Bringing home a new puppy is incredibly exciting – you’re welcoming a new member into the family! But there is a lot to keep track of, from vaccinations to new toys. Through the training, puppy blues (hopefully not), and diet adjustments, also keep in mind that if your new pup hasn’t already been spayed or neutered, they should have that done relatively soon.

Spaying or neutering your dog has many benefits, including controlling pet homelessness and overpopulation rates. It also drastically reduces (or even eliminates) the risk of mammary cancer, testicular cancer, and certain infections as well as minimizing inappropriate behavior in male pups.

What’s the difference between spaying and neutering?

The most basic explanation is that spaying (or an ovariohysterectomy) is the surgical removal of a female dog’s uterus and ovaries through an incision made in the abdomen. On the other hand, neutering (or castration) is the surgical removal of a male dog’s testes through an incision near the front of the scrotum. Both surgeries are performed under general anesthesia and done for reproductive and health purposes, but neutering is significantly less complicated due to spaying requiring the removal of the uterus in addition to the ovaries.

So should I spay or neuter my dog?

The short answer is yes. Spaying or neutering your dog not only reduces the risk of certain health complications like forms of cancer and infections in the reproductive organs, but also unwanted and potentially dangerous behaviors. Female dogs will no longer go into heat and it stops frequent yowling, urinating, and erratic behavior.

Male dogs won’t have the urge to mount other dogs (or toys and people) or roam due to mating instincts, meaning they’re less likely to get lost or get into dangerous situations. Without mating instincts, male dogs may also be less aggressive, will socialize better with other males, and won’t mark their territory around your house or apartment.

Spaying or neutering your dog is beneficial for everyone involved. It helps limit overpopulation that leads to dogs not having homes, helps your dog stay healthier and be happier, and helps you not to have to worry about destructive or disruptive behaviors.

When to spay or neuter a dog

Now that you know the importance of spaying and neutering dogs, when is the right time to take your new puppy to have it done? It depends on the sex of your dog, but the general window for males is said to be between six and ten months old. However, there are recent findings that argue that this may be too early and recommend waiting until the pup is at least one year old. This can depend on the breed and size of dog, but the primary criteria is having finished growing and “puberty”.

Meanwhile, females are recommended to be spayed prior to her first heat cycle but after her sexual organs are fully-developed, so between four and six months. As a female dog goes through more heat cycles, it increases her risk of both breast cancer as well as Pyometra, a potentially fatal infection of the uterus, so it’s preferable to get the surgery done as soon as her reproductive organs are fully-developed.

It is important to remember that these are general guidelines and more research is being done every year to better understand this. This is why you should always consult an animal hospital or your vet to advise when they think your pup is ready to be spayed or neutered.

When is it too late to neuter a dog?

There isn’t a cutoff for how old a dog can be for these surgeries. Unless they have health problems, there is no reason you can’t spay or neuter an older dog. However, keep in mind that the benefits that this provides decrease as a dog gets older and their needs and bodies change because it can’t retroactively go back and prevent things. Again, this would be something to talk to your vet about first to determine what your pup’s condition is and whether the benefits would outweigh the recovery and discomfort.

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Recovery time

On the topic of recovery, this is another difference between the two procedures. As mentioned earlier, neutering is less complicated than spaying, and typically requires around four days for recovery. Spaying, due to the uterus being removed in addition to the ovaries, can take about a week and often requires being kept overnight at the vet. Both are usually given cones to prevent bothering or tampering with the stitching and wound.

Cost

Cost will vary depending on where you go. It can be as much as a few hundred dollars, but there are also low-cost programs whose aim is to reduce overpopulation and offer these surgeries for lower prices. Your vet can help you to decide which route is best for you and your pup.

Signs to look out for

While your dog is recovering, keep an eye out for swelling, redness, active bleeding, or torn stitches around the incision. If they are bleeding and you need to clean the area, use a warm, wet cloth to blot it. Excessive panting or lack of appetite beyond 48 hours after the procedure may also indicate that something is wrong. Beyond that, don’t exercise them too hard (nothing more than a short, leashed walk) or bathe them for at least a week after the surgery so the area has a chance to heal. As long as you’re on the lookout for any behaviors that are unusual for your dog, healing should be a quick and easy process.

It helps you and your furry companion

Spaying or neutering has many advantages that make life easier for you and your dog. Not only does it greatly reduce the chances of certain diseases and unwanted or dangerous behaviors, but it ensures you won’t have extra puppies on your hands that might not be able to find a home. All we want is for our pups to be happy and healthy, and this is just one more way to ensure that.

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