Spaying and Neutering

When to spay/neuter your puppy

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Spaying and neutering puppies is the responsible thing to do, and it's important to know when to neuter a puppy. When love is in the air, the dogs know it. Girl pups mature more quickly than you might think. They can become pregnant as early as five or six months of age, and most dogs can produce two litters a year. Don’t be surprised when they pick window locks with their rabies tag to meet furry Romeos—and present you with surprise puppies.

What Is Spaying and Neutering?

The words altering, sterilizing, and neutering all refer to surgery performed by a veterinarian that removes the reproductive organs of either a male or female animal. Castration removes a boy dog’s testicles. An ovariohysterectomy—or spay—removes the girl dog’s ovaries and uterus.

Why Spay and Neuter?

Surgery prevents unwanted litters. It also eliminates obnoxious romantic behavior such as roaming, fighting, excessive urine marking, and mounting visitor’s legs.

The surgeries help prevents fight wounds, messy canine vaginal discharges, and uterine infections. Castrating boy pets eliminates the chance of testicular cancer and spaying your dog before her first breeding season reduces any risk of breast cancer by seven times.

Newer studies also indicate sterilized dogs live an average of a year and a half longer than intact dogs. However, there are also some recent concerns raised about sterilizing dogs, and new non-surgical sterilization options available.

Will It Change My Dog’s Personality?

Spayed and neutered pets are just as affectionate, protective, and trainable as unaltered cats and dogs—perhaps more so because they aren’t distracted when love is in the air. Reduced interest in roaming often means pets should eat less food, though, or they can get pudgy.

Be sure to adjust the amount and frequency of meals. Removing the sexual organs can alter the pet’s metabolism, which also can change as the pup matures.

Dogs continue to be just as playful, protective, loyal, and smart whether they can reproduce or not. 

What’s the Best Age?

Adult dogs can be neutered at any age, but the best time is before sexual maturity. For many years, the recommended spay/neuter age was six to nine months. When a puppy’s future involves performance competition, ask your veterinarian and breeder about timing. Delaying for a couple of months may allow the pup to attain better physical development important to these demands.

However, since dogs can become pregnant prior to six months old, for most pets an earlier timeframe makes better sense. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that shelter pets be sterilized by four months. Many shelters neuter puppies when they reach eight weeks of age—or two pounds in weight—before they are placed for adoption. These babies recover more quickly from the surgery than adult animals. They will grow just as much, and sometimes a bit taller than if they were fixed later in life.

The Surgery

Puppies are completely anesthetized during the surgery, and won't feel any discomfort.

The anesthetic may be injected or inhaled. Sometimes heart and breathing monitors or EKG machines are used. Doctors may prefer absorbable stitches, surgical staples, or even skin glue to close the incision. The specific routine depends on the size and age of the pet, and what your veterinarian prefers.

The surgical incision for male puppies usually is made in the scrotal sac, while an older dog’s incision is often at the base of the penis in front of the scrotum. If one or both testicles have not yet dropped into the scrotum, a tummy incision may be necessary. Girl pups will have an abdominal incision for the spay surgery.

Home Care

Pets act a bit woozy until the anesthesia wears off. Some will be ready to go home the same day, while others must spend the night at the clinic. Most animals are up and running within hours.

Limit your pet’s activity for at least a couple of days. Keep the puppy inside to allow healing to begin. The surgery site should be watched for swelling, redness, or pulled stitches, but such problems are rare. If stitches are used, your pup will need to return to the clinic to have them removed in about a week.

Unless a puppy is an ideal example of his breed and in a professional breeding program, is a conformation show and/or performance prospect, or there are medical reasons to delay the surgery, spaying, and neutering is highly recommended.

[Edited by: Margaret Jones Davis]