Spaying and Neutering

The main reason for spaying and neutering is to avoid unplanned pregnancies, but the procedures have many other health benefits for our dogs as well. For female dogs, spaying prevents breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer and a potentially fatal uterine disease called pyometra. Since spaying involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus, reproductive problems associated with heat cycles, pregnancy, and aging will also be prevented.

Spaying your dog will make your life easier too. You won't have to deal with the bloody discharge with its staining and odor every eight months or so, when your female comes into heat, or the gathering of lusty canine suitors on your front porch. Current research advocates spaying and neutering as early as sixteen to twenty-four weeks of age. The spaying procedure, known as ovariohysterectomy, is typically recommended before the female dog has had her first estrus, or heat.

Such early spaying may not be advantageous for small breeds, however. In the case of toy breeds, some vets prefer to wait until the dog is five and a half to six months of age before spaying and neutering. Because small female dogs mature much faster than their larger-breed counterparts, they may come into heat as early as six months of age, so to be on the safe side, the spaying may need to wait until after that first estrus. Make sure your vet takes your small dog's special needs into account before you schedule spaying or neutering surgery.

Dogs that have been spayed or neutered live longer and healthier lives than those that have not.

Most vets will keep your dog overnight after it is spayed, and the at-home recuperation period lasts for about two weeks. The female's activity for the first week should be restricted. If she is determined to chew or lick at her sutures, get a plastic Elizabethan collar from the vet to prevent her from opening her incision. Spaying does decrease the metabolic rate in dogs, so be careful not to overfeed your little female, causing undesirable weight gain.

Some dog owners often balk at the suggestion that their male dogs should be neutered. Medically, this procedure is called orchidectomy, but its more common name is castration, so it's easy to understand why some male owners might have an emotional reaction. However, it is a safe and easy operation with many benefits for your dog. Because it involves removal of the testicles, testicular cancer will be prevented, as will prostate problems common to unneutered male dogs as they age.

In addition, neutering also has behavioral implications, decreasing aggression, territorial urine marking, mounting of other dogs, and the tendency to wander off in search of females. On most dogs, it is usually performed when the male is twelve weeks of age, but the procedure can be done as early as eight weeks. Once again, you need to ask the vet about risks involved with early surgery on small- and toy-breed dogs under six months of age. Once home, your little fellow should be kept quiet for a week or so, and the Elizabethan collar may also be used on him too to prevent licking the incision.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), spaying and neutering are beneficial for your dog because the procedures help dogs live longer and healthier lives, eliminate health problems, and make them more affectionate companions. The HSUS also points to many ways in which spaying and neutering dogs benefits the community, including the following:

  • Communities spend millions of dollars to control unwanted animals.

  • Irresponsible breeding contributes to the problem of dog bites and attacks.

  • Animal shelters are overburdened with surplus animals.

  • Stray pets and homeless animals get into trash containers, defecate in public areas or on private lawns, and frighten or anger people who have no understanding of their misery or needs.

  • Some stray animals also scare away or kill birds and wildlife.

Your little dog is highly unlikely to become a stray, but as a dog lover, neutering it is a positive step toward curbing the euthanasia of thousands of healthy pets that end up in shelters every year.

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