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Spaying and neutering guide for dogs

Kim Staples
Written by  Kim Staples
Saarrah Mussa
Reviewed by  Saarrah Mussa
5 min read
Updated: 10 Apr 2024

Neutering or spaying, also known as fixing or sterilising, means getting your dog surgery to stop them from being able to breed. This guide will take a quick look at what that entails, and what the pros and cons are – and how it can affect your pet insurance.

What do spaying and neutering mean?

In male dogs, neutering means castration. The operation involves removing the dog’s testes.

In female dogs, neutering or spaying usually means either an ovariectomy (OVE), which removes the dog’s ovaries; or an ovariohysterectomy (OVH), which removes both her ovaries and uterus.

In both cases, it’s a short and very standard and common procedure. Your dog will be put under anaesthetic for the surgery, but rarely needs to be at the vet for more than a few hours. It’s normally fine for them to head back home the same day as the operation.

Should I get my dog neutered or spayed?

Choosing whether to get your dog neutered is a personal decision for you and your dog. The best thing to do is to talk to your vet, and fully understand what the benefits and risks of neutering would be in your dog’s case – these can vary depending on the breed, size, health, pre-existing conditions, temperament, and so on.

Generally, neutering and spaying are very common procedures and are considered quite safe. Many people choose to have their dog neutered to fully avoid the risk of pregnancy, and to reduce the risk of developing certain health problems.

Benefits of neutering and spaying dogs

In both male and female dogs, neutering comes with a few clear benefits.

Benefits of neutering a male dog

  • The only way to fully avoid a chance of breeding

  • Has some associated health benefits – e.g. it can reduce the risk of testicular cancer, prostate diseases, and hernias

  • Can have behavioural benefits, such as lower, aggression, and less mounting or marking territory

Benefits of spaying a female dog

  • The only way to fully avoid a chance of pregnancy

  • Can reduces the risk of some health problems, such as breast cancer, womb infection, and ovarian cancer

  • Stops the dog from having seasons

  • Eliminates the risk of the dog having phantom pregnancies

What are the risks of neutering and spaying dogs?

Neutering also comes with some risks. It’s worth weighing these up and talking to your vet, and remembering that sterilising your dog is permanent and can’t be reversed.

Risks associated with neutering a male dog

  • Some associated health risks, especially for some breeds, such as back issues in dachshunds and cancer in some retrievers

  • Not a guaranteed ‘fix’ for behavioural issues, and in some cases can make them worse

  • Can cause weight gain and changes to the dog’s coat

Risks associated with spaying a female dog

  • Some associated health risks, especially for some breeds

  • Can cause urinary incontinence

  • Can cause weight gain and changes to the dog’s coat

When should you spay or neuter a dog?

It’s best to get your vet’s opinion here, as the answer can vary depending on the dog. Most are neutered or spayed between the ages of six months and two years.

There’s no clear answer to this question anyway, as there’s currently some debate over when the best time to neuter a puppy is. There isn’t really considered enough evidence to definitively say one time or another.

The ‘best time’ will also depend on things like your dog’s breed and its state of health – early neutering has been associated with health issues in some breeds.

Some vets also recommend waiting to spay a female dog until after she’s had her first season, while others don’t feel it’s necessary. Again, it can depend on the dog and the breed.

How do I get my dog neutered or spayed?

Talk to your vet if you want to get your dog neutered. They will be the ones to perform the procedure at their clinic, so they’ll be able to talk through the options, book the surgery, and advise you on how to prepare your dog for the operation and help them recover.

How much does it cost to get a dog neutered?

The Kennel Club says spaying or neutering can cost between £100 and £400. The Royal Veterinary College says it charges between £240 and £360. So you’re looking at a few hundred pounds.

Spaying a female dog is generally more expensive than neutering a male one, because it’s a most complicated procedure that can take longer.

Costs can also rise for bigger dogs, mainly because they need more anaesthetic and because the operation can take longer.

You may, of course, also find that you need to pay more if there are any complications to be dealt with, such as an undescended testicle.

If you want to neuter your dog but the cost is just too high, financial assistance may be available. You can contact animal welfare charities such as the Blue Cross, PDSA, RSPCA, and local animal charities. Or, talk to your vet, as the clinic may have relationships with charities and financial assistance programmes in place already.

Does pet insurance cover neutering or spaying?

Generally, no. Neutering and spaying are considered preventative measures, so they’re not usually covered by pet insurance.

However, if complications arise from the surgery, many plans do cover those costs. See our full guide for more info: Does pet insurance cover neutering?

It’s also worth noting that having a neutered pet can lead to lower premiums on your pet insurance, as it makes your dog lower risk. So you may save money on your insurance in the long run.

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