Being the most popular dog in America, the Labrador retriever comes with a certain amount of pressure. Being in high demand, should he reproduce? Or, being the most popular dog, does that mean there is no shortage of these beloved tail-thumpers?
The decision about whether to spay or neuter your Lab often goes beyond what is good for the breed, or whether there are already enough dogs in the world. There are health implications as well as behavioral considerations to think about.
A little preliminary information about neutering or spaying
When a veterinarian neuters or castrates a male dog, he removes both testicles and their attachments. This surgery will render a male dog incapable of reproducing. Usually, the behaviors that are related to mating hormones, like humping and teeth chattering, will come to an end. This is not always the case but is more likely to happen.
The neutering procedure itself is a faster, much less complicated procedure than a spay (ovariohysterectomy). This is because the dog’s testicles are located outside his body. Shortly after a puppy is born, the testicles descend through the inguinal canal and settle in the scrotal sac. During castration, the dog undergoes anesthesia, but usually for a brief time. In most male dogs, opening up the abdominal cavity is not necessary.
With a spay, the veterinarian performs a complete ovariohysterectomy, opening the abdominal cavity to remove the uterus and ovaries.
Why Neuter or Spay?
Why Should I Neuter?
There are plenty of reasons for neutering your Labrador retriever. Here are a few:
- With the removal of the hormonal incentive, dogs are less inclined to break loose, dig out, and run the streets looking for action. Therefore they are at much lower risk of theft, or death on the highway, or fighting with other male dogs.
- Neutering reduces the risk of prostate disease and some types of cancer.
- Neutering tends to reduce aggression levels, and also lessens the likelihood of attracting aggression from other dogs.
Why should I Spay?
A spayed female dog enjoys certain benefits such as:
- Lower risk of mammary cancer.
- Cessation of annoying heat cycles.
- No accidental pregnancies.
The Possible Side Effects and Health Risks of Spaying and Neutering
There have been various studies performed over the years in order to evaluate the risk of spaying and neutering dogs. These risks go beyond those that are inherent with the occasion of any surgery, such as a reaction to anesthesia.
The risks are more pronounced in puppies that are spayed or neutered early, before the age of 5 months.
- Slow bone growth: Especially when neutered at too young an age, the dog can experience a delay in the closure of growth plates. Veterinarians have expressed concern that this delay can cause the bones to be susceptible to fracture.
- Cardiac tumors: According to a study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, neutering seems to increase the risk of cardiac tumors, especially hemangiosarcoma.
- Osteosarcoma: The University of Purdue concluded that the risk of bone cancer was related to the age of the dog at the time of his neuter. If neutered within the first year of life, the risk of bone cancer is elevated.
In addition, some people think that obesity is directly related to neutering. In the average adult Labrador retriever, weighing anywhere from 55 to 80 pounds, the food intake should be carefully monitored. Labradors are known for being “easy keepers,” notoriously hungry and always happy to enjoy a snack. This rings true whether the Lab is neutered or not. All responsible pet owners see to it that their dog gets sufficient exercise. Obesity is not related to the neuter itself, but the potential lack of activity due to a decrease in hormone levels.
Are Labs Different after Being Fixed?
Even an un-neutered Labrador is generally a friendly, happy-go-lucky dog. Any changes in temperament after neutering would just make him more so. They are more likely to be more mellow also.
Will Your Lab Be in Pain after Neutering or Spaying?
The pain can be controlled through medication. There may be some redness or swelling around the incision site. If the dog insists on licking the area, he might need to wear a “lampshade” collar so he doesn’t remove his own stitches. If allowed to heal without interruption, the pain subsides quickly and the incision completely closes within a couple of weeks. With a spay, this may take a little longer, as the incision is larger and the surgery more invasive.
How Long Before your Lab Is Able to Do Everything Again?
Depending on the individual dog, your Labrador may experience total bounce-back in as soon as a week’s time. If you have a female Labrador, her recovery will take longer. Allow her ten days or two weeks of rest and leash walking.
There are various theories about the best time to spay or neuter your Labrador. Most veterinarians suggest the dog be at least fifteen months of age before you have the surgery done.
In general, it is never “too late” to spay or neuter your dog. However, you should consult with a veterinarian for advice, because every dog is different. It could be that, at an advanced age, your dog is not physically in shape to handle a surgery. Some dogs need to lose weight first or go into a fitness program before anesthesia is considered safe.
Costs of Surgery
The cost of altering your Labrador retriever will vary depending on your location and choice of facility, and the age and condition of your dog.
If performed at a Humane Society or at a low-cost clinic, the cost of a neuter can range from $40.00 to $135.00, based on the weight of the dog. The price of a spay, because it is a more complicated surgery, can range from $50.00 to $175.00.
At some animal hospitals, you can expect to pay from $200 to $300 or more. Again, this depends on the weight of your Labrador. The cost of both neutering and spaying vary greatly by geographic region and the veterinarian.
In the UK, the cost to neuter or spay a dog can average from 140 to 170 pounds, respectively.
If financing is a problem for you, contact your local animal shelter and find out where there may be low-cost programs available in your area.