What to Expect When Neutering Your Dog (And How to Get It Done Cheaply)

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Your dog may need an Elizabethan collar after surgery. (By: tonyaustin)

If you are not planning to breed your pet or put them to stud service, or your dog’s breeding days are over, you will want to neuter them. There are a number of health benefits associated with neutering, for either sex.

Technically, the general term for either sex is neutering; males are castrated and females are spayed. However, general usage is that males are neutered and females are spayed or neutered.

Neutering is not a solution to behavioral problems — training is.

However, with some dogs it can alleviate some factors that make it more difficult to train. But you cannot expect to neuter your dog and have them turn into an angel without any work.

Tip: Let your dog eliminate before taking them to the veterinarian and again after getting them back. Many dogs, especially crate-trained dogs, will not eliminate in the vet’s kennels during their stay.


Male dogs are castrated. A general anesthetic is administered, the testicles are removed (oriectomy), and several stitches are used to close it up. The scrotum will shrink and soon disappear after castration.

You will want to neuter him around 6 months of age, although dogs can be neutered at any time after this. For example, stud dogs are typically neutered after they are too old to breed, and they suffer no ill effects.

Some clinics may use a local anesthetic instead.


Female dogs are spayed; this is an ovario-hysterectomy (uterus and ovaries are removed). She must be put under general anesthesia. A large patch of fur will be shaved (to prevent later irritation of the incision) off the lower abdomen. You may have to take her back in to remove the stitches.

From a health point of view, the earlier your dog is spayed, the better. Ideally, she should be spayed before her first heat; this reduces the risk of reproductive and related cancer (e.g., breast cancer) later in life considerably — not to mention guaranteeing no unwanted puppies.

The most dramatic rise in risk of cancer occurs after the second heat or after 2 years old, whichever comes first before spaying. After that, although the risk is high, it does not rise further.

Post-Op Recovery

You will need to watch to make sure your dog does not try to pull out the stitches, and consult your vet if this happens. You might, in persistent cases, need to get an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from reaching the stitches.

Puffiness, redness, or oozing around the stitches should be also reported to the vet. Some stitches “dissolve” on their own; others require a return to the vet for removal.

For further information on how neutering may affect your dog, see [SECTION COMING SOON].


The cost can vary widely, depending on where you get it done.

There are many pet-adoption places that will offer low-cost or even free neutering services, sometimes as a condition of adoption. Local animal clinics will often offer low-cost neutering.

Be aware that spaying will always cost more than castrating at any given place because spaying is a more complex operation. Vets almost always charge more than clinics do, partly because of overhead, but also because they often keep the animal overnight for observation and will do free follow-up on any later complications. Larger animals will cost more than smaller ones.

The ASPCA has a program to help you locate low-cost neutering. They can refer you to a veterinarian in your area who will perform low-cost spaying or neutering. Other low cost/coupon assistance: Friends of Animals and SpayUSA. Most vets honor these coupons.

Effect on Behavior

There is an extensive discussion on the effect that neutering has on a dog’s behavior in [SECTION COMING SOON]. In summary, no one really knows, and for every example presented, a counter-example can be made.

Neutering an Older Dog

Many people wonder if getting an older dog (of either sex) neutered poses a problem for the dog. The answer is that it doesn’t.

Your male dog will adjust easily to being neutered — in fact, he may well behave as if he had never been neutered. The most likely change in behavior is reduced aggression toward other male dogs.

A female will not have any problems with being neutered either. Unfortunately, she may not derive the health benefits of early neutering if she has already had more than two estrus periods or is over 2 years old before being spayed. This means you should be sure your vet checks her for mammary cancers at each checkup even though she is spayed.

As a general rule, all rescued dogs should be neutered. There are some special circumstances, such as rescuing a dog of a known breeding and returning them to their breeder, but these are extremely rare occasions and not likely to happen to the average adopter.

Neutering older dogs of either sex will not hurt them at all.

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