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Spaying and Neutering

Sometimes referred to as “altering,” spay (ovariohysterectomy) or neuter (castration) surgery is the removal of a dog's reproductive organs (the uterus and ovaries in a female and the testicles in a male) to prevent the dog from producing puppies. Spaying is the procedure used for female dogs, and neutering generally refers to the procedure used for male dogs. Both surgeries offer health benefits beyond the prevention of unwanted puppies.

Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Pug

One of the greatest health benefits of spay surgery for females is the reduced risk of mammary (breast) cancer, especially if the surgery is performed before the first heat cycle. Spayed females also run no risk of developing uterine or ovarian infections or cancer. Spaying also prevents behavioral and physiological changes associated with estrus (heat), such as bloody discharge from the vulva and attraction of male dogs. Neutering of males results in a lower risk of testicular and prostate cancer, less desire to roam, and a reduced incidence of aggressive behavior.

Spaying a female before her first heat can reduce the risk of mammary cancer to as little as 0.5 percent. The risk increases to 8 percent if she goes through one heat cycle and 26 percent if she goes through two or more heat cycles.

Despite these benefits, many myths exist about spay and neuter surgery that may make you reluctant to have it performed. Among these myths are “My pug will get fat,” “My pug's personality will change,” “My pug should have a litter before she's spayed,” “Anesthesia is dangerous,” and “Surgery is painful and I don't want to put my pug through it unnecessarily.” Let's take a look at each myth realistically.

Myth Number One: My Pug Will Get Fat.

Studies have documented a reduced metabolic rate in female dogs after spaying, but remember that spay or neuter surgery is usually scheduled when a dog is six to nine months old, just when growth is beginning to slow and hormonal balances change, influencing appetite. Young animals naturally start to put on weight during this time, especially if they're still getting the same amount of food and not enough exercise. It's understandable that you might associate spay/ neuter surgery with weight gain, but it's not the surgery that causes the problem. Adjust your pug's diet and provide plenty of exercise to prevent obesity.

Myth Number Two: My Pug's Personality Will Change.

Yes, for the better! Altered dogs are more bonded to their people, less likely to roam, less given to marking territory by lifting a leg and spraying urine around the house, and less likely to develop aggressive behaviors.

Myth Number Three: My Pug Should Have a Litter Before She's Spayed.

Having a litter has no positive effect on a female's emotional state. Dogs don't dream about someday having puppies, and they don't feel deprived if they don't have them.

Myth Number Four: Anesthesia Is Dangerous.

The risk from anesthesia is much less than it used to be. The drugs used today are very safe, and many veterinarians use hightech equipment to monitor heart rate and breathing during surgery. If you're concerned, ask if the clinic uses reversible gas anesthesia and a heart monitor. These safety features are more expensive but worth the money.

Myth Number Five: Surgery Is Painful.

Surgery is performed under full anesthesia, so your dog doesn't feel a thing. Soreness is normal after surgery, but veterinarians today are much more knowledgeable about pain prevention in dogs than they were just five years ago. Use of pain relief before and during surgery is the mark of a progressive veterinarian. In fact, if your veterinarian doesn't believe in pain relief for routine surgery, you're better off finding another one.

When to Spay or Neuter

Most veterinarians recommend that spay or neuter surgery be scheduled at four to nine months of age. Some clinics schedule spay/ neuter surgery to coincide with a puppy's final series of vaccinations. This makes things convenient for you and the veterinarian, since your puppy is coming in anyway.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first product for chemical sterilization of male puppies. Neutersol Injectable Solution is an alternative to surgical neutering, although it doesn't provide the same benefits. It may not significantly reduce testoster-one production, which means it doesn't necessarily eliminate behaviors such as marking, roaming, or aggression. Nor does it protect against diseases associated with male hormones, such as prostate disease or testicular or perianal tumors.

Costs for spay/neuter surgery vary regionally. The cost for neutering a male generally ranges from $80 to $150. The cost for spaying a female ranges from $100 to $250, depending on whether it takes place before or after the first estrus cycle. Some veterinarians charge according to the size of the dog, since a larger dog requires more anesthesia than a smaller one.

In females, it's best if spaying takes place before the first estrus (heat) cycle. If your female puppy starts urinating more frequently, acts “antsy,” flirts with male dogs, or acts shy or wild, she may be approaching estrus. The age at which a female first goes into heat varies within and across breeds. In general, small breeds such as pugs come into heat at a younger age than large dogs. Plan to spay your female pug at four to six months of age. Young dogs are resilient and recover quickly from surgery.

Preparing for Surgery

Your veterinarian may recommend running a blood panel before spay/neuter surgery. This is most commonly done if your pug is middle-aged or older, has a previous history of health problems, or has a current health problem such as obesity. A blood panel helps ensure that no underlying problems will cause trouble during surgery. If your pug is young and healthy, a blood panel probably isn't necessary.

Withhold food and water twelve hours before surgery. This generally means not feeding your pug after 8:00 to 10:00 P.M. Withholding food and water helps ensure that your pug doesn't vomit and aspirate (breathe in) food into the lungs while under anesthesia. Your veterinarian will let you know if there's anything else you need to do beforehand. Feel free to ask any questions you might have about the procedure so you're fully comfortable with it. Most dogs can go home the same day of surgery, but some veterinarians like to keep animals overnight for observation. The choice is yours to make.

Recovery

Spay/neuter surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians and is generally low-risk. Recovery takes about a week. Keep your pug quiet during this period. Sedate walks on leash are fine, but hold off on any rambunctious play. The easiest way to limit your pug's activity is to keep him or her on leash and at your side for the next week. When you can't supervise, the crate is the safest place for your pug.

Don't be alarmed if your puppy has some swelling at the incision site. That's normal, especially with absorbable sutures. Swelling can take weeks or even months to go away.

If your pug tries to bite at the stitches, you may need to acquire an Elizabethan collar, a cone-shaped device that fits around the neck and prevents the dog from reaching the stitches. When the incision heals, usually in a couple of weeks, the veterinarian will remove the sutures (unless they're self-dissolving).

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