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By John Parmakian

Important things to know when considering spaying or neutering a dog

Getting a new dog spayed or neutered is a simple treatment that provides long-term health and behavior benefits. There are places to go that offer either outright affordable, or group-discounted, sterilization services. Getting your puppy sterilized will prevent the undesirable sexual traits that dogs develop and enable the retraining of any established unwanted sexual behavior in adults. Sterilization procedures rarely have complications other than in aftercare.

When to sterilize

Vets recommend spaying or neutering a puppy between 6 to 9 months of age. This is before sexual maturity when undesirable behaviors associated with sexual maturity begins. Earlier sterilization gives the most health benefits and is easier for female dogs.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia have legal requirements for sterilization, or a promise to get the animal sterilized, upon adoption.

Dallas, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles have stricter rules regarding when pet dogs need to be sterilized, These laws specify ages by which any pet dog needs to be spayed or neutered regardless of origin.

Paying for spaying and neutering

The cost of getting a dog spayed or neutered is steep, but the cost of providing proper care for an unexpected litter of puppies is far greater. If cost is an issue, low-cost or free sterilization services are available through shelters or other humanitarian organizations.

Some shelters offer low or no-cost sterilization services with adoption.

Group sterilization events held by veterinary or non-profit animal groups offer the option to show up with an animal to be sterilized at a low to no cost.

Behavior and health

Sterilization as a method of preventing unwanted sexual behaviors works best before puberty is reached. A dog that has learned aggressive, destructive behavior will need to have training to correct the behavior.

Early life sterilization has benefits beyond discouraging unwanted dominant and sexual behavior. Males have a 100 percent decrease in the likelihood of getting testicular cancer, plus a decreased risk for perinatal tumors. Female dogs, if spayed before their first heat, see a dramatic drop in the risk of perinatal tumors. Female dogs, if the spayed before their first heat, see a dramatic drop in the risk for breast and uterine cancer.


Complications are rare to the routine nature of the sterilization operation. It is possible, however, for a penile or uterine laceration to occur. Spotting this requires keeping an eye on the dog's urination. The most likely complications to occur will be due to improper aftercare. Preventing infection or damage from activity will ensure that the dog makes a flawless recovery.

The right time to sterilize a puppy is between 6 to 9 months, and the right time to sterilize a rescue dog is on site or as soon as possible. Numerous resources exist to make spaying or neutering a dog an affordable task. Significant decreases in cancer risk is a major health benefit. Early sterilization prevents negative sexual behaviors to develop, and later in life sterilization allows for training to correct established negative behaviors. With the right aftercare no complications are likely to arise.

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