neutering is improved testicular health. In fact, the risk of developing testicular cancer is eliminated when neutered. 

Neutered dogs also have a reduced risk of developing anal fistula: a nasty skin condition where clusters of pus-filled bumps develop around the area of their anus. Aside from being a painful experience for them, this skin disease can also be hard to treat. 

Inhibiting Sexual Desires

Removing dogs’ testicles also inhibits their sexual desires, so they are less likely to hump other pets, legs, and household objects. Being neutered also dampens their ability to smell a female dog in heat, reducing the chances of them trying to chase after the scent and wandering away from home. 

Pros of Spaying Your Dog

Lessening Their Risk of Certain Cancers

Spaying your dog eliminates her chances of developing cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and reproductive tract through the removal of these organs. Although these types of cancer are not too common in female dogs, most veterinarians still advise getting your dog spayed. It’s better to be safe than sorry and worried, after all.

Another advantage to having your dog spayed is having a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Because having more heat cycles increases the risk of developing breast cancer, the general recommendation is to have them spayed before they even reach their first heat.  

Preventing Uncomfortable Heat Cycles

a good boy
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Getting your dog spayed also means preventing her from being in heat. What happens when a female dog is in heat? In heat cycles, the genitals swell and produce a scent that’s particularly attractive to male dogs, which they can smell from even a mile away. 

Intact female dogs also tend to wander around, as being in heat increases their desire to look for a mate. So, spaying them lessens the risk of your pup escaping from home and getting lost. 

Aside from this, female dogs can also have a bloody discharge during heat cycles. This could stain her fur, bed, and crate, as well as your furniture. This may not be the most convenient and pleasant to clean, but spaying saves you the trouble of having to. 

Veterinarians also note that after having been spayed, your baby girl will be calmer, cleaner, and more affectionate. Better health and calmer behavior for them and less mess to clean for us? Sign me up!

Cons of Spaying or Neutering Your Dog

Sterilizing your dog has many health benefits in addition to preventing animal overpopulation, but it also has its drawbacks. Here are some issues that may occur:

Increased Risk of Dementia and Bone Problems

Evidence shows that having your dog spayed or neutered increases its risk of developing dementia. This will manifest as disorientation, changes in interaction with humans, and forgetfulness of any obedience training they went through. 

The risk for developing bone- and ligament-related diseases is also higher for neutered dogs, as the reproductive organs responsible for producing certain hormones contributing to bone health are removed. This includes hip dysplasia, ligament issues, and bone cancer or osteosarcoma, especially if neutered at the wrong age or if the surgery was done poorly. 

Permanent Sterilization and Risks of Anesthesia

Since spaying and neutering are essentially sterilization measures, their effects—preventing dogs from reproducing—are permanent. Besides that, dogs are also at risk for responding poorly to general anesthesia. This may increase their risk of developing complications after surgery.

Endocrine Problems and Weight Gain

As a consequence of spaying and neutering, your dog’s endocrine system is affected, which makes them more vulnerable to hypothyroidism. When your dog has low levels of thyroid hormones, it may become lethargic and suffer from hair loss. 

Apart from this, because the procedure alters their metabolism and hormonal structure, there is a high possibility of weight gain and obesity if not treated early. To prevent these, it’s important to ensure that your furry pal receives adequate exercise, proper nutrition, and a stress-free lifestyle. 

Other Things to Know about Spaying or Neutering Your Dog

To help you make a more informed decision, here are some frequently asked questions about spaying or neutering dogs and the answers to them:

How Old Should Dogs Need to Be for Spaying or Neutering?

The American Animal Hospital Association Guidelines state that small dog breeds (below 45 pounds projected adult body weight) can be neutered at around six months of age or spayed before their first heat cycle (five to six months). Meanwhile, large dog breeds should be neutered or spayed when they stop growing. 

With that said, it’s still best to consult your vet as well for their expert insight on when the dog is ready for the procedure. Some areas may also require you to sterilize your dog by a certain age, so you may want to check local and state regulations.

Is the Procedure Safe?

dog in a cone
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Although there are possible risks because the surgery is done under general anesthesia, both spaying and neutering are generally safe procedures as long as it is done by a licensed veterinarian. To ensure your pup’s safety, you must also follow your vet’s advice for post-op care.

Will Spaying or Neutering Hurt My Dog?

As previously mentioned, sterilization happens under general anesthesia. Dogs won’t feel pain during the procedure. They may feel pain after the surgery, but your vet may prescribe pain medications to help ease the discomfort. Never give your dog pain meds for humans, as they may be toxic to dogs.

Will Guard Dogs Be Less Protective?

You may think that guard dogs will lose their drive to protect their owners when they get spayed or neutered, but this isn’t the case. Most police dogs are sterilized, and they’re still skilled at attacking criminals fleeing from authorities. It all boils down to training.

The Takeaway

Neutering and spaying your dog has several advantages and disadvantages. As a responsible dog owner, you must consider all these factors to know what’s best for your best friend. Keep this guide in mind as you make this huge decision!

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