Spaying and Neutering

Healthy dogs have no problem conceiving. If left to themselves, they will constantly reproduce. Therefore, it's up to you to leave breeding to those dedicated individuals who responsibly breed quality purebred dogs on a limited basis. Many of these breeders spend years studying pedigrees and the hereditary issues in their breed and consistently work on improving the health and temperament of their stock to preserve the breed for future generations.

When females are spayed before their first heat cycle, their chances of developing mammary cancer, ovarian cysts, or uterine infections are minimal. If your dog goes through more than two heat cycles there's a 25 percent chance she will develop mammary cancer. Males who are neutered do not develop testicular cancer and there's less chance for prostate enlargement and tumors of the glands around the anus.

If you're not breeding for this purpose, it's up to you to prevent your dog from breeding and adding to the canine overpopulation problem. Animal shelters in the United States are overcrowded and there are not enough homes for all of the unwanted puppies and dogs. As a result, millions of healthy dogs are euthanized each year.

Dog Breeding 101

A female is receptive to a male's sexual advances and can conceive only during a few days in her heat cycle (estrus). This occurs once every six to nine months and lasts about twenty-one days. Male dogs are strongly attracted to females when they are in estrus and will go to extraordinary lengths to breed a female.

Once bred, a female will deliver a litter of puppies about sixty-three days later. Depending upon the female's breed and size, there could be as few as one or two pups or as many as ten or twelve in a litter. If you're the breeder, just imagine what it must be like to help take care of so many pups and then try to find homes for them!

If every owner spayed or neutered their dogs, fewer would need homes. When a female is spayed, her ovaries and uterus are removed, which eliminates her heat cycles and prevents pregnancy. When a male is neutered or castrated, his testes are removed, leaving the scrotum or sac. This prevents sperm production, and renders the male sterile.

The Surgery

Spaying, or ovario-hysterectomy, of the female and neutering of the male requires surgery under general anesthesia. Before performing the procedure your veterinarian will want to know that your dog is healthy. This can be determined with a simple blood chemistry panel. This provides information that the kidneys, liver, muscles, glandular, and digestive functions are normal.

The surgery can be performed when a puppy is as young as six weeks of age, although many veterinarians prefer to wait until the puppy just reaches puberty at about five or six months of age. With the help of improved monitoring equipment, anesthesia is much safer than it once was.

The recovery time is quick, and many dogs are up and about the same day or the next, although they will need to recuperate to facilitate the healing process. You will need to restrict their activity for a few days and keep them confined to a crate or a separate room away from other dogs and any roughhousing.

Following the surgery your dog will need to wear a large protective collar that prohibits him from biting, licking, and scratching the stitches as they begin to heal. One collar type is a large, plastic, cone-shaped model known as an Elizabethan collar, which most dogs hate.

Some veterinarians recommend that dogs spend the night of the surgery in the hospital. For the first twelve to twenty-four hours, any little movement causes pain and swelling. To reduce discomfort the dog's activities should be restricted. Many dogs have an easier time healing if their pain is managed and they can rest.

An inflatable collar design is just as effective and dogs seem to tolerate it much better. It has a canvas-lined outer jacket that is scratch-and bite-resistant and is adjustable with a Velcro strap. When the stitches come off, the collar can come off too.


Besides avoiding pregnancy, there are other good reasons to spay and neuter your dog. For one thing, it's healthier. Females are less likely to develop cancer, cysts, and infections, and males have a reduced chance of developing cancer, tumors, and enlarged prostates. Neutering also reduces the male's urge to go roaming in search of female dogs and lessens aggression toward other dogs. Some people claim that their dogs — both males and females — are a lot calmer after spaying or neutering, but others hardly notice any difference.

Side Effects

Many owners complain that after spaying or neutering, their dogs tend to gain a lot of weight and become more lethargic. Removing reproductive organs does affect the body by slowing metabolism by about 15 percent, but this can be managed.

Increasing your dog's exercise with daily walks or runs — even chasing a ball — revs up the metabolism. Being more active also helps alleviate your dog's boredom and prevents destructive behavior. To prevent obesity, cut down on the amount you feed your dog and limit the number of treats you give throughout the day.

Another side effect is a small amount of sporadic urinary incontinence in some large breed females. The chances of this happening can be reduced if you keep your dog at a healthy weight and provide daily exercise; good muscle tone exerts less pressure on the bladder. Dogs should be given unlimited opportunity to empty their bladders throughout the day and evening so there's less chance of leakage later on.

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