Should I Neuter Or Spay My Dog?

Here's why it's so important 💕

what does it mean to neuter a dog

“Should I spay or neuter my dog?”

Quick answer: Yes, you should.

Many dog parents ask this question when they first bring home their puppy, and while it can be scary to think about your newest family member going through surgery, it’s important to understand the benefits that fixing your dog brings and why you should do it.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in New York City, and Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian consultant at Dog Lab, to find out more about spaying or neutering your dog.

What do spay and neuter mean?

Before diving into the many benefits of spaying or neutering your dog, it’s important to know the pretty big difference between the two: Spaying is for females, and neutering is for males.

So why are these procedures so important? Spaying and neutering are surgical sterilization procedures that stop your dog from reproducing — which helps to reduce dog overpopulation — and they can also add years to your dog’s life.

Benefits of spaying or neutering a dog

There are tons of benefits of getting your dog fixed. Some of the most common ones include:

It can save your dog’s life

“Spaying prevents pyometra, a common, life-threatening uterus infection of unspayed female dogs,” Dr. Hohenhaus told The Dodo.

According to Dr. Hohenhaus, by the age of 10, approximately 25 percent of female dogs will have developed pyometra, so spaying can save your dog a lot of pain as she ages.

Spaying your female dog also virtually eliminates the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer and reduces the risk of breast cancer, while neutering your male dog eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, Dr. Hohenhaus said.

It reduces bad behavior

Unneutered dogs are more prone to aggression or other dominance-related behaviors. Since their urge to display dominance is much stronger than that of neutered dogs, an unneutered dog is more likely to mount other dogs and bark excessively.

Neutering your male dog can also lower the risk of your pet escaping, as some male dogs will do almost anything (including running away) to find a female in heat.

It can help other animals

It’s no secret that dog overpopulation is a huge problem. By getting your dog spayed or neutered, you’re helping to fix this issue and get more shelter dogs into loving homes.

One of the reasons being a dog parent is so special is because it gives you a love for the dog community as a whole, and getting your dog fixed allows you to do your part in helping that community.

What's the ideal age to spay or neuter your dog?

The most common age to spay or neuter your dog is around 6 months of age. Many different factors can influence when you should spay and neuter your dog. For example, large- to giant-breed dogs tend to mature later in life, so some people will wait until their dog is a few months older before spaying and neutering.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has recently changed its stance on when you should spay or neuter your dog and recommends different ages for different sized dogs.

Recommended ages for neutering your dog:

Dogs under 45 pounds: 6 months of age

Neutering your small dog before 6 months of age decreases the risk of breast cancer (yes, male dogs can get breast cancer, too)!

Dogs over 50 pounds: Once growth stops (which is around 9–15 months of age)

Neutering your large dog once his growth stops decreases the risk of breast cancer.

Recommended ages for spaying your dog:

Dogs under 45 pounds: Prior to anticipated heat cycle (which is around 5–6 months of age)

Many veterinarians will advise that you spay your dog before her first heat cycle, which can be anywhere between 5 and 10 months. “The reason that your veterinarian advises that your female dog be spayed before their first cycle is to reduce their risk of developing mammary cancer,” Dr. Ochoa told The Dodo. “By spaying your dog early, you will decrease your chance of mammary cancer by about 90 percent.”

Dogs over 50 pounds: Once growth stops (which is around 5–15 months of age)

Some vets will advise that you wait until your larger dog is 5 to 15 months old before spaying her. “Waiting until after their first heat cycle but before their second will still have a decrease in the risk of mammary cancer and will also decrease the risk of cancer, bone, ligament and joint problems,” Dr. Ochoa said. “It may also decrease the risk of urinary incontinence. All of these are common problems seen in larger breed dogs.”

How old is too old to spay or neuter a dog?

There is never a dog who’s too old to be spayed or neutered.

“Dogs who are not spayed or neutered may develop health issues requiring them to be spayed or neutered later in life,” Dr. Ochoa said. “It is always best to have your dog spayed or neutered no matter their age.”

Are there ever times when your dog shouldn't get fixed?

When it comes to getting your dog spayed or neutered, Dr. Ochoa said there’s only a rare instance when undergoing surgery would not be advised.

“The only issue where I recommend not spaying or neutering your dog is if they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and would not survive anesthesia,” Dr. Ochoa said.

Being a responsible dog owner means that you take the time to make the best choice for you, your dog and the community. If you have any questions about getting your dog spayed or neutered, be sure to contact your veterinarian.