Spay or Neuter

Spaying and neutering of animal companions is a hot topic right now amongst both pet owners and veterinarians. At Stilwell Animal Hospital & Equine Center, P.A., we advocate spaying and neutering pets as a means to prevent overpopulation in our community. We are happy to discuss your options with you for your pet’s individual needs and provide whatever services you require.

Our surgical facilities are equipped with the most modern anesthetic monitoring equipment for your pet’s safety throughout their procedure, and our veterinarians are experienced surgeons. Your pet’s safety and continued good health is our utmost priority. We encourage pre-surgical bloodwork to evaluate your pet for proper liver and kidney function prior to administration of anesthetic drugs and intravenous fluids throughout the procedure to promote adequate hydration and blood flow. It is our priority to provide your pet with the best surgical outcome. We like to keep your pet hospitalized overnight complimentary following the procedure to make ensure post-anesthetic recovery and post-operative healing.

All of our surgical patients receive pain control regardless of their procedure. We provide both medical pain control and cold laser therapy at the surgical site following the procedure. Our animal companions deserve the same courtesy regarding pain management as we would want for ourselves for similar procedures. It is our belief at Stilwell Animal Hospital & Equine Center, P.A. that your pet should be comfortable and free of pain.


I don’t want my male dog to impregnate other dogs, but I don’t want him neutered. Are there other options for my male dog besides neutering him?

There are many owners that are concerned about their male dog’s “manhood” and for different reasons. Whether you are concerned about your dog’s personality, behavior, or appearance, there are many options for him. Depending on your particular concern, there are medical options, surgical options, and even some at-home management to prevent unwanted pregnancy. We would be happy to discuss options with you on an individual basis based on your needs and concerns for your dog.

What are some complications of spay or neuter procedures?

As with any other surgical procedures, there are potential complications to spaying or neutering your pets. Many of our patients for this procedure are young and in good health, so complications are much less likely than for most other surgical procedures. Some potential post-operative complications of spays and neuters can be intraoperative hemorrhage (bleeding), incision dehiscence (stitches come apart), or infection of the incision site. All of these complications can be controlled by either careful surgical technique or post-surgical management. It is important that dogs be kept from licking or chewing at their incision site and kept calm and quiet to avoid infection and pulling on the incision. As with all procedures that involve general anesthesia, there are risks to the anesthetic agents and the recovery from anesthesia. Here at Stilwell Animal Hospital & Equine Center, P.A., we have the most up-to-date anesthetic monitoring equipment that is measuring the breathing, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure throughout the procedure. This allows us to watch your pet constantly and carefully for any potential complications and act on them immediately.

We also provide additional options to decrease the likelihood of complications for your pet’s procedure. We offer intraoperative fluids, both intravenous and subcutaneous, to decrease dehydration and allow your pet to process and expel anesthetic medications easier. We also offer a pre-anesthetic bloodwork that measures your pet’s liver and kidney values, which gives us an idea of the liver and kidney function before using certain anesthetic agents.

I’ve heard that spaying or neutering your dog can cause long term health problems. Is that true and what does that mean for my pet?

There are both risks and benefits to spaying and neutering dogs, and some of the information out there for owners is not from credible sources. There have been a few studies performed on dogs for long-term effects of spay and neuter, and these studies have different implications. One of those studies implies that spayed or neutered dogs have more orthopedic complications later in life, and suggests that this is due to a lack of sex hormones in the body throughout life. It is important to note that spaying or neutering before 6 months of age increased this risk in both males and females. Other studies have discussed an increased risk of obesity in spayed or neutered dogs, which is attributable to lack of sex hormone and is preventable by managing your pet’s diet and watching their weight. There have been other suggestions that spaying or neutering increases the risk of certain cancers later in life, but the data in these studies is very limited.

The bottom line is that there is a lot of information available to the general public that is exaggerated or unsupported by scientific evidence. It is important that when reading articles in breed magazines or online you read them very critically and avoid believing all information in those articles. Spaying and neutering dogs is an individual decision, and should be strongly considered in any dog not intended for breeding.

What age should I get my dog spayed or neutered?

There are many schools of thought that exist regarding the best timing for spaying and neutering dogs. We encourage people to spay female dogs before their first heat and around 6 months of age. There are two reasons for this recommendation, the first being that the risk for mammary cancer increases after each heat cycle a dog experiences. Spaying before the first heat cycle decreases your dog’s risk significantly. Even if your dog has experienced her first heat cycle, spaying her before her next one can still decrease her risk for mammary cancer. The reason we prefer to spay dogs around 6 months old is so that your dog can reach what we call “skeletal maturity”. That means that we want her bones to be almost at their full growth before we remove her primary source of estrogen. A recent study has shown that dogs spayed before 6 months of age had more orthopedic problems later in life, and it is thought that estrogen plays a large part in that process.

We advise that male dogs be neutered around the age of 6 months for various reasons. Most owners prefer neutering before their male dog can create bad habits that are hard to break. Marking territory, aggressive behavior, and inappropriate sexual behavior are a few of the undesirable habits that are less likely in neutered males than in intact males. We also recommend allowing males to reach “skeletal maturity” before neutering to achieve appropriate growth of their bones and joints before removing the primary source of testosterone.

I have an appointment for my pet to be spayed or neutered. What should I know before the appointment?

There are a few important things to know before your pet’s spay or neuter appointment. The night before the procedure, they should not have any food after 10pm but they can have water. The morning of their procedure, we like them to be dropped off by 8:30am so that we have ample time to get things ready for the procedure. After your pet has recovered from anesthesia, we will give you a call letting you know how things went and how your pet is doing. We will then keep your pet hospitalized overnight to continue monitoring their health. As long as there are no concerns, you may pick up your pet the following day after 10am.

Home care of your pet following the procedure is individual, but often includes keeping them calm and quiet for 5-7 days while they heal. Some patients may require more rest time than that depending on their individual needs. If your pet has external sutures (stitches) then they will need to be removed 10-14 days following the procedure. It is very important that your pet does not lick or chew at the incision site while it heals, and some pets need an Elizabethan collar (also known as the “cone of shame”) to prevent them from bothering their incision. Individual instructions will be provided for you when you pick your pet up from the hospital.