Can You Spay or Neuter an Older Dog?

You've had your dog for a while, or perhaps you recently rescued it from a friend, found it on the street or adopted it from an animal shelter, and you now need to look into spaying or neutering your pup.

veterinarian examining dog in hospital
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The only thing that concerns you is that your dog is older. You're wondering: how will this operation affect it? Is surgery safe? Will my dog still be healthy, happy and live to an old age? Or will this operation possibly cut its life short?

Before taking your dog to get spayed or neutered, learn what the operation does and whether or not it's fine for an older dog to go through it.

What spaying or neutering your dog entails

If your dog is female, she will get spayed. During the operation, the veterinarian will remove her uterus and ovaries so she cannot have babies. The vet will remove both by making a small incision located on her flank or abdomen. She will no longer be in heat and will not attract males anymore.

If your dog is male, he will get neutered. During the operation, the vet will make a small incision and remove both testicles from his scrotum. He will no longer be able to impregnate a female dog.

Is it safe to spay or neuter an older dog?

Usually, the best time to spay or neuter a dog is before it hits sexual maturity, which occurs at five months of age. Sexual maturity means a female dog goes into heat and can start reproducing, and for a male it means roaming for females, marking its territory by urinating different places and fighting other male dogs.

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Dogs become seniors at seven years of age. If you didn't spay or neuter your dog before this time, there are certain risks that may be involved with surgery. If your dog has underlying health issues, then the vet might not be able to perform the surgery. Your dog has to be able to react well to pain medications, since it will undergo some pain from the surgery.

Generally, as long as your pup is healthy, he or she will be able to undergo the spaying or neutering procedure. Just take note that it will take longer to recover than it would if it were a younger dog. Remember to follow your vet's instructions for recovery, and to keep on schedule with any pain medications you need to give your dog.

Why spay or neuter your dog?

Along with controlling the pet population, there are other benefits when it comes to spaying and neutering your dog. Spaying can help prevent breast tumors and uterine infections, and neutering can prevent prostate problems and testicular cancer.

There are behavioral benefits as well. Your male dog will likely be better behaved and won't roam for females or mark his territory all over your house. He may also be less aggressive. Since your female dog won't be going into heat, she won't be yowling and urinating in the house, which are attempts at attracting male dogs. If your dog is older, it may be harder to rid of these behavioral traits, so you might need to find a good trainer even after your dog has been spayed or neutered.

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To get your dog spayed or neutered, you can go to a vet, a nearby pet clinic or a mobile spay and neuter service. Oftentimes, non-profit rescue organizations will offer free or discounted spay or neuter services on certain days of the week.