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One of the most important things you need to make sure you do when you get your new dog is the have them spayed or neutered.
Not only can spaying and neutering help any behavioral problems your dog might have, but it also helps lower the ever-growing stray dog problem in the US.
Having unwanted puppies really does no one a favor. So, if you ever want your dog to be able to enjoy some free time off leash, spaying or neutering him is crucial.
As a responsible dog owner, it’s not only important to understand the importance of fixing your dog, especially for male dogs. Equally important is it to have the knowledge about what’s the best time to spay or neuter your dog
Getting it done too early or too late can have negative consequences for your pup.
Here’s a short summary: When it comes to neutering and spaying dogs, there are many different opinions. Most experts agree that the best time to spay or neuter your dog is after his or her growth plates are fully closed. This reduces the risk of joint issues later in your dog’s life that might be caused because of a delayed growth cycle. For most dogs this happens between about 10 and 18 months.
Spaying and Neutering
Before we get into the best age to spay or neuter your dog, let’s first talk about what spaying and neutering actually are.
What’s the Difference Between Spaying and Neutering a Dog?
In very short terms, neutering is for boy dogs and spaying is for girl dogs.
In more specific terms, neutering your dog involves removing his testicles. This is done through an incision that is made in front of the scrotal sac. Once the testicles are removed, this both sterilizes your dog, and stops the male hormones that the testicles produce. More on that later!
As for spaying, a female dog’s ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes are all surgically removed. Like neutering for male dogs, this stops your dog from being able to reproduce, and also ceases her heat-cycle.
In either case, your dog will be under anesthesia for the surgery. Some dogs will be able to go home right away, but others might need to stay at the clinic overnight.
If you want to learn more about the process, here’s a video on how the patient – aka your dog – would be prepared for surgery:
Should I Neuter My Male Dog?
While some people do choose not to neuter their dogs, also called leaving them “intact,” most vets will recommend that you do in fact neuter your dog.
When your dog is neutered, behavioral problems caused by the production of male hormones in your dog’s testicles will subside.
One such behavior might be your dog’s eagerness to escape your home. His hormones are telling him to go out and find a mate, which might lead him to try and break free of your yard. Another possible behavior is aggression towards other male dogs, as he might want to get to a female. Neutering him will get rid of this instinct, or significantly reduce it.
Note that this doesn’t have to be but the chance that he’s showing these behaviors is bigger for intact dogs.
It will also help combat the overpopulation of pets in shelters, and has some pretty major health benefits. For example, you won’t have to worry about testicular cancer, a common occurrence in dogs.
Should I Spay My Female Dog?
Like neutering a male dog, spaying your female dog does have several benefits. One benefit is that it virtually removes the chances of your dog getting pyometra. This is a common and can be a dangerous and potentially life-threatening infection of your dog’s uterus.
Spaying helps reduce the risk of other illnesses like uterine, ovarian, and cervical tumors, as well as mammary tumors.
As with any kind of surgery, there are risks involved. It can increase the risk of hypothyroidism and, if done too early, the chances of osteosarcoma.
That said, spaying or neutering your dog is an important element of pet ownership.
What Is the Best Age to Neuter or Spay a Dog?
Now that we’ve discussed what exactly spaying and neutering are, it’s important to understand the best age to have your dog spayed or neutered.
When Should I Neuter My Male Dog?
When it comes to the right age to neuter your dog, you can be pretty sure you’ll find some conflicting answers. A male dog can be neutered once he’s eight weeks old, but that doesn’t mean you should schedule his neuter for the day he turns eight weeks.
Although the male hormones in your intact dog can cause behavioral problems, they are also essential for a lot of your dog’s growth. Exercising your puppy too much before his growth plates are closed can negatively impact his bone growth, and so can neutering him too early.
The growth plates in different parts of your dog’s body will close at different times.
It can also vary from breed to breed. Let your vet know that you’d like to wait until your dog’s growth plates are closed before you have him neutered, and they will be able to help determine when the right time is for your dog.
Another thing to consider that my vet brought to my attention is that it’s possible that your dog’s “mental state” might remain the way it was when he was neutered. That means that if you neuter him before he’s fully grown up, he might remain a bit of a puppy all throughout his life.
Now, if your dog is anything like my Mini Poodle Baloo, you’ll want to avoid that at all cost. He was so nervous and hyper as a puppy and I definitely had zero interest in keeping him that way. In fact, I was looking forward to calmer days 😉
So, I actually only got him neutered at about 2 years old. Since he didn’t seem to have any sexual drive at all, waiting wasn’t an issue.
When Should I Spay My Female Dog?
Just like with male dogs, it’s best to discuss your spaying options with your vet.
Female dogs can also be spayed at around 8 weeks of age, and some experts recommend spaying your dog before she has her first heat cycle. This can occur between 6 and 7 months of age. On the other hand, however, spaying too early can also cause health problems in your female dog.
It’s also still important to keep your female dog’s growth plates in mind. Spaying too early, like neutering too early, can negatively affect your dog’s growth plates and lead to delayed closure.
You should have an honest conversation about all of this with your vet, who will be able to help you determine when the best time to spay your dog is.
Speaking of vet: have you ever thought about getting pet insurance for your dog? No? Then check out my article on the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?“. Or go straight to PetAssure for a cheap alternative to get 25% off each vet visit!
What Happens If You Neuter a Dog Too Early?
Even though neutering or spaying your dog does have several healthy benefits, doing it too early can actually be detrimental to your dog.
For one, your dog will experience delayed growth because of his growth plates if he’s neutered too early. This can lead to further problems down the line like hip dysplasia.
Neutering too early might also increase his risk of cancer like osteosarcoma and lymphosarcoma.
Your dog’s breed might also have something to do with his risk of getting certain diseases or illnesses if he’s neutered too early.
This is why, while neutering and spaying your dog is important, it’s almost as important to know when to do it. Always discuss your options and concerns with your vet before scheduling your dog’s neuter.
Behavior Changes After Neutering or Spaying
Now let’s look at some possible behavior changes next. After all, spaying and neutering stops the production of certain of your dog’s hormones. So, behavioral changes can in fact occur.
Do Male Dogs Change After Being Neutered?
While every dog is different, and neutering affects individual dogs in different ways, overall you are likely to see some changes in your dog’s behavior after he’s neutered.
Also understand that the only changes in your dog’s behavior are going to be those that came from his male hormones. Your dog will still have the same personality!
Once he’s neutered, you might find that your dog is calmer. If he’s been prone to roaming or attempting to break out of your yard, that behavior will probably cease.
You might also see lowered aggression, and less urine marking indoors.
Does Neutering a Dog Calm Them Down?
The answer to this question is a little more complicated than just a simple yes or no!
Your dog’s energy levels mostly have to do with his breed, age, and personality. Some dogs just tend to be more energetic than others. But to a certain extent, neutering your dog might calm some behaviors. That’s especially true if your dog loves to hump…
The sex hormones in intact dogs might encourage them to seek out a mate. This can make them restless. By neutering or spaying your dog, you’re removing these hormones and, therefore, the urges.
If wanting to mate was the only thing making your dog energetic, then yes, neutering him will calm him down!
But a lot of your dog’s curiosity, exuberance and energy comes from his own personality. So don’t expect an entirely different dog when you pick him up from the vet.
If your pup has a little too much energy in general, I highly recommend to download my free guide for a calm dog which teaches you the 3 things that helped me get Baloo from being super hyper to a calm and relaxed dog.
Do Female Dogs Change After Being Spayed?
As with male dogs, your female dog won’t come home with a completely different personality after spaying, but you might notice some changes in her once she’s home again.
Female dogs that are intact might experience problems with aggression, a tendency to want to break out the yard and roam, urinating frequently (including indoors!) and hormonal changes during her heat cycle.
Once your dog is spayed, you’ll notice these behaviors disappear, since they were all caused by your dog’s sex hormones.
When it comes to having a pet, neutering and spaying is important. Done properly, it helps decrease the risks of many health problems, helps behavioral issues, and also helps decrease the overpopulation of pets.
Like any kind of surgery or medical procedure, however, there are always risks involved. That’s why it’s important that you understand what exactly a spay or neuter is, and the risks that are involved.
You should also understand at what age you should have your dog spayed or neutered, and the changes you might see in your dog afterwards.
Before scheduling your dog’s procedure, make sure to discuss with your vet your options, and any concerns that you might have. Be open and honest in order to make sure you’re making the right decision for you and your dog.
P.S. Don’t forget to take a look at my other articles comparing pet insurances to get the best fit for you and your pup: