All About Spaying and Neutering a Puppy

illustration of why to spay or neuter puppies

The Spruce / Melissa Ling

Spaying or neutering puppies is the responsible way to care for your pet and it's important to know when to do it. Female pups mature more quickly than you may think. They can become pregnant as early as 5 or 6 months old and most dogs can produce two litters a year.

Spaying and Neutering

The words altering, sterilizing, and neutering all refer to surgery performed by a veterinarian that removes the reproductive organs of either a male or female animal, making them unable to reproduce. Castration removes a male dog’s testicles. An ovariohysterectomy, or spay, removes the female dog’s ovaries and uterus.

Why Spay and Neuter

Surgery prevents unwanted litters and can also help drastically reduce chances of mammary cancer or testicular cancer. Newer studies also indicate sterilized dogs live an average of a year and a half longer than intact dogs.

Spaying and neutering can also eliminate obnoxious and sometimes dangerous romantic behavior such as roaming, fighting, excessive urine marking, and mounting visitor’s legs. For intact male dogs, they are twice as likely to get hit by a car then neutered males which is a big deal as hit by car injuries can be fatal and very serious for pets. The surgeries also help prevent aggressive behavior, fight wounds, messy canine vaginal discharges, and dangerous uterine infections like pyometra. If you are concerned about sterilizing your dog, speak with your veterinarian.

Personality Changes

Spayed and neutered pets are just as affectionate, protective, and trainable as unaltered cats and dogs—perhaps more so because they aren’t distracted when love is in the air. Some studies show that desexing is associated with an increased risk of obesity in dogs of both sexes.  So comparably, pet's that are spayed or neutered are fed slightly less than pet's that are intact because of reduced caloric need. Your veterinarian can help you come up with the right amount to feed your pet. In general, personality changes are not commonly seen in spayed or neutered pets and they continue to be just as playful, protective, loyal, and smart whether they can reproduce or not.

The Best Age for Surgery

Historically, dogs and cats were spayed and neutered at very young ages even as young as 6 to 8 weeks of age. This was to help with pet overpopulation as well as the genuinely speedy recovery in pet's at that age.

However, recent evidence suggests that waiting longer in our dogs is beneficial. At this time, many veterinarians will spay or neuter small or medium sized dogs at about 6 months of age and wait to spay or neuter large breed dogs until somewhere between 10 to 18 months of age.

Our best recommendation is to listen to your veterinarians advice on this as the evidence and recommendations vary and are always changing. Delaying for a couple of months may allow the pup to attain better physical development which can be important for the demands of competition.

The Surgery

Puppies are completely anesthetized during the surgery and won't feel any discomfort. The anesthetics are often injected and inhaled but will depend on the pet and the veterinarian. Anesthetic monitoring of the heart rate, breathing and oxygenation is performed but varies depending on the location and type of facility your pet is at as well as hospital protocol.

Female pups will have an abdominal incision for the spay surgery. For males, the surgical incision is made just in front of the scrotal sac or right over the scrotal sac depending on the method preferred by the veterinarian. If one or both testicles have not yet dropped into the scrotum, an abdominal incision may be necessary.

Home Care After Surgery

Pets often act a bit woozy until the anesthesia wears off. Most pet's go home the same day and are up and walking within hours. Limit your pet’s activity for a the 2 week period following the surgery which means no running or jumping or walks. Most vet clinics advise only allowing quick short potty breaks on a leash for dogs that are within the two week post operative period but check with your vet.

It is very important to not allow your pet to lick the incisions as even a few minutes of licking can cause infection or opening up of the incision which may mean your pet will have to go back to surgery to have it fixed. An elizabethan collar or cone should help prevent that as recommended by your veterinarian

Every day after surgery, check the surgery site for swelling, redness, oozing or pulled stitches. These problems are rare but can occur if pets are too active during the two week post operative period or lick and chew on their incisions.

Spays and neuters are a very common surgery and recommended by veterinarians to help prevent mammary and testicular cancer, male dogs being hit by cars in pursuit of females, pyometra (severe, deadly infection of the uterus), pet overpopulation and so much more. In some cases, there may be a medical reason to delay the surgery so talk to your vet, but otherwise sterilizing is recommended by majority of veterinarians for the average pet dog.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

Watch Now: All You Need to Know about Puppies

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jessica M Hoffman, Dan G O’Neill, Kate E Creevy, Steven N Austad. Do Female Dogs Age Differently Than Male DogsThe Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 73, Issue 2, February 2018, Pages 150–156, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx061

  2. Urfer, Silvan R, and Matt Kaeberlein. Desexing Dogs: A Review of the Current LiteratureAnimals : an open access journal from MDPI vol. 9,12 1086. 5 Dec. 2019, doi:10.3390/ani9121086

  3. Spaying and neutering. American Veterinary Medical Association