What's the difference between spaying and neutering?

Spaying is what we perform on a female dog where we remove their uterus and ovaries. Neutering is what we do to a male dog where we actually remove their testicles from the scrotum and prevent either of these from being able to have reproductive status. This is done to help prevent overpopulation and also to prevent several health issues in these pets.

Dr. Becka Byrd
Northern Oaks Bird & Animal Hospital

How does it impact the health and well-being of your pet?

For female dogs, there is an increased risk of breast cancer. If they go through at least their first four heat cycles, that exposure to estrogen increases their risk of breast cancer. Even if we spay them after that, they still have an increased risk, but if we can prevent that first heat cycle, we can avoid that exponential risk. Another risk is pyometra, an infected uterus that can happen after a heat cycle. Because their uterus is horizontal rather than vertical, it doesn't drain like a human's. If their cervix closes with bacteria inside, they can get an acutely infected uterus filled with pus that can rupture or cause acute septicemia, leading to a life-threatening emergency spay. By spaying them early, we prevent these risks. For male dogs, they can have aggressive behaviors and marking due to testosterone, and as they age, they are at risk for testicular cancer and very enlarged prostates, which can inhibit their ability to go to the bathroom and put pressure on their spine, causing severe arthritis.

How soon do you want to have your pet spayed or neutered?

There's some conflicting data out there with no true conclusive studies. However, we know that females are prone to breast cancer if they continue to go through heat cycles. Knowing this, we still recommend spaying very young, between 16 weeks to 6 months. For dogs under 40 pounds, we still say 16 weeks is ideal, as the proposed potential risks are not present. For neuters, if they are going to be an adult under 40 pounds, we also recommend early neutering. For dogs over 40 pounds, if you're concerned about potential risks, we suggest waiting until about 8 months.

What are some possible conditions that can be helped?

Spaying and neutering can help with breast cancer, pyometra, and mastitis in females. In males, it can help with prostatitis, prostatomegaly, testicular cancers, and aggression issues. Many trainers won't even work with intact male dogs due to these behavioral issues.

How will it affect your dog in the future?

We see a decreased need for calories, so we recommend decreasing their calorie consumption by about 20% once they're spayed or neutered. Other than that, they remain the same dog. It's a myth that they become lazy, fat, or completely different in personality. They might be a little less aggressive and territorial, but overall, they stay the same.

How long will it take to recover from being spayed or neutered?

The biggest challenge is keeping the dog calm for about 10 days to two weeks post-procedure for their sutures to heal. They rebound quickly, often by two days after surgery, so we may need to prescribe medication to keep them calm.

How long should you be prepared to provide at home while your dog is recovering?

You need to help prevent them from being overly active, crate them if necessary, and walk them on a leash to avoid running around. You should be home for a day or two to supervise. It's crucial to keep the cone or barrier on as dogs will naturally lick their incisions. Inflatable donut collars are ineffective; hard cones are essential.

If you have any other questions, please give us a call at (210) 496-1315. You can also email us at [email protected] and we will get back to you as soon as we are able. Don't forget to follow us on social media: Facebook and Instagram

Dog Spay & Neuter - FAQs 1

Dr. Becka Byrd
Northern Oaks Bird & Animal Hospital

Does my dog need to be spayed or neutered?

I guess the question really comes down to if you want your dog to be a breeding animal or a lifelong pet. Lifespans are extended for most dogs when they're spayed or neutered. They have less tendency to roam, less tendency to get out of yards, less risk of breast cancer, less risk of pyometra (infected uteri), less risk of testicular cancer, and less risk of prostatitis and its complications. There are definitely health risks associated with being unspayed or unneutered. If you want them to be a lifelong pet without those risks, the simple answer is that these are all preventable.

Why is spaying and neutering my dog so important?

Even if you're going to keep your dog completely with you and there is no chance they will accidentally be bred, there are still some health risks that can be completely prevented by spaying or neutering.

Should they have their first litter before I spay my dog?

That's an old wives' tale. For some reason, someone said this many years ago and it became a common belief. There is no magic to letting a dog have their first litter before you spay them, no magic to getting to a year old, or any specific age. Having a litter increases their exposure to estrogens. If they've gone through one or two heats, they've had double the exposure to estrogen and double the risk of breast cancer. If we can prevent that exposure by spaying them before their first estrous cycle, their breast tissue remains free of estrogen exposure, and their risk of breast cancer is almost zero. We prefer to spay before that exposure.

My dog urinates all over the house, will spaying or neutering help?

It can definitely help to neuter. Both males and females can mark territory due to their pack instincts. Spaying or neutering can reduce this instinct. After the procedure, it will take a couple of weeks for the hormones to abate, so the effect may not be immediate, but it will occur over time.

Will spaying or neutering prevent future illnesses?

We know spayed or neutered dogs are at a decreased risk of breast cancer, pyometra, testicular cancer, and prostatitis. These health risks can be prevented simply by spaying or neutering your dog.

If you have any other questions, please give us a call at (210) 496-1315. You can also email us at [email protected] and we will get back to you as soon as we are able. Don't forget to follow us on social media: Facebook and Instagram