Spay and Neuter: The Unbelievable Importance | Incredible Facts & Harmful Myths
Having your dog spayed or neutered is an important part of responsible dog ownership.
Not only is this procedure important to be sure your pet is not contributing to pet overpopulation, it also has important health and behavior benefits that both you and your canine companion will enjoy.
We will explore all that and more in this article designed to be your go-to guide to learn more about canine sterilization.
If you want to jump ahead, here is a quick guide to help you get to the information you need in a hurry:
Why Spay & Neuter – The Importance
There are several reasons to have your dog spayed or neutered, and plenty of myths out there too. This section will explore why this medical procedure is important both for your individual canine, as well as the welfare of other companion animals.
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Spay & Neuter Statistics: Myths and Facts
Fact: Spay/neuter programs are effective.
Several research studies have demonstrated that spay/neuter programs that focus on community awareness and offering low and no-cost sterilization programs have directly reduced pet overpopulation and suffering.
Voluntary sterilization of our pets plays a crucial role in decreasing the numbers of dogs entering the shelter system.
Consider this fact: A single female dog, along with her offspring, can produce 67,000 puppies in just six years.
This is the potential impact that every dog owner can make when choosing to spay/neuter their pet!
It can be difficult to tease out which programs are having the most impact in a given geographical area:
The visibility of adoption programs, outreach efforts with local veterinarians and other animal services, and breed-specific adoption groups are all playing vital roles.
However, because pet sterilization programs have been around for decades, the verdict is in: Spaying and neutering decreases pet overpopulation and as a result, animal suffering.
Fact: Pet overpopulation is directly related to dog euthanasia rates in animal shelters.
Animal shelters provide a valuable service to help hundreds of thousands abandoned dogs find their forever homes annually. However, among the 3.3 million dogs that enter animal shelters in the United States, approximately 670,000 are euthanized.
Although the last several decades have shown a steady drop in homeless dogs, there are still far too many of these loyal and loving companions that are suffering on the streets and being euthanized in shelters.
Pet overpopulation remains a serious problem. A significant portion of these animals are puppies from family pets who were not spayed/neutered.
Fact: Sterilization Increases Life Expectancy.
Research has shown that intact dogs live an average of 7.9 years in contrast to 9.4 years for canines that have been spayed or neutered. Taken as a whole, sterilized dogs have a 1.5 years of additional life expectancy!
Part of this disparity is likely due to the fact that intact animals are more likely to roam or fight and experience more physical trauma as a result of both.
In addition, due to the immunity suppression characteristics of reproductive hormones, deadly infections are at a higher rate among dogs that do not have the benefit of sterilization.
Meanwhile, certain types of cancer such as mammary and cervical cancer, are almost eliminated completely for female dogs spayed before sexual maturity.
Male dogs similarly benefit from drastically reduced rates of testicular (zero chance) and prostate cancer (much reduced chance).
Another study shows a high correlation between those geographical areas with high rates of pet sterilization and significant increases in pet life expectancy.
In addition, the study showed that intact males were twice as likely to hit by a car and get injuries from fighting with other animals.
The final verdict?
The study showed an 18% life expectancy increase for males and 23% increase for females that had been spayed or neutered.
Fact: Sterilization decreases aggression, territorial marking, and roaming.
While a reinforcement-based training program and a nurturing environment are imperative to teach our canine companions appropriate behaviors, the role that reproductive hormones play in fostering problem behaviors is clear:
Myth: Sterilization will lead to a fat and lazy dog.
The truth is that controlling a pet’s daily exercise and food intake come down to the choices of the owner.
While it is true that sterilization can decrease metabolism, the longitudinal effects are easily mitigated by adding exercise and watching those high calorie treats. In addition, the effects seem to be limited to slight changes in the first two years after sterilization.
Fears about weight gain are just not a good excuse to risk unwanted and expensive litters of puppies.
Myth: It will take away a male dog’s sense of “manhood” to be altered.
Your dog is not aware of the pressures of manhood because that is a human invention, not a genetic one.
Masculinity and virility are closely tied in many human cultures and passed on through the generations via cultural mythos, perceived gender roles, and media.
These stories do profoundly shape human ideas about masculinity, but rest assured, your dog is immune from such pressures.
Before and after his surgery, your dog is going to care about the same things:
Where is my next treat going to come from? Who around here can give me a belly rub? What is that smell? Who let the cat in?
Myth: I can’t afford to sterilize my dog.
Most communities offer low and no-cost programs to spay/neuter dogs to low income families. If you are interested in learning more, we have provided some resources in this article here.
In fact, many animal shelters include the cost of this simple procedure as part of their reasonable adoption fees.
If you are worried about costs of sterilization, consider adopting one of the many wonderful pets at a nearby rescue shelter or organization.
In addition to the availability of affordable sterilization options, consider the expense of the alternative. The cost of responsibly raising a litter of puppies until the age of adoption can exceed $1,000!
This is a far bigger price tag than the average cost of sterilization at the vet’s office: $50-200.
The difference between spay & neuter
Alternative sterilization options
In addition to the most common forms of canine sterilization mentioned above, there are also other procedures that you can ask your vet about.
They are less routine, and may be costlier, however, they are the preferred sterilization methods for some owners.
For people in the U.S., you may get some raised eyebrows from your vet if you ask about these procedures. In some cases, your best bet may be to locate a holistic vet in your area.
These specially trained veterinarians can be more sensitive to owner concerns about the more invasive spay/neuter procedures common in the United States.
This procedure for sterilizing female dogs has been gaining ground in Europe over the last decade. It is less complicated and has a faster recovery time than a traditional spay surgery because it leaves the uterus intact.
Instead, this surgery includes the removal of the ovaries only.
In addition to sterilizing the dog, the procedure also eliminates the heat cycle and the behavioral issues associated with it. It has a slightly faster recovery rate and may be less painful for your pooch.
In some cases, this may be a good choice if you are spaying an adult female. Talk to your vet to learn more about if this is the right choice for you and your dog.
Hysterectomy or Tubal Ligation
These may sound like familiar procedures – they are one of the more popular methods of permanent birth control for women. They are not, however, very routine procedures for dogs.
These procedures both spare the ovaries, and females that have this procedure done will still have reproductive hormone cycles that put them into heat.
In rare cases your vet may recommend this procedure, but odds are good that a traditional spay is going to be the method of choice to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
For some male dog owners, the idea of taking their boy to the vet for castration is just too much to handle. It may seem like a betrayal of trust.
Although this might seem a little silly, it is a common excuse for keeping male dogs intact to father one litter after another of unwanted puppies.
This procedure does offer an option for those owners who cannot bring themselves to a full castration procedure.
The testes remain intact and continue to produce testosterone that some believe is important for optimal growth and development.
Unfortunately, this procedure is not common, at least in the U.S. You may need to call around to find a vet willing to perform this operation.
Birth Control For Dogs
Chastity devices. Yeah. It’s a thing.
Since female dogs in heat give pretty good signals, experienced breeders can tell when the time is right for some protection between litters.
It is not the right choice for every circumstance, obviously, but it is a tool that some responsible breeders use between litters to give their puppy moms a break.
Hormonal Birth Control: The U.S. FDA has currently not approved any chemical birth control for use in our pet dogs. However, due to different sensibilities pervasive in Canada and Europe, such treatments are being developed and used there.
One popular example is an implant called Deslorelin, currently showing some promise as a solution for temporary birth control in canines.
Other methods are being developed and may be more common in the U.S. in the years to come.
A major advantage of hormonal birth control options are that they offer a chance for your dog to have a litter in the future. This powerful tool can still prevent unwanted litters, without permanently closing the door on future breeding.
What to expect for post-op recovery
Your vet, or the clinic where you have your dog sterilized, will give you some information on what to expect after surgery that you should read in detail.
What follows is some general information about recovery. It is not a substitute for following the post-op directions provided by your veterinarian.
Recovery From Spaying
The removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes is a pretty major shock to your dog’s system. Expect recovery to take between 10 days to 2 weeks during which time you should plan to keep activity levels as low as you can.
Keep walks short, make sure she is on a leash even when out in the yard, and consider adding some more crate time to the schedule during this period.
A special collar is recommended to help keep your girl from licking at the incision wounds. This will help prevent infections and other post-op complications.
There are a few styles on the market these days.
We love this one by KONG because it won’t restrict her vision.
Another option is the traditional post-op recovery cone for dogs which will be more effective if you have a persistent licker on your hands.
Recovery From Neutering
Because it is much less invasive, the post-op recovery time for neutered males is much shorter than that for females, especially for young puppies.
In fact, many puppies will barely even notice that they have had work done – so much for the myth that your puppy will resent you!
All the same, keep your dog or puppy on a low activity regimen for 10-12 days, just to make sure they are not going to reopen the wound.
If you notice that your dog continues to try to lick the incision area, consider an e-collar to give the small incision a few days to heal up.
Danger Signs After a Spay/Neuter Procedure
Expect your pup to be groggy after surgery, and maybe even tired for a day or two afterwards. This is normal.
However, if you see any of the following symptoms, you should notify your vet immediately as they could be signs of something serious:
- Trouble breathing (a slight cough is normal – it’s from the tube used to keep her airways open during surgery)
- The incision reopens or gets very red or hot to the touch
- The incision area swells significantly, or begins to ooze puss (mild swelling is normal)
- Refusing to eat or drink more than one day out from surgery
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Where To Get Your Pet Spayed or Neutered
If you already use a specific vet for other pets, you may already have your bases covered for this out-patient procedure.
However, you may still be interested to find out that there may be some lower cost options available to you in your community.
Let’s take a look at the different types of spay/neuter services before turning to how to find some low or even no cost programs in your area.
Types of spay/neuter programs
Many communities benefit from mobile clinics.
These surgical rooms on wheels are particularly helpful in rural areas where they often travel to different counties on a rotating schedule.
Fully equipped to handle an emergency during surgery, and staffed with trained and experienced veterinarians, many of these mobile clinics offer fast and low-cost sterilization, often funded by donations from concerned citizens and animal welfare groups.
The plus side of mobile clinics is that they reach a lot of communities where travel might otherwise be a major hurdle, particularly for lower income folks.
The down side is that it can be tricky to find out where they will be on a given day.
Chances are good that if your locality is served by a mobile clinic, the animal shelters in your area are aware of them and can get you the information you need to schedule an appointment.
Voucher programs usually work to make it more affordable to take your dog to a private vet practice and have their procedure done for a fraction of the normal cost.
Sometimes these programs are publicly funded, in other cases they are funded by donations or agreements with certain private vet practices.
Many breed rescue organizations and animal shelters use a voucher system.
The voucher works like a coupon that you take to a participating vet. Often these types of programs work on an income sliding scale, making pet sterilization as affordable as $15 to $50.
Some population centers are large enough to support stationary spay/neuter clinics.
These clinics are able to keep costs down by specializing in sterilization procedures. They often work with veterinarians who volunteer their time to make sure their community is adequately served.
It will usually require income verification to qualify for services on a sliding scale. Expect to pay between $15 and $40, depending on your income.
Some low-cost clinics also offer other veterinary services such as vaccinations, check ups and emergency care.
Another resource for folks living in some rural areas are shuttle services such as the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance in North Carolina.
By making spay/neuter services both affordable and convenient for busy families, shuttle services are the next big thing in rural animal overpopulation control.
Vet School Clinics
Finally, we wanted to make sure our readers were aware that schools that train veterinarians and vet techs sometimes offer low cost services to the public.
If you happen to live near a vet school, it is worth following up to find out what programs they may have to offer in your community.
How to find free and low/cost spay/neuter programs/organizations
Since low and no-cost spay neuter programs are usually regionally controlled, it can be hard to find services in your area.
At Wiley Pup, we want to make sure every dog owner can find the resources to have their pet fixed to prevent more unwanted litters.
Take a look below at a great online search tool, as well as a table to help you find out what resources are available on a state-by-state level.
This is a fantastic tool that is a great first place to check resources that are local to you. Just throw your zip code in the search tool and select your radius.
If you happen to live in a rural area, go for 50 miles to be sure to find some different options available near you. Folks that live near urban areas will naturally have more options to choose from within a smaller radius.
This search is likely to turn up nearby clinics, rescue organizations that sponsor low cost sterilization events, and any local shelters that may participate in voucher programs to help low income folks get the resources they need to be responsible pet owners.
Sponsored with help from PetSmart Charities®, this is definitely the place to start your search if you are in the U.S.
State by state low cost spay neuter resources
It can be difficult to know all of the services available in your area because low cost spay/neuter programs tend to be handled at the state, county and regional levels.
When we were doing the research for this article, we discovered that there just wasn’t a comprehensive list to be found.
So, we developed this table to help our readers make sure they have information on local resources that may not be listed in the spay/neuter finder.
List of Low Cost Clinics
If you are aware of a local low/no cost program in your area that is not on our list, please do let us know so we can add it to this valuable resource!
Getting our pets spayed and neutered is a vital tool in combatting pet overpopulation and animal suffering. In addition to adopting a pet, having your companion sterilized is an important contribution to the welfare of dogs in your community.
In addition to having a widespread impact, sterilization offers several behavioral and health benefits for your dog. It is an all around great choice for you and your pet!