Today, spaying and neutering has become a routine procedure in dogs and although optional, it is widely encouraged. Spaying refers to sterilization of female dogs, whereas neutering refers to sterilization in males. Castration and fixing are terms often used to describe the procedure in both canine genders.
Spaying takes place while the dog is under general anesthesia and involves surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. There are two main ways that the procedure can be performed; open and laparoscopic. With open surgery, an incision is made in the abdomen just underneath the belly button. Laparoscopic surgery is done using a tiny camera for the surgeon to see while operating and a special instrument used to perform the surgery. These devices are inserted through two small incisions made in the abdomen. Laparoscopy is less invasive than open surgery and allows for faster healing, but it is more expensive and not all veterinary practices offer this service.
Neutering is also performed while the dog is under general anesthesia and involves removal of the testicles. It is considered less risky than spaying for females, as only a small incision is required in the scrotum. However, if one or both of the testicles are retained, abdominal surgery may be necessary.
Advantages of Spaying/Neutering
- Decreased risk of mammary cancer in females.
- Prevention of uterine and ovarian cancer in females.
- Low risk of pyometra in females.
- Prevention of testicular cancer in males.
- Reduced behavioral problems related to mating such as; jumping fences, digging, and getting in fights in an attempt to reach a female that is in heat. The incidence of dogs that are lost or injured while out roaming is also decreased.
- Elimination of heat cycle, which means males will no longer try to follow the female or fight over her.
- Prevent reproduction and reduce the number of strays that are on the street and/or euthanized.
Disadvantages of Spaying/Neutering
- Surgical Risks – excessive bleeding, bad reaction to anesthesia, respiratory problems, infection, etc.
- Increased risk of certain cancers including; osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, urinary tract cancer, and lymphosarcoma.
- Increased risk of hormonal related issues such as obesity and hair loss.
Before & After Surgery
Before a dog is neutered or spayed, a physical exam, blood work, and a urinalysis is typically performed in order to detect health problems that may increase the risks related to surgery. Once the risks have been analyzed, a pre-anesthetic containing a sedative and medication for pain and nausea/salivation will be administered to the dog. When the surgery is over, stronger pain medication will be given so that the dog is comfortable. Pain medication for home use will also be prescribed. Additionally, an e-collar or cone may be recommended to prevent the dog from licking at the incision site. Instructions will be provided by your vet regarding home care, which should be followed strictly. Unless there is an issue beforehand (redness, swelling, etc.), a follow-up exam is usually scheduled 10 to 14 days after the surgery.