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A Checklist for Getting Your Puppy Spayed or Neutered

If you've noticed a new and heightened interest from male puppies in your female puppy, it is probably time to make that most important vet appointment to get her spayed. Though your pup may not be exhibiting signs of being near her first heat, other dogs can smell the change in her hormones prior to it.

The general consensus nowadays in the veterinary world is that female dogs should be spayed before their first heat which is sometime between six and eight months old.

Spaying is more complicated than neutering but, besides providing permanent birth control, it offers many benefits. It prevents Pyometra which can be a fatal uterus infection. It also decreases the risk of breast cancer, especially if performed before the first heat. Your female will be calmer if spayed and less aggressive. To make the procedure easier on you both, there are a few things you can do.

Pre-Surgery Checklist

  1. Follow any instructions your vet gives you.

  2. Go to your pre-surgical exam. Here the vet can answer any of your questions and help you feel better about the surgery. She will also do blood tests and a general exam.

  3. Help your dog stay calm. Prior to the spay appointment, give your puppy a massage and lots of calm loving. Try not to let any qualms you might have create an anxious atmosphere. The calmer you are, the calmer your puppy will be.

  4. Some vets will let you come back with your puppy while she gets a muscle-relaxer and a short-acting barbiturate. If not, don't worry. Your pup will be out like a light very quickly.

  5. Research the procedure. If you're someone who does better with information, find out ahead of time what your vet will be doing. If you don't want to picture the surgery as it's going on, remain blissfully unaware.

Post-Surgery Checklist

  1. Again, follow all instructions your vet gives you.

  2. Keep in mind that the two to three days after spaying are the most crucial.

  3. Keep exercise to a minimum.

  4. Help the sutures heal. While many vets use dissolving sutures, whatever type of sutures you have, make certain your puppy cannot get at them. This may mean using an E-Collar. Keep the sutures dry for at least two weeks.

  5. Watch the sutures. Some swelling and redness is normal but at any sign of infection you should call your vet.

  6. Watch for signs of illness. Spaying is a routine procedure and most puppies do not suffer from it. However, if your pup becomes lethargic, has a loss of appetite or fails to go to the bathroom, call your vet immediately.

A great tagline for a spay and neuter campaign is "Don't Litter!" It reminds us that so many puppies do not find homes and end up rejected in shelters. Even if you think you can find homes for any puppies your dog has, it's taking a chance and pulling people away from adoption. If you don't spay, you'll also potentially have other problems such as more dissension among your puppy and other pets at home or pets outside of the home.

With the many benefits of spaying, it's a good choice for any dog owner. And you won't have to worry about the hound next door howling at your window for Juliet to come out and play.

And as for neutering, here's the skinny:

Neutering is a process in which a male puppy's testicles are removed, and now, around your pup's 32nd week, is the time many vets recommend for the surgery. Besides acting as 100% effective birth control just as spaying does, there are many benefits to you and your puppy. You will have a less aggressive puppy with neutering and one who is more able to focus when training. You'll also have a puppy who is less likely to roam and mark his territory. Your puppy benefits from an elimination of the risk of testicular cancer, a lower risk of prostate enlargement and possibly a longer lifespan.

Signs that it's time to neuter include an obvious rise in hormones. This is seen in increased marking, increased aggression, increased roaming, and increased frenzied behavior (as we covered previously). Ideally, you will neuter before these signs are evident but the exact age for this in every puppy varies.

The Pre-Surgery Checklist

  1. If neutering at the vet is too expensive, contact your local shelters for low-cost programs.

  2. Follow any instructions the vet gives you.

  3. Go to your pre-surgical exam. Your vet can reassure you about the procedure which is considered extremely safe. Neutering takes much less time than spaying and has fewer stitches.

  4. Again, help your puppy stay calm. Time for massages and using that low, calm voice you have to sooth your pup.

  5. Feel free to call the vet's office before the surgery if any other questions or qualms come up.

The Post-Surgery Checklist

  1. Get your puppy as soon as you can after surgery. The procedure is not invasive and your vet will usually let you pup go a few hours afterward.

  2. Again, follow all instructions your vet gives you.

  3. The day after surgery, let your vet's office know how your puppy is doing.

  4. Keep exercise to a minimum.

  5. Keep on eye on the sutures. Some swelling and redness is normal but at any sign of infection you should call your vet. It take several weeks for your pup to be completely healed from the procedure.

  6. Give your puppy lots of attention. Play gently with him and treat him more often that usual. Make sure he has a good, soft bed to lie in and keep him from jumping on the furniture.

Neutering also makes it easier to have dog breeds that sadly get thrown into the "dangerous dog" category, such as Pit Bulls or Rotties. And, considering the benefits, unless you're a reputable breeder planning on breeding your puppy later, it's the best decision for him and you.

Your puppy won't be self-conscious about it, but if you're a machismo person, you can always consider the trend of the early 1990's and give him Neuticles (fake testicles - yes, they exist!).

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Puppies Eat Less When They are Teething

When my dog was teething his appetite decreased quite a bit. Our vet recommended adding water to his food to soften it up, which worked great. He did not recommend that we do that all the time because the hard food helps their dental hygiene. That worked for us! Ice cubes and toys in the freezer also helped (i.e. water down a rope toy and freeze).

~TALIE D., owner of Labrador Retriever

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