"Neuter" means literally, neither masculine nor feminine, and when applied to an animal indicates that he or she cannot reproduce. This is usually achieved through surgery which makes the gender of the animal "neutral". Spay, by definition, is the surgical removal of the ovaries and reproductive tract. The scientific term is "ovariohysterectomy" or OVH. Castrate is used to describe the surgical removal of the testicles, though also describes removal of the ovaries. The most common usage of these terms is that "spay" applies to females and "neuter" to males.
When should my puppy be spayed or neutered?
The safest age to neuter your puppy is at six months. This is usually just prior to the onset of puberty, (including first heat for females which occurs on average at 6 to 9 months) and if the surgery is done at this time, you can greatly reduce risk of health problems later in the dogs' life. Having the surgery done earlier than six months is not necessary, but is being done at some facilities. Discuss the safety of the procedure with your vet if early surgery has been recommended for your pet.
Why should my puppy be spayed or neutered?
In female dogs, spaying prevents uterine infections (pyometra), false pregnancy, ovarian tumors, uterine tumors and unwanted pregnancy. It also reduces risk of mammary tumors and vaginal tumors. A common misconception is that a female should have at least one litter prior to being spayed. This is absolutely false; she will not miss out on motherhood. Instead, she will be at increased risk of the previously mentioned health problems after just one litter. And then you have puppies that need loving homes!
In males, neutering reduces risk of prostate cancer and prevents testicular tumors. Many behavior problems in males can be reduced including roaming tendencies, fighting, inappropriate urination, aggression and other destructive behaviors. Remember that puppies can be destructive due to their curious, rambunctious nature. Maturity, proper training, and neutering combined make for a wonderful adult pet dog.
But it is so expensive!
Your overall vet bills will be lower after neutering because intact males can injure themselves trying to get to a female in heat. Then you are dealing with property damage (yours and your neighbor's) personal damage (you can be sued) and a lot of headaches! Especially if he impregnates a purebred female that was supposed to have been bred to another dog. Conversely, your female can wind up pregnant from an unknown, roaming male. An intact male will also be more likely to get into fights with other males, and (depending on the breed and size) either your dog will be severely injured, (vet bills!) or their dog will be (more vet bills!). You are also in violation of leash laws when your dog escapes your yard, and that could mean a fine payable to the city or county you reside in. He could also be hit by a car (vet bills) or "adopted" by a well-intentioned family. At best, he will wind up at your local shelter or pound where you will pay a fine to bail him out. Contact your veterinarian to find out prices for neutering. All things considered, surgery is far less costly financially and medically!
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