You recently brought home a wonderful female puppy, and now you need to bring her to a veterinarian for spay surgery. What will happen during the procedure? How long will your puppy be gone? And most importantly, will she feel pain?
We’ve enlisted several animal welfare organizations — including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Veterinary Medical Association — to answer all the questions you may have about this important procedure. For additional information, please talk to your veterinarian. (If you have a male dog, click here for information on neutering.)
When should I spay my female dog?
- Before her first heat cycle at 4 to 6 months of age, however dogs of any age can be surgically altered. Some veterinarians perform juvenile or early-age spa between 8 to 16 weeks of age. Read more about that here.
What are the benefits of spaying my dog?
- Helps prevent unwanted litters.
- Decreases your dog’s chance of developing mammary cancer, which is fatal in 50 percent of cases.
- Eliminates the chances of other reproductive cancers and deadly uterine infections.
- Eliminates messy heat cycles and associated negative behaviors such as yowling, anxiety and urination in unacceptable places.
What happens during the surgery?
- Your veterinarian sedates your dog and puts her under general anesthesia.
- The attending staff monitors your dog’s breathing and heart rate.
- The surgeon makes a small incision in your dog’s belly area and removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.
- The veterinarian closes the incision with surgical glue or sutures.
Is the surgery painful?
- Your dog feels no pain while under general anesthesia during and immediately following the procedure.
- Talk to your veterinarian about pain medication for post-operative discomfort.
Are there any risks associated with spay surgery?
- While spay surgery can be considered major surgery because it involves entering the abdomen, veterinarians consider the procedure very safe and even routine.
- Your veterinarian takes many precautions to ensure your dog’s safety during the procedure.
- Pre-anesthesia blood work assesses your dog’s liver and kidney function because these organs break down and remove anesthesia from the body after surgery.
Is it expensive to spay your dog?
- Many veterinarians offer spay services as part of a puppy vaccination package.
- Some offer a spay day with reduced fees for those who demonstrate need.
- Many shelters and humane organizations provide spay vouchers or other funding to those in need.
When can my dog come home?
- Many vets will keep dogs for an overnight stay but some may go home the same day.
- If you need to work and can’t stay with your dog when she gets home, ask your veterinarian about an extended stay for observation.
How can I help my dog once she comes home?
- Keep her quiet and restrict unnecessary activity.
- Prevent excessive licking of the incision.
- Monitor food and water intake according to your veterinarian’s instructions.
What symptoms should prompt me to call my veterinarian?
- A reopened incision.
- Abnormal swelling of the incision area (some swelling is normal).
- Dark red or purple discoloration.
- Bloody or thick discharge from the incision.
- Foul odors from the incision area, which could indicate an infection.
- Continued lethargy or if your dog doesn’t seem to get better after a few days.
When can my dog resume normal activity?
- Most dogs are awake and alert soon after surgery.
- Some will eat the same day as surgery.
- Most resume normal activity within 3 days.
Spay and neuter surgery is an important part of responsible pet ownership, and an investment in your dogs long-term health. Have additional questions? Talk to your veterinarian today.