Should You Spay/Neuter Your Dog?

A high school health teacher once said that the only sure method of birth control was aspirin. As long as a young woman holds an aspirin between her knees the entire time she is with a man, there is no way she can get pregnant. Although you might have a hard time getting your dog to hold an aspirin between her knees, there is an alternative, very effective method of birth control for your canine friends: spay or neuter every dog in your home.

Do you plan on breeding your dog?

When you bring a new puppy into your home, one of your first considerations should be whether or not you plan to breed him. If the dog is not a purebred, there is no reason to breed him. On the other hand, if you do have a purebred, you will want to consider many things before you make the decision to breed.

For example, the biggest issue you will want to think about is whether or not you can keep all of the puppies. There is no guarantee that you will be able to sell all of the puppies, and no promise that you will make money if you do manage to sell them. Do not breed your dog unless you are able to keep every puppy that results from the breeding.

Think about the financial commitment you must make if you intend to breed. Puppies must be wormed, vaccinated, and possibly have their dew claws removed and / or their tails cropped or ears docked, depending on the breed. An unexpected health issue with one of the puppies could cost you thousands of dollars and may result in the puppy being unsalable.

Finally, breeders should, ideally, be responsible for bettering the breed. Selectively matching sires to dams helps to eliminate genetic diseases and less-than-desirable traits from the breed. Haphazardly breeding one dog to another can lead to puppies who don’t meet the breed standard, who can’t be shown or bred, or even worse, have lifelong health issues.

Even if you don’t intend to breed your dog, these things have a way of happening unintentionally. It only takes one time for your dog to get loose to create an “accident”. The only sure way to prevent dogs from reproducing is to spay or neuter your dog.


Consider this: over the course of six years, one female dog and her offspring can produce up to 67,000 puppies if none of them are altered. In the United States, more than 50,000 puppies and kittens are born each and every day. It is estimated that only one in five of these animals will be placed in loving homes, while the other four are homeless, neglected, abused, or end up in shelters. Somewhere between four and six million companion animals are euthanized by shelters each year, about one every eight minutes. In communities that have mandatory spay/neuter laws, the number of pets euthanized by shelters has been shown to drop between 30 and 60 percent.

According to USA Today, it costs $2 billion in tax money to collect unwanted animals, house them in shelters, euthanize them when unclaimed, and dispose of the corpses. If for no other reason, this expense should convince you that spaying and neutering is worthwhile.

Are there other reasons for spaying and neutering?

The primary reason cited for spaying and neutering is because of pet overpopulation. However, there are many other reasons to have the procedure done on your dog. An unaltered male is pretty much like a teenage boy: a great big hormone with feet. Under the influence of the testosterone excreted by the testicles, dogs are more likely to display mounting and humping behaviors, aggression towards people and other dogs, and roaming in search of a female in heat. In addition, neutered dogs are less likely to develop hernias, testicular cancer, and prostate problems.

For females, spaying has benefits both for hygiene and health reasons. A dog in heat will leak vaginal blood during each cycle, about twice a year. You may find yourself buying diapers to keep your carpets clean during each 4- to 13-day cycle. In addition, a dog in heat will seek out male dogs, often by escaping from home. The loose dog is then in danger of being hit by a car, getting into a fight, or being stolen. The pheromones excreted by a female in heat will also attract male dogs to your yard, where they will leave more droppings for you to clean up.

Unspayed females are also more likely to develop mammary cancers than those dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle. Following each heat cycle, many dogs develop a disease of the uterus known as pyometra, which causes the uterus to expand as much as five times in size and fill with pus. Treatment requires removal of the infected uterus, in a procedure much more expensive than spaying.

Females who are not spayed may also have trouble regulating their hormones, creating a problem known as false pregnancy. This can cause mastitis as the mammary glands swell as well as behavioral abnormalities such as nesting and snuggling with “puppy” socks or toys.

Puppies with mommy dog
Unless you plan to breed your dog she should be spayed.

Both male and female altered dogs are less likely to bite, more likely to live longer, healthier lives, and more likely to make good, reliable pets than unaltered dogs. There is a common myth that states altered dogs are more likely to become fat and lazy. While it’s true that altering a dog changes his metabolism, it is your responsibility as a dog guardian to provide the proper amount of food and exercise to keep your dog at an ideal weight regardless of whether or not the dog is sterilized.

When should I spay or neuter my dog?

Conventional wisdom has been that a dog should be altered between five and eight months of age. However, as the pet population has grown out of control, many shelters insist that all animals be spayed or neutered before adoption. Therefore, the procedure may be completed as early as just after the dog is weaned. The only real danger to early spaying and neutering is that very young animals may have trouble dealing with anesthesia and must be carefully watched during and after the procedure. Younger animals may even recover more quickly and easily from surgery than those altered when they are slightly older.

How is spaying or neutering done?

For females, the most common procedure is analogous to a complete hysterectomy in humans. The vet places the dog under general anesthesia, shaves the animal’s belly, and makes a small incision. He then removes the uterus and both ovaries. In some cases, only the uterus may be removed or the fallopian tubes may be tied, however, these procedures leave the hormone-producing ovaries intact, exposing the dog to the same health hazards as an intact dog.

For male dogs, the vet places the dog under general anesthesia and makes a small incision in the scrotal sacs. The testicles are removed and the incisions closed. Within a short time, the scrotal sacs simply shrink until they are barely noticeable next to the dog’s penis. For those who are worried that their dog will look like less of a “man”, implants may be placed in the scrotal sacs to keep them expanded. Although the dog has no sense of his sexuality or manhood, the prosthetic testicles often make the dog’s family feel better.

In either gender, the dog is usually released to go home the same day the procedure is performed; however, some dogs will require an overnight stay. Newly developed procedures allow sterilization of male and female dogs to be completed by laser, thus lessening the chance of side effects and shortening recovery time.

What’s the flip side?

Why do some people resist sterilizing their pets, given the health benefits and the pet overpopulation problem? Many people say that spaying or neutering would change their dog’s basic personality. In some ways, this is true; however, all of the changes are for the better – less aggression, better companionship, fewer days of feeling sick due to hormone-related illnesses. The dog will not suffer a loss of sexually-related ego because he doesn’t have the same concept of sexuality that people do.

Some people insist it is okay to breed their dogs because they know they can get rid of all of the puppies. This may or may not be true, but every dog that is born and placed in a good home reduces the number of good homes where shelter dogs can be placed. As many as 25% of shelter dogs are purebreds, so with patience your “customers” will be able to find the dog they want without buying a dog from you.

Some people think that if their dog is the ideal pet for their family, the dog’s puppies will be ideal pets for other families. There are two problems with this. First, what is ideal to you may not be ideal for another family. Second, there is no guarantee that the dog’s offspring will be anything like the dog you own. The puppies will acquire their genetic make-up from both of their parents, and some of these traits may be undesirable ones that were masked in your dog but brought forth by the combination of the breeding pair. In addition, much of a dog’s personality is determined by the way in which it is brought up, which will obviously vary between families.

Other people insist it is somehow “better” for a female dog to have at least one litter, even though veterinary science has clearly disproven this idea. Still others want their children to experience the miracle of birth. Aside from the fact that your children may not be home at the time of the birth, it is far more helpful to instill in your children a sense of responsibility for homeless animals to prevent their deaths, rather than using your dog’s pregnancy and delivery as a lesson in the birds and the bees.

What about cost?

A big reason many people give for failing to have their dogs sterilized is cost. The average cost of having your vet sterilize your dog will probably range from $50 to $200, depending on the size, age, and gender of the dog. If you cannot afford to have a dog, please don’t buy one! However, if you can afford the regular day-to-day expenses and have a real desire to have a dog, there are places you can turn to for financial assistance for spaying and neutering.

Most pet organizations feel strongly that pet overpopulation can only be stemmed by spaying and neutering all companion animals. Many offer financial assistance to needy families. In addition, your local humane society may be able to point you in the direction of a vet who offers reduced fees or holds free spay/neuter clinics in your area. If your humane society cannot help you find low cost sterilization, contact Pets911 or SpayUSA or call 1-800-248-7729 for advice on where to turn.

Spay Day USA

The last Tuesday of February every year has been designated by the Humane Society of the United States as Spay Day USA, with events and activities designed to encourage people to spay and neuter their animals.

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