Should I Let My Dog Have a Litter of Puppies Before Neutering Her?

If you own a female dog or puppy, chances are you will have thought at some point about whether you want to have her neutered. You may even have started to think about the best time to do this. Many people have different opinions over neutering and many myths exist around the subject, so in this article, we hope to help you to make the best decision for you and your dog.

What is neutering and what does it involve?

Neutering in female pets is a surgical procedure, called a spay. The procedure is done under general anaesthetic and involves the surgical removal of the ovaries, and sometimes the uterus too. This means that neutering is not reversible, so it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Although (as with any surgery) there are some risks associated with neutering, the procedure is carried out routinely by most vets and the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

Prevention of pregnancy

One of the main aims of neutering is to prevent your pet from getting pregnant. This is especially important if you have any entire male dogs in the house, but also can prevent unwanted pregnancies from other dogs. Pregnancies are risky for dogs and the cost of emergency procedures, like caesareans, is high. In many cases owners expect to make money from the pregnancy by selling the puppies, but tragic circumstances, such as abortions or still-borns, can result in a loss of profits. Not only can pregnancies be risky for your pets, not to mention costly, but they also contribute to the overcrowding of the puppy market, making people less likely to adopt the hundreds of dogs in shelters looking for homes.

Reduce the risk of disease

Neutering will also protect your pet from conditions such as pyometra (infection of the womb/uterus). A pyometra can vary from serious to life-threatening and although several treatment options exist it is best prevented. The risk of developing cancers of various parts of the reproductive tract is also reduced in neutered pets. The type of cancers prevented and the degree to which they are protected varies depending on the time of neutering. Conditions such as false pregnancies also do not occur in neutered pets. Although not particularly dangerous in themselves, they can lead to the development of undesirable behavioural habits.

In general, the earlier she is neutered, the lower the risk, but this isn’t the case for all diseases.

When is the best time?

Preferred timing of neutering will vary depending on the size and breed of your pet. For this reason, it is best to discuss the timing of neutering with your vet as early as possible. Most commonly, vets will recommend spaying either before your pet’s first or second season in puppies and as soon as possible in older dogs. They will also be able to go into more detail about the benefits and disadvantages of their preferred neutering time for your dog.

But does she need a litter?

No – unless you intended to breed from her, there is no need to wait until after your pet has had a litter before neutering her. Not only does waiting until after your dog has had a litter expose them to all the risks of pregnancy and whelping, but it can also reduce the protective effect neutering has against some forms of reproductive cancer.

What about how she feels about it?

Some people believe that dogs need to have a litter to feel happy and content. This is not true though. Dogs do not feel “broody” and will not miss their ability to reproduce. Once the ovaries are removed the hormones in your pet’s body will be altered therefore reducing any natural instinct to breed. A neutered pet will live just as happily as an un-neutered pet, but without all the potential health and behavioural problems – and they usually live longer too!

What about her personality?

Another myth surrounding neutering is that it will change your pet’s personality. In most dogs, this will not be the case. The reduction in hormones produced may mean that fluctuations in behaviour associated with seasons will not occur. However, these behaviours are often undesirable and are best avoided to prevent bad habits from being formed.

In conclusion, neutering is an excellent choice for all pets that owners are not wanting to breed from. The timing of neutering will vary between breeds; however, we do not recommend allowing your pet to have a litter before neutering. If you want to discuss the best time to neuter your pet, then pop in and have a word with one of our vets. They will also be able to answer any of your questions about the procedure.