Spaying or Neutering Your Dog in Altadena, CA: What You Need to Know
A spay is the surgical procedure where a veterinary surgeon removes the reproductive organs of a female dog so that she is unable to become pregnant, and a neuter is the surgical removal of a male animal’s testicles so that he cannot impregnate a female. The decision to spay or neuter your dog is an important decision, and unless you intend to breed your pet, there are many reasons why dog neutering and spaying are recommended.
Benefits of Dog Neutering and Spaying
Unless you’re a breeder, or intend to breed your dog, there are several reasons why dog neutering and spaying is a good idea.
Reduced Marking or Spraying
One of the benefits of spaying and neutering is it helps reduce the urge to mark or spray, especially in males. Intact male dogs tend to be more prone to urine-marking inside and outside the home, but this behavior can be improved by neutering.
Reduced Urge to Roam
Spaying and neutering dogs decreases the chance that your pet will roam away from home in search of a mate, and it will decrease the chances that your pet will become lost, get hit by a car, be eaten by a large predator, or get into fight with other dogs and cats. Spayed and neutered dogs tend to focus on their human caretakers, and are less likely to seek companionship elsewhere.
Unaltered dogs tend to mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house, and this instinctual behavior that can be changed with neutering, since neutered pets focus their attention on their human families, rather than on competing with other animals. Spaying and neutering at an earlier age may also help avoid aggression problems and embarrassing behaviors including inappropriate urination on beds and clothing, mounting furniture and the legs of visiting guests.
Lower Risk of Cancers
One of the other benefits of spaying dogs is that it can help prevent the development of mammary and uterine cancers later on in life. Studies have shown that in unspayed female dogs, the risk of developing mammary and uterine cancer climbs with age. In unneutered dogs, the changes of prostate cancer increase with age as well, since the prostate gland naturally enlarges over time. This is known as benign prostate hyperplasia, where testosterone production predisposes the prostate gland to infection and inflammation. An enlarged and infected prostate can be very painful and sometimes can be life-threatening for your dog. Testicular cancer, prostate cancer, inguinal hernias and perianal tumors are also more common in intact male dogs. Surgery and chemotherapy for such cancers can be expensive and take a heavy toll on your pet’s quality of life.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of pets end up homeless in US shelters, and unfortunately there are not enough homes to place them all. Some pets that end up in shelters are foundlings from the streets, rescues or surrenders, and many perfectly adoptable pets never make it to shelters, and never find good homes. Spaying and neutering dogs prevents animals from being born accidentally, and is the most effective and humane way to reduce overpopulation in our communities, and to prevent the euthanasia of animals who are not adopted.
Pets who are spayed and neutered actually live longer. According to one report, neutered male dogs live 18% longer than intact male dogs and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than intact female dogs. The study suggested that part of the reduced lifespan of unaltered dogs is because of their tendency to roam, exposing them to predators, and getting stuck by cars.
No Messy Heat Cycles
Spaying female dogs also eliminates the inconvenience and mess of heat cycles. Intact female dogs come into heat about every 8 months, resulting in bloody vaginal discharge and an unpleasant odor. This can cause more messy clean-up for the pet owner.
Dog neutering and spaying actually costs you less in the long-run. As mentioned above, many unaltered pets are at risk of certain cancers, and unspayed female dogs can be susceptible to a medical emergency called a “pyometra,” an infection of the uterus which can make your pet very ill, and can cause septicemia and death if not treated. The costs of treating a pyometra can be ten times more than a spay procedure. The treatment for prostate cancer in unaltered males can also be costly, especially when looking at surgery, and chemotherapy. Also, unaltered males can be more destructive and more high-strung around other dogs, especially males, and an emergency room visit after a dog fight can be expensive. Finally, many communities and counties require licenses for all pets, and they may charge you extra to keep an unaltered pet.
Keeps Other Pets and the Community Safe
Dog neutering and spaying reduces the spread of rabies and other infectious diseases by decreasing the number of stray animals that roam about. It also helps prevents putting your pet at risk of contacting infectious diseases from other animals and wildlife. Stray animals typically don’t receive regular care or vaccinations, leaving them vulnerable to contagious diseases.
Reduces Pet Homelessness
Animal shelters across the United States house thousands of animals who have been abandoned or homeless. Nationwide, 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year because they are homeless or abandoned. Dog neutering and spaying is the only permanent solution to this.
When to Spay or Neuter Your Dog in Altadena, CA
We do know that dog neutering and spaying reduces the risks of certain cancers and health issues, including mammary cancer, testicular cancer, and the development of osteoarthritis and joint problems later in life. And studies show that depending upon the breed, the recommendations regarding when to spay and neuter vary. According to AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), small-breed dogs (under 45 pounds when adults) are recommended to be neutered at six months of age or spayed before the first heat (five to six months). Large-breed dogs and Giant breeds (over 45 pounds when adults) should be neutered after they stop growing, between 9 and 15 months of age. The decision to spay your large breed or giant breed female dog can be tricky, because it’s recommended to spay before the first heat, however, some dogs may go into heat before the 9-15 month recommendation. Your veterinarian can help narrow down the time frame when to spay your dog depending on your dog’s breed and lifestyle.
When to Neuter Your Dog
As mentioned above, small breed dogs are recommended to be neutered at six months of age, medium, large and giant breeds between 9 and 15 months. Small dogs don’t have as many orthopedic issues as larger dogs, so it’s fine to neuter them on the younger side at 6-12 months of age. For large dogs that are very prone to orthopedic injury/diseases, it’s suggested wait to spay or neuter from 9-18 months of age. Young dogs build muscle as their growth plates close, and in dogs where the musculoskeletal system is properly matured, the chance of certain orthopedic issues occurring later in life decrease, especially in large breeds. There is also some evidence that certain cancers may be less likely to develop if dogs are allowed to reach full sexual maturity. Male dogs that are left intact through adulthood and into their senior years are more likely to develop perianal tumors, prostate disease, and testicular tumors.
When to Spay Your Dog
Many veterinarians suggest waiting until at least six months to spay your dog, and more likely older for larger dogs. As with male dogs, there are several musculoskeletal benefits to spaying larger dogs later rather than sooner, but this really doesn’t apply to smaller dogs, or lap dogs. Large dogs spayed before six months of age have been shown to experience a higher risk of orthopedic problems and certain cancers later in life, but this risk is statistically reduced if large dogs are spayed at or after 12 months. In female dogs, there is an increased risk of mammary cancer with each heat cycle, as well as a higher risk of pyometra (an infection of the uterus). A pyometra can be a life-threatening condition, and a medical emergency as the infection can spread throughout the body and cause septicemia. The timing may be tricky, but if you have a large dog and you can wait to have her spayed until just before her first heat, this would be ideal. Your veterinarian can help you determine a good time-line for spaying your dog.
Most animal hospitals consider dog neuter and spay procedures same-day procedures, however, if your pet is at risk for certain health issues, your veterinarian may want to keep her overnight for observation. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian if you have questions about the procedure.
How to Prepare for Dog Neutering or Spaying
You veterinarian and staff will give you pre-surgical instructions, which usually involve withholding food after 10pm or the night before to limit the possibility of an upset stomach or aspiration of undigested food during the pre-anesthetic period. Your veterinarian will most likely schedule you to drop off your pet first thing in the morning, and assign you a pick up time later in the afternoon or evening. Of course, if your dog is sick, or not acting right, contact your veterinarian because a spay or neuter surgery on a sick animal is not recommended.
What to Expect After Your Dog is Neutered or Spayed
Fatigue and Grogginess
It’s very common for dogs to be groggy and tired the evening of the spay or neuter surgery, but she should be responsive to your touch or voice. If you are worried if your pet is not feeling or doing well after a spay or neuter procedure, contact your veterinarian, or an emergency vet if your animal hospital is closed for the night.
Dog spays and neuters are significant surgeries, and your pet may be prescribed medications to speed up healing and recovery. Your pet may be prescribed veterinary pain medication to manage pain or discomfort after the anesthetics administered at surgery wear off. However, never, ever use human pain medications on your pet (even aspirin), as they can cause potential liver and kidney damage. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian if you have questions.
Eating and Drinking
After undergoing anesthesia and surgery, food and water intake should be monitored at home following the procedure. You can usually start by offering your dog a little bit of water, and a small amount of food an hour or so after returning home from the veterinarian. This way you can evaluate whether your pet is able to drink and eat normally following anesthesia and surgery. If your pet is able to keep down small amounts of food and water, then your dog should be able to return to normal eating and drinking the next morning. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.
Dog Neuter and Spay Aftercare
Strict activity restriction is necessary following dog neuter and spay surgeries. Activities like running, jumping, and playing can result in stitches failing, bleeding, pain, and other post-surgical problems. Most veterinarians recommend to limit your post-spay or neuter activity for 10–14 days.
Prevent Licking and Chewing
Elizabethan collars (“cones” or E-collars) are important to prevent your pet from licking, chewing, or scratching their surgical area. If your veterinarian recommends a cone following surgery, be sure to use it as advised to avoid potentially serious problems.
No Bathing or Swimming
Don’t bathe your dog or let her swim for at least 10-14 days, or until the skin incision is fully healed. If you have any questions, always consult your veterinarian.
Surgical Site Care
Keep an eye your dog’s surgical incision area daily for signs of swelling, redness, discharge, bleeding, or any other issues. If you have any questions, contact your veterinarian. Most spay and neuter surgical sites are healed within about 10–14 days. Most spay and neuter sutures are absorbable, so you won’t have to worry about scheduling a suture removal, however, check with your veterinarian first, as some pets need staples applied along the incision, and those would need to be removed by your veterinarian in 10-14 days.
Post-surgical care at home is absolutely critical to ensure your pet’s healthy recovery, and to help prevent any complications that may arise, like pain, bleeding, infection or other complications. Proper at-home aftercare can help ensure that your best friend has a smooth recovery.
Ready to talk to a veterinarian about your dog’s neuter or spay? Call Altadena Pet Hospital at (626) 798-0738 today!