Spaying Your Dog: Dog Spay Surgery From Start to Finish

Everything you need to know about this important procedure for your female dog.

By | Posted: August 16, 2012, 8 a.m. EDT

Shih TzuYou recently brought home a wonderful female puppy, and now you need to bring her to a veterinarian for spay surgery. What will happen during the procedure? How long will your puppy be gone? And most importantly, will she feel pain? Click here for information on neutering your male dog.

We've enlisted several animal welfare organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Veterinary Medical Association to answer all the questions you may have about this important procedure. For additional information, please talk to your veterinarian.

When should I spay my female dog?

  • Before her first heat cycle at 4 to 6 months of age, however dogs of any age can be surgically altered. Some veterinarians perform juvenile or early-age spay between 8 to 16 weeks of age. More>>

What are the benefits of spaying my dog?

  • Helps prevent unwanted litters.
  • Decreases your dog's chance of developing mammary cancer, which is fatal in 50 percent of cases.
  • Eliminates the chances of other reproductive cancers and deadly uterine infections.
  • Eliminates messy heat cycles and associated negative behaviors such as yowling, anxiety and urination in unacceptable places.

What happens during the surgery?

  • Your veterinarian sedates your dog and puts her under general anesthesia.
  • The attending staff monitors your dog's breathing and heart rate.
  • The surgeon makes a small incision in your dog's belly area and removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.
  • The veterinarian closes the incision with surgical glue or sutures.

Is the surgery painful?

  • Your dog feels no pain while under general anesthesia during and immediately following the procedure.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about pain medication for post-operative discomfort.

Are there any risks associated with spay surgery?

  • While spay surgery can be considered major surgery because it involves entering the abdomen, veterinarians consider the procedure very safe and even routine.
  • Your veterinarian takes many precautions to ensure your dog's safety during the procedure.
  • Pre-anesthesia blood work assesses your dog's liver and kidney function because these organs break down and remove anesthesia from the body after surgery.

Is it expensive to spay your dog?

  • Many veterinarians offer spay services as part of a puppy vaccination package.
  • Some offer a spay day with reduced fees for those who demonstrate need.
  • Many shelters and humane organizations provide spay vouchers or other funding to those in need.

When can my dog come home?

  • Many vets will keep dogs for an overnight stay but some may go home the same day.
  • If you need to work and can't stay with your dog when she gets home, ask your veterinarian about an extended stay for observation.

How can I help my dog once she comes home?

  • Keep her quiet and restrict unnecessary activity.
  • Prevent excessive licking of the incision.
  • Monitor food and water intake according to your veterinarian's instructions.

What symptoms should prompt me to call my veterinarian?

  • A reopened incision.
  • Abnormal swelling of the incision area (some swelling is normal).
  • Dark red or purple discoloration.
  • Bloody or thick discharge from the incision.
  • Foul odors from the incision area, which could indicate an infection.
  • Continued lethargy or if your dog doesn't seem to get better after a few days.

When can my dog resume normal activity?

  • Most dogs are awake and alert soon after surgery.
  • Some will eat the same day as surgery.
  • Most resume normal activity within 3 days.

Spay and neuter surgery is an important part of responsible pet ownership, and an investment in your dogs long-term health. Have additional questions? Talk to your veterinarian today.


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4 of 36 Comments View All 36 Comments

Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on Spaying Your Dog: Dog Spay Surgery From Start to Finish

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Clara   Reno, Nevada

1/5/2015 12:51:45 PM

I'm having my dog spayed in the
I know it is so important to do this
There are so many unwanted dogs &
That suffer because people don't want to be
I'm a dog lover and believe in spaying and
Please rescue or adopt dogs or
Drop off a bag of food when ever you
to humane society they need help taking
of these helpless animals.

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Vicki   Tracy, Minnesota

6/3/2014 2:08:19 PM

I just picked up my 11 month old yellow lab Lucy after being spayed. I was told by the vet tech that she had multiple seizures during her surgery. I asked if this was normal and she said no. I will talk to the vet in a couple days. Does anyone have any insight on this? Now I'm worried about long term problems.

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Jeri   South Point, Ohio

4/27/2014 4:59:15 AM

My German Shepherd dog was spayed using metal wires. The wires stick out of her stomach. When I took her back regarding the wires, they took her back and pulled the wires and clipped them. I heard her screaming and crying in the back. My dog still has wires sticking out of her stomach and one keeps a little dark spot like blood there. I wish I would have known what terrible thing they were going to do to my dog, I would have never chosen wires if I had an option. This was in Barboursville, WV. Tristate animal clinic

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Melanie   Loveland, Colorado

8/2/2013 10:09:50 AM

We are having our one year old yellow lab, Gem, spayed today. We waited until she was a year old because our previous yellow lab, Meg, had two ACL surgeries. While reading about ACL injuries I came across several readings/research articles that mentioned, especially with females, when you spay a female at a young age, under a year, it alters the hormone productivity and prevents the bone plates to develop correctly and it also alters the growth of ligaments and tenders to grow properly thus causing problems with ACL and injuries. This was very expensive to have two ACL surgeries, $5200.00. I am an Animal Science grad and was taught that you should wait until a dog, male or female, was at least 6 months of age before you spay or neuter. You want their reproductive system to be mature before you spay or neuter. That is why I am opposed to fixing a dog before the age of six months. I worked as an Animal Control Officer and of course the humane society wants everything to be fixed before it is adopted no matter what age. I remember a 10 week old kitten being spayed . It died do to complications. I felt it was unethical for a veterinarian to spay at that young of age. Again, you want the animals reproductive tract to be fully developed, typically the 6mos age .Bottomline ... it should be a must to spay and neuter your animal. This is my first time to have waited until a female has been a year old to spay but it made since with what I had read about the ACL and development of. I had to be a very responsible dog owner and make sure no males came in contact with Gem when she was in heat. And personally I really did not like dealing with a female in heat. People please don't be a sad sack and have your pet spayed or neuter.. They will be okay and it is a better health choice for your animal, less cancer potential.

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