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Neutering / spaying your dog

The age at which a dog should be neutered (also known as spaying or castration) will depend on several factors, including the dog’s breed, size, and overall health. In general, it is recommended to spay or neuter dogs when they are between six and nine months old. This is typically the age at which dogs reach sexual maturity and are at an increased risk of developing reproductive-related health problems. Neutering at this age can also help to prevent unwanted behaviours, such as marking territory or mounting, that are common in unaltered dogs. However, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best age for your dog to be neutered, as this can vary depending on individual factors.

What is the difference between spaying and neutering ?

Spaying and neutering are both surgical procedures that are performed on dogs to prevent them from reproducing. Spaying refers to the surgical removal of a female dog’s ovaries and uterus, while neutering refers to the surgical removal of a male dog’s testicles. Both procedures are typically performed by a vet, and they are generally considered to be safe and effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of dogs in rescues and shelters.

Advantages to spaying and neutering your dog

Neutering female dogs involves the removal of the primary sources of oestrogen and progesterone, which are integral to the reproductive cycle. This procedure can have positive effects on behaviours associated with the reproductive cycle. In cases where female dogs exhibit aggression and heightened sensitivity during their heat cycles, neutering may offer significant benefits. Additionally, neutering could be advantageous for female dogs experiencing behavioural changes linked to phantom pregnancies, such as anxiety and aggression. By mitigating the hormonal influences, neutering can contribute to a more stable and harmonious temperament in female dogs.

For male dogs, neutering entails the removal of the primary source of testosterone, a key sex hormone known to impact various behaviors. Neutering male dogs can potentially alleviate the intensity of behaviours influenced by testosterone. This includes curbing tendencies like escaping and roaming, which can expose dogs to road traffic hazards. Neutering may also reduce male dogs’ susceptibility to distraction by females in heat, minimize urine marking within homes, and decrease aggression directed at other male dogs during specific periods. Although these behaviors may be influenced by other factors as well, neutering can play a significant role in moderating them.

Neutering and training

Furthermore, neutering can enhance the efficacy of training efforts, as neutered male dogs tend to be less preoccupied by interactions with un-neutered dogs. This improved focus can aid dog owners in training their pets, resulting in enhanced obedience and better behaviour, especially in public settings. Consequently, neutering holds promise in benefiting working dogs by reducing potential distractions during their tasks, thereby bolstering their overall performance.

Neutering and straying

Another issue neutering / spaying can help with is straying. If your dog tends to get out and roam, they will less likely to seek out other sexed counterparts. Reduced straying / roaming would also reduce the number of potential road traffic accidents caused by lost and confused dogs.

Post neutering diet changes

Typically after a dog is spayed (or neutered for a male), there may be a need to adjust their diet. This is primarily because their metabolic rate can decrease after the procedure, which can potentially lead to weight gain if their food intake remains the same as before. So following neutering, you should definitely monitor your dog’s weight closely. If you notice your dog gaining weight, you might reduce their calorie intake slightly. Many dog food brands offer light or lower-calorie versions of their regular foods, which could be a suitable alternative. Portion control is also an important aspect of managing their diet.

Should I let my female dog have a littler before spaying ?

It is generally not recommended to let your female dog have a litter before spaying her. There are several reasons for this. First, breeding a dog can be a complex and potentially risky process, and it should only be done by experienced breeders who have the knowledge and resources to ensure the health and welfare of the mother and puppies. Second, allowing a dog to have a litter before spaying can increase the risk of reproductive-related health problems, such as mammary tumours and pyometra, which can be life-threatening. Finally, there is a significant overpopulation of dogs in many areas, and spaying your dog can help to prevent unwanted puppies and reduce the number of dogs in shelters. For these reasons, it is generally best to spay your female dog before she has a litter.

What about early spaying?

The decision to spay a dog (also known as ovariohysterectomy) is a personal one that should be made after considering the potential benefits and risks. In general, early spaying (before the first heat cycle) is associated with several potential benefits. For example, early spaying can help to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of dogs in shelters. It can also prevent certain reproductive-related health problems, such as mammary tumors and pyometra, which are more common in unaltered dogs. Additionally, early spaying can help to prevent unwanted behaviours, such as marking territory or mounting, that are common in unaltered dogs. However, there are also potential risks associated with early spaying, including an increased risk of certain medical conditions, such as urinary incontinence and hip dysplasia. Ultimately, the decision to spay a dog should be made in consultation with your vet, taking into account the individual needs and circumstances of your dog / the breed / and general health.

Again, it’s likely you will find some conflicting information about early neutering. A study into male Golden Retrievers who were neutered before reaching 12 months of age had a higher risk of developing hip dysplasia compared to intact male dogs.

Reference: De la Riva, Gretel, T., et al. Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers. Journal Pone. 0055937, Feb. 2013.

Spaying a recently pregnant bitch

Typically, a female dog can be spayed as soon as 6-8 weeks after giving birth, once they have fully weaned their puppies and their milk supply has dried up. You may want to give your bitch a few extra weeks of rest before organising the surgery, e.g. 12+ weeks after the birth of the litter. This allows the mother dog to recover from the stress of pregnancy and nursing before undergoing surgery.

However, the timing can depend on several factors including the dog’s age, overall health, and the specific guidelines of your vet. It’s important to consult with your vet to determine the best time for a possible spaying.

What is the recovery time after spaying / neutering?

The recovery time after spaying a dog will depend on the dog’s individual health and the details of the surgery. In general, most dogs can return to their normal activities within a few days after spaying. However, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for post-operative care, which may include restricting your dog’s exercise and monitoring them for any signs of complications. It’s also important to keep your dog away from other dogs, particularly males, during their recovery period. This will help to prevent any complications or infections.

Your vet will also give you guidance on wearing that all to famous “cone of shame”, some vets are now opting for more of a travel pillow type device as they are more effective and more comfortable for dogs.

Dog with a cone to prevent stitches being bitten

Most dogs are fully recovered within a week or two after spaying, but again it’s important to consult with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s recovery.

Updated on November 1, 2023
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