FirstVet
Cute dog lying in bed with head on pillow

Neutering female dogs - advantages and disadvantages

Spaying female dogs has always been common, but what do you need to consider when making this decision to neuter your dog? During a spay, both the ovaries and the uterus are removed. This is called an ovariohysterectomy. In some cases, you can choose to remove only the ovaries, an ovariectomy. In this article we go through the pros and cons of neutering your dog, and how to care for her after the operation!

This article was written by a FirstVet vet


Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced, UK registered vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.


✓ Included free as part of many pet insurance policies
✓ Help, treatment and if you need it, a referral to your local vet
✓ Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Benefits of neutering

Neutering can help a female dog to feel more relaxed as she will avoid being in heat and the associated hormone fluctuations. She can also not get pregnant, which can be an advantage if you have both male and female dogs in the household. Another advantage is that the female dog can not get a pyometra (uterine infection) or other diseases that affect the ovaries and uterus.

Pyometra is a serious infection; the most common treatment is typically an emergency operation, where the ovaries and infected uterus are removed. This operation carries a higher level of risk than the elective operation, which is done in a healthy dog. Occasionally dogs that develop diabetes will benefit from being neutered to help control the disease. It is important to note that if a female dog is spayed before the age of two years, the risk of mammary tumours decreases significantly.

Disadvantages of neutering

The operation itself and the anaesthesia can pose a risk to any healthy pet. However, the risks are small. Pre and post-anaesthesia checks and measures are used to reduce these risks as much as possible.

After neutering, baseline metabolism decreases by about 30%. This means that you need to give less food, or feed a specially adapted food for neutered dogs, so that your dog does not gain weight and risk becoming overweight. Obesity in turn increases the risk of other problems and diseases.

Unfortunately, some individuals may become urinary incontinent after neutering, ie they leak urine. This is most common among larger dogs and in most cases can be medically managed.

Some female dogs may develop coat changes post-neutering, where the fur is perceived as fuzzy, richer or rougher than before.

How does a spaying of a female dog work?

In the UK, most female dogs are neutered via an incision along the midline of the abdomen. Secure ligatures are placed around the ovarian vessels and the cervix, which are removed together. The abdominal wall is then sutured together in several strong layers. The skin is then closed using sutures, skin staples or glue.

In recent years, some clinics offer keyhole surgery for spaying. Usually only the ovaries are removed, leaving the uterus in place. Two small incisions are made on the side of the abdomen. However, this method is not suitable for all individuals and assessment is made on a case-by-case basis.

The post-op period

Dogs can usually go home the same day as the operation. If complications arise, a dog may have to remain at the for observation for a few days postoperatively. A Buster collar or a bodysuit will be used so that she is not able to lick the surgical site. She will also be prescribed painkillers, which are fed by mouth for a few days after the operation.

If your dog has skin sutures or staples, these will need to be removed after 12-14 days. If the surgical site has been closed with glue, she should still have a collar or body until the incision has healed completely. Any hidden sutures under the skin will dissolve by themselves and do not need to be removed.

The operation involves making an incision through the abdominal muscles. In order for this to be able to heal well quickly and safely, your dog needs to have 2-3 very quiet weeks. Too much exercise and movement will put excessive strain on the delicate healing tissues and slow down healing. She must be kept calm and not jump up or down from the sofa, or the car. She must only go for walks on the lead. Quieter activities are recommended for the first month.

If the dog has had keyhole surgery, the recovery time is often shorter. In most cases, the clinic will provide detailed information on aftercare. If in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask what exactly applies to your dog.

Age for neutering

There are divided opinions about when the optimal time for a neutering of a young female dog should take place. You can neuter dogs from about 6 months of age. Many people elect to neuter their dog after the first season, so that they have reached sexual maturity. You can discuss with your vet what may suit your dog, depending on, for example, the breed, size and growth.

Elective neutering should be done when a dog is healthy and a healthy weight. It should be planned three months after the last season, as the risk of complications is at its lowest. During heat and pregnancy the risk of neutering is higher, and therefore this should be avoided if possible.

Get advice from an experienced vet

Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our vets.

More articles about Dog