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Spaying Your Dog: Everything You Need to Know

Spaying Your Dog: Everything You Need to Know | BetterVet

Part of being a responsible pet parent is ensuring you keep up with preventative health care. One of the most important preventatives when it comes to health issues in female dogs is spaying. But, as with any surgical procedure, there are some small risks as well as health benefits.

These risks can be increased depending on the timing of the spay surgery. So, it's important to know when to spay a dog.

Let's find out what spaying is, why it's recommended, and when to spay a female dog.

What Does Spaying Your Dog Involve?

A spaying surgery usually removes your dog’s uterus (womb) and ovaries, known as an ovariohysterectomy. However, there is a more specialist procedure where the ovaries are removed without the uterus, this is known as a laparoscopic spay or ovariectomy.

For a standard spay procedure, the surgical wound is on the midline of the belly, where the skin, fat, and muscles are cut. Following a bitch spay procedure, your dog will need to be rested for 10 to 14 days as they heal and recover.

Their stitches may need removing, or they might be dissolvable, and the post-op care will be discussed with you by the veterinary team at the discharge appointment.

What Are the Benefits of Spaying Your Dog?

It's not just the convenience of not having to keep your dog secure and away from male dogs when they're in heat, and not having to worry about blood on the soft furnishings and carpets.

Spaying also has several health benefits:

Mammary Cancer

The risk of mammary tumors in female dogs is reduced by spaying. In fact, if a female dog is spayed before their first heat, the chance of them developing mammary cancer is negligible.

The risk is still reduced if the spay occurs before the dog's third heat, but after this, your dog will have the same risk of mammary cancer as an unneutered female, even if you do choose to spay them.


A pyometra is a serious infection of the uterus. It occurs in a large proportion of older female dogs who haven't been spayed and is life-threatening. The main treatment for a pyometra is an ovariohysterectomy, which is technically the spay procedure.

However, if a dog is suffering from pyometra, their body is under strain already, the uterus is very fragile, and there is an increased blood supply.

This means that the risk of complications is much higher for this procedure when compared to a standard spay procedure, and sadly, some dogs do not make it. 

Unwanted Pregnancy

There are so many dogs and puppies in rescue centers already, so it’s so important to avoid accidental litters.

Not only are rescue centers and charities under huge strain, but there can also be huge costs associated with a litter of puppies.

You may think that having a litter of pups around will be lovely. After all, they're very cute and they have their mother to look after them.

However, you could find yourself nursing the mother back to health after a c-section or rearing a litter of puppies, day and night because they've been rejected. Read more about pregnancy in dogs.

What Are the Risks of Spaying Your Dog?

Any surgical procedure comes with some small risks, just like in humans. For instance, a small proportion of healthy dogs will not recover from the anesthetic. Thankfully, though, these types of complications are very rare.

Certain risks, though, can be reduced or avoided if you discuss when to spay your dog with your veterinarian.


Some large breed dogs can develop urinary incontinence later in life, after spaying at a young age. This is called 'sphincter mechanism incompetence' and can be treated with hormone replacement medication. However, in large breed dogs, it may be a good idea to delay spaying them until they've had one or two heats, to reduce the risk of incontinence.

On the other hand, since this condition is treatable, and there's no guarantee that a dog will be affected, it's a minor concern when compared to the life-threatening risks avoided by spaying.


If a dog is spayed too close to their heat, the blood vessels will still be large and the tissue still fragile. This means that this is an increased risk of excessive bleeding. Therefore, when considering when to spay a dog, it’s best to wait 3 months after a heat.

When To Spay a Puppy

If you choose to spay your dog before their first heat, known as a pre-heat spay, it's best to do this at around the 6-month mark. Although there are certain situations where puppies are spayed younger than 5 or 6 months, it's not usually necessary, and may adversely affect their development.


In conclusion, choosing when to spay a dog isn't always easy and there are lots of considerations. However, our veterinary team is available to discuss the options with you to help you make an informed decision that is right for your furry friend.

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Spaying a Dog FAQs

What is the best age to spay a female puppy?

A female puppy should not be spayed earlier than 5 or 6 months of age. Depending on her breed, you may choose to let her have a heat, to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence later in life.

Should you let a female dog go into heat before spaying?

Allowing your dog to go into heat before spaying is sometimes appropriate, especially if you have a large breed dog. However, you will need to wait 3 months after the heat before you can have her spayed.

Is it better to spay after the first heat?

For large breed dogs, spaying after a first heat could reduce the risk of urinary incontinence later in life. However, spaying before the first heat removes the risk of mammary cancer altogether. So, it’s worth speaking to your veterinarian for advice on what’s best for your pup.

What happens when a female dog is spayed too early?

Female dogs who are spayed too early may develop urinary incontinence later in life. Their physical growth and emotional development may also be affected, and recent reports suggest that early neutering can lead to ‘trapping’ dogs mentally in their adolescence, meaning more behavior issues.

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