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Dog with cone collar on after neuter surgery

Spay-Neuter myths and tips

As animal health organizations and most vets will tell you, spaying and neutering your pets not only reduces the population of feral and neglected animals in the nation, but also greatly reduces the number of domestic pets that shelters are forced to euthanize each year. With the abundance of information on the topic available on the Internet, it’s often difficult to sort fact from fiction. In this blog, I aim to debunk a few common myths about spay-neuter surgery, and I’ll offer some tips on making the procedure smooth and problem-free.

Myths About Spaying Or Neutering Your Pet

Myth 1: It’s best to let the animal have a litter before spaying. While common, this isn’t supported by clinical evidence. According to the Humane Society of the United States, female animals spayed before their first heat typically live healthier lives. While spaying can be done when your pet is as young as 8 weeks, some recommend waiting till the animal is 3 to 6 months old. Check with your vet to discuss the most appropriate age to spay your pets.  

Myth 2: My dog won’t be as protective if it hasn’t had a litter. Dogs are by nature pack animals and will protect those with whom they’ve bonded. A dog’s tendency to be protective of its family (its “pack”), is determined by its genetics, personality, and environment far more than by sex hormones.

Myth 3: My animal will feel less male is it’s neutered. This is a common objection raised by men. Because we humans bond so well with our pets, it’s often easy to assume that our animals view the world as we do—with the same thoughts and fears about identity and ego that we experience. But the fact is that pets don’t conceptualize sexual identity or ego in the same way we do, and there’s no clinical evidence to support the idea that neutering causes any emotional disturbance or identity crisis in animals.

Myth 4: My pet will become lethargic and overweight after neutering. Given proper diet and adequate exercise, neutered pets tend to remain as active and in-shape as their intact counterparts. If you are concerned about obesity or inactivity in your pet, check with your vet, as the problem may be caused by a health problem (such as underactive thyroid) unrelated to the spay–neuter procedure.  

Myth 5: Spaying or neutering is too expensive. Part of pet ownership is responsibility, not only for your pet, but for its reproductive capacity. The cost of the spay or neuter procedure pales in comparison to the cost of sheltering (and, sadly, euthanizing) the thousands of pets who live their lives as strays and never find forever homes. But if personal finances are a problem, talk with your vet or contact one of the organizations (such as SNAP, the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program) that perform the procedure at reduced cost for those with financial hardships.

Editor’s Note: February is Spay-Neuter Awareness Month. For more information on low-cost spay-neuter programs in your area, the ASPCA provides this useful map.

Spay-Neuter Tips

Follow your vet’s instructions. Both spaying and neutering are surgical procedures that require your pet to be anesthetized. Typically, you’ll be asked to fast your pet for 12 hours prior to the procedure to prevent aspiration of stomach contents. It is the job of your vet to take every precaution to make the procedure as safe and painless as possible, so if you have questions about either procedure, ask beforehand. When your pet is discharged after surgery, your vet will typically supply a set of simple aftercare instructions for you to follow.

Make your animal comfortable after surgery. Surgery is surgery. And even minor procedures require recovery time. Your pet may prefer to recuperate somewhere quiet, soft, and dark, away from the activity of family life. Be sure you provide a safe comfortable place where your pet can rest.

Limit vigorous activity after surgery. To avoid damaging sutures, pets should avoid vigorous activity (ex. running, jumping) for 2 weeks after surgery. Recovery times may vary, so check with your vet for recommendations on the duration of limited activity.

Discourage your pet from licking or scratching the incision site. Licking a recently sutured incision can lead to infection, and scratching the site risks tearing the stitches and reopening the wound. Some pets can be distracted with treats or toys, while others may need to wear an Elizabethan collar (aka "the cone of shame") to limit their access to the suture site. 

Skip the baths for a while. Most vets recommend a 10-day no-bath period for pets having undergone the spay or neuter procedure. This is to prevent water (and with it, bacteria) from entering the incision site and to facilitate faster healing.

Monitor the healing process. Check the incision site daily. If you notice seepage, pus, redness or if the incision has reopened, contact your vet immediately. Also contact your vet if your pet shows symptoms of gastrointestinal problems (ex. vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite), as these may be signs of a more serious problem. 
 
We hope that if you follow these tips, your pet will recover quickly and easily.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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