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Spaying or Neutering Your Dog FAQ

WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about spaying or neutering your dog.
By Sandy Eckstein
WebMD Pet Health Feature

An estimated 5 million to 8 million animals are euthanized in shelters across this country every year. Many organizations are trying to decrease that number by opening low-cost spay/neuter clinics to prevent more litters of puppies needing homes. One such organization is LifeLine Animal Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit shelter and clinic that has performed more than 25,000 spay/neuters since 2005. WebMD talked to executive director Rebecca Guinn to learn about the myths and facts surrounding spaying and neutering.

 

Q: Why should I have my dog spayed or neutered?

A: Shelter euthanasia is the number one killer of companion animals. Spaying and neutering is the only way to reduce or eliminate that.

It’s also better for your pet’s health. And it’s better for you because it will make your life easier if your pet is spayed or neutered. Animals can be miserable -- and make you miserable -- when they are in heat. And then there’s always the problem of what to do with the puppies.

There’s also the financial side. Just in the Atlanta area alone, more than $15 million is spent annually dealing with stray and unwanted pets. That’s your tax dollars.

 

Q: Shouldn’t I let my dog have a litter before I spay her?

A: No. Absolutely not. All the medical evidence suggests a dog should be spayed before her first heat. It’s much easier for her then because it’s a much easier surgery at that time.

And the problem with letting your dog have a litter is you’ve just instantly contributed to the pet overpopulation problem. Now you have to find homes for all those puppies. And for each home you find, there’s one less home for a dog that was already born. Plus, you can’t be responsible for what the new owners do. So unless you spay or neuter all the puppies before placing them, the new owners may let their dog breed as well. Now you’ve added even more dogs to the pet overpopulation problem.

The only responsible thing to do, given the problem in this country, is to not allow your pets to reproduce.

Some people say they want their children to witness birth. OK, you can still do that. There are plenty of rescue groups out there trying to help animals that have been abandoned by irresponsible pet owners. Many have pregnant animals. Volunteer to foster a pregnant dog. You’ll be helping the group as well as the dog, and you’ll give your children a chance to see a litter being born and raised.

 

Q: Should I let my dog have a heat before I spay her?

A: Medically, it’s better to spay your dog before her first heat. It greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors. People who wait to spay their dogs until after their second heat greatly increase the risk of mammary tumors in their pets. Once they’ve had several heats, intact female dogs have a one out of four chance of developing mammary tumors.

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