Family Planning for your Dog

There comes a time in the life of every dog owner when they have to decide whether their pet is going to be a parent or not. Left to their own devices, dogs will make up their own minds, usually before you have even noticed the small hole in the fence.

Dogs will spend most of their time and energy out on the town, looking for love. And given half a chance, they’ll mate at every opportunity. If a litter of 1 to 12 pups arrives almost every six months that a lot of extra mouths to feed.

For the welfare of your dog and for your peace of mind, you’ll need to give careful though to the question of neutering. Your doggy Don Juan won’t be slow in the search for love, so don’t put off thinking about if for too long.

What is Neutering?
The neutering operation itself is an extremely safe procedure, done under general anesthetic, to remove the dog’s reproductive organs. These organs produce the sex hormones: testosterone in males, estrogen in females. The dog’s instinct to mate is driven by these chemicals, which also make it possible to breed. In the neutering procedure, males have their testicles surgically removed from the scrotum. With females, the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries are taken out.

After the operation, your dog’s dating days will be over. And in four to six weeks, he’ll have lost all desire to mate. There’ll be no more yard breakouts to find a friend. Your female dog will never again turn into a whining, pacing she-dog in heat. Imagine it. After six weeks, broken fences, nights of broken sleep, not to mention broken dog hearts, will all be a thing of the past.

When to Get It Done:
Dogs are usually neutered when about six months old. Female dogs are best spayed before their first heat, or estrus, cycle, which happens at around six months. Doing the operation before she goes into heat for the first time prevents estrogen from stimulating her mammary tissues, says Jay Geasling, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Buffalo, and president of the American Animal Hospital Association. This reduces the likelihood of her getting mammary tumors when she gets older.

Male dogs are neutered between six months and one year of age. “Neutering at this age is a tradition in veterinary medicine that began some time ago,” says Dr. Geasling. “Ultimately, a dog owner should have a dog neutered at the age that their individual vet recommends. And that is usually around six months.”
It’s never too late for your dog to be neutered. If your more mature dog hasn’t had the operation yet, there’s no reason why he can’t now. However, the younger the dog, the better his chances of avoiding complications.

The Cost:
The cost of neutering varies, depending on where you live. It also varies according to the size of the dog – basically, larger dogs cost more. Neutering a male dog can cost between $65 and $125. Vets will charge slightly more to spay a female, usually about $85 to $160, since the surgery is more involved than for a male. Altering elderly dogs or dogs with health problems may also cost a little more, as they tend to need a few diagnostic tests. These will ensure that the surgery goes smoothly, and provide your dog with the best surgical care for his condition.

Neutering is a lifelong investment. It will help your dog stay happy and healthy… and it’s hard to put a price on that.

Does It Hurt?
Neutering involves an operation – needles, an anesthetic and an overnight stay at the dog hospital. It’s not going to be one of his favorite experiences, but your vet will be taking all the care in the world and your pet will be quite okay.

He will experience very little discomfort with the surgery, says Mary Beth Leininger, D.V.N., president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He’ll be under anesthesia, so the operation itself will be painless. There are few risks, adds Allan Paul, D.V.M., small animal extension veterinarian at the University Of Illinois College Of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana. Many recent improvements in surgery on animals and anesthesia mean the neutering is routine and extremely safe, he explains.

Your dog may feel a little tender until the wound heals. This is a normal part of the recovery process and it won’t last long. Your vet can give him something to help with any pain.