How Much Does It Cost to Neuter or Spay a Dog?

Neuter or Spay iconFor us humans, we feel a certain kind of emptiness when we know that we can’t be a mother or a father biologically. But have you ever wondered what dogs would feel being in the same situation?

Of course, they won’t be able to tell the difference, but would they behave differently? This and a lot more will be discussed in this article.

Fixing your dog is completely optional and the choice varies from owner to owner. It is up to you to decide after calculating its benefits and risks. But how much will it cost to neuter a dog? To spay?

What’s the Difference?

  • Neutering

Male dogs are neutered when they are sterilized by surgically removing the testicles. Also known as castration or orchiectomy, neutering is performed under general anesthesia with intubation for about five to twenty minutes. It is typically carried out among healthy dogs ages eight weeks to six months.

To complete this procedure, a cut is made at the base of the penis close to the scrotum. The testicles are then taken out and the incision is closed with absorbable sutures. This is the most common approach but the scrotal approach where an incision is made in the scrotum itself is becoming more common, especially in large dogs.

As a result of the surgery, your dog will have lower testosterone production and be unable to reproduce. Lower testosterone can prevent unwanted behaviors such as humping and aggression from developing.

  • Spaying

This is the surgical removal of sexual organs (ovaries and/or uterus) in female dogs. There are many ways to sterilize females. The ovariohysterectomy approach is the most common in the US but the ovariectomy, in which only the ovaries are removed, is increasingly performed.

Compared to neutering, spaying is a major operation that usually takes twenty to ninety minutes.

The ovariohysterectomy surgery is done by making one slit just under the belly button into the abdomen and completely removing both ovaries and the uterus. The incision is then closed with two layers, or three layers, which is the preferred approach, of stitches which will eventually dissolve and be absorbed by the body.

What Should I Do Before Spaying/Neutering?

corgi puppy wearing elizabethan collar after spaying
It is vital to completely prepare your dog for the surgery. To lower the risk of vomiting under anesthesia, you will need to withhold food for 12 hours before the procedure. Water is usually allowed. Each veterinarian has their own standards, however.

Do your best to provide a calming presence around your dog when bringing it to the vet. Your pet can sense when you are nervous and might become nervous too.

Cost Considerations

After you have decided that spaying or neutering your dog is the right choice for you, the next question in your mind would be, how much will this hurt my wallet?

Sterilizations can be fairly pricey but considering that your beloved dog’s safety is on the line, a few hundred dollars is a small price to pay.

Fixing smaller dogs are cheaper than larger ones due to less time and fewer resources required to carry out the surgery. Sterilizing high-risk pets like seniors and sick dogs are more expensive due to additional safety measures needed when compared to a routine procedure.

Location is another major factor in determining the spaying or neutering fee. Progressive states and cities tend to have higher costs of pet care than in rural areas due to a higher standard of care and an overall increase in quality of the service.

To illustrate, please see the following expenditures per location as shared by pet owners in various forums:

  • New York City, NY – total neutering service for a Corgi puppy that includes surgery, post-operation pain medications, and Elizabethan collar or cone for almost $1,000.
  • San Francisco, CA – complete neuter service was quoted for $875.
  • Pennsylvania – pet owner was charged $320 for the neutering surgery that also includes e-collar or cone plus take home pain relievers but paid an additional $75 for the bloodwork prior to the procedure.
  • Central Texas – paid $70 for neutering of a mutt that includes rabies vaccine.
  • Kansas City – was quoted $330 by a vet for neutering but ASPCA only charged $80
  • Chicago, Illinois – spay of a Husky mix puppy that includes fluids, anesthesia, injectable pain reliever, and additional take-home pain medications was quoted at $710.
  • Ohio – spay procedure was charged $300 that includes fluids and special sutures.

Now, why do some clinics charge hundreds for a spay/neuter while there are free services available? The answer is that high-priced clinics will give a more personalized care to your dog.

Blood tests are usually ordered prior to the surgery to certify your pet’s health and readiness to go under the knife. Expensive clinics definitely have more staff, high-quality materials, and advanced equipment that are also part of what you’re paying for.

Cheaper clinics or even spay/neuter drives take care of several pets simultaneously and are less likely to give special treatment to your dog. Some free clinics do not even suggest or require blood tests prior to the procedure.

How Much Will Spaying/Neutering Cost?

As discussed, spaying or neutering a dog can vary in price significantly. Many dog shelters and charities offer discounted spay and neuter programs in order to stop unwanted puppies from being born. These organizations can price based on your income or may offer low prices to everyone.

Usually, adoption fees for shelter dogs already include the cost of the spay or neuter. Adopting a rescue dog can be a highly cost-effective way to have a dog that has already been fixed.

In fact, a pet owner has shared that they adopted a 9-week old puppy from Humane Society that was already spayed, vaccinated (first round), microchipped, and came with a free collar, a bag of food, and the first visit to the vet was already covered.

Low-cost spay and neuter are typically $30 to $150 but could go up to $300 depending on the location. The price mostly depends on how well funded the charity or shelter is.

For example, the Atlanta Humane Society offers spay and neuter procedures at $40 to $55 for households receiving government assistance. On the other hand, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a mobile spay/neuter clinic with free sterilization services if you have proof of public assistance.

Some of what other animal organizations are charging are presented below, based on feedback from the users who availed their services:

  • San Francisco SPCA charges $275 per neutering procedure, with certain breeds free of charge.
  • Delaware SPCA, on the other hand, charged $150 for a neutering procedure that covered pre-surgery examinations, pain medications to be taken at home, e-collar or cone, and follow-up check-up.
  • Humane Society in New York City offers neutering service that includes anesthetics, post-surgery pain medications, and tick vaccine for less than $200, while another one was only charged $75 at the same facility plus extra cost for pain medications.
  • Spay & Neuter Center of Southern Nevada estimates that the cost of dog neutering is around $69 to $139 depending on the dog’s weight, and provides spaying services at $94 to $169.
  • South Hampton Animal Shelter Foundation has a Spay and Neuter Mobile Clinic in New York, charging $120 to $165 for neutering dogs up to 70 pounds, and $125 to $200 as spaying dog cost.

Of course, normal veterinary clinics also offer spaying and neutering services. Although the actual surgical procedure is the same, your local veterinarian offers more individualized attention to your dog.

This service includes tailoring the surgical plan to your dog and closely watching while it recovers from surgery. All of this has added cost and increases the pet spay or neuter price.

Another advantage of veterinary clinics is that they can perform additional surgeries. A spay or neuter can often be done at the same time as other non-emergency surgeries such as a mass removal or a baby tooth extraction.

The total cost of a spay or neuter in a traditional veterinary clinic ranges from $200 to $700. The biggest factors affecting price are regional markets and the size of the dog.

For adult dogs, clinics may require blood and urine tests before surgery. These can cost $80 to $250 in addition to the spay or neuter price.

Phases of Dog Spaying or Neutering Procedure

The following are the steps that your dog goes through during spaying or neutering procedure as performed by reputable veterinary clinics:

  • Pre-Surgery Health Checks:

Any time a dog goes into surgery, a veterinarian will perform a short physical exam the same day. This exam typically costs $30 to $50, but could go up to $100 in more progressive areas like New York City.

However, for routine spays and neuters, many veterinarians will waive this charge, even though they still perform the exam. Low-cost spay and neuter clinics, such as animal shelters, also do not charge for this exam.

If your dog is over a year old it is highly recommended to perform diagnostic tests before the surgery. Most low-cost spay and neuter centers do not require or even offer this, but your local veterinarian will likely require it.

For a healthy young adult dog, basic blood work is recommended. Average cost range for this testing is $80 to $120. This would include a CBC and a limited chemistry panel.

For older or less healthy dogs, it is recommended to perform a full blood chemistry panel, a CBC, and a urinalysis. This cost is roughly $175 to $250.

These diagnostic tests ensure that the kidneys and liver are functioning well before going under anesthesia. Based on the results your veterinarian will modify which medications and procedures are used.

For almost all dogs, the health benefits of being spayed or neutered are much greater than the risks of the surgery. Even if you can’t afford pre-surgical blood work you should still get your dog fixed.

  • Anesthesia:

The cost of anesthesia varies based on the level of monitoring, the quality of care provided, and the amount of drugs required. Larger, overweight, and female dogs will require more drugs and more time under anesthesia.
The cost of anesthesia can range from $30 for a simple small dog neuter to $400 for a difficult large dog spay. Most dogs would fall into a $50 to $200 range.

Pulse, respiration, EKG and blood pressure should be closely monitored during surgery. Most discount spay and neuter clinics do not have a dedicated staff member to monitor vital signs during the surgery.=

However, your local veterinarian does not necessarily have one either. Before scheduling your dog’s spay or neuter, be sure to ask how they will monitor vital signs during the surgery.

A veterinary clinic should have a trained staff member who watches your dog’s vital signs throughout the spay or neuter. They should be familiar with a monitoring machine that is similar to what you see in human hospitals.

  • Surgery:

Most of the time it takes to spay or neuter a dog are actually in the preparation and recovery. The actual amount of time that your dog will be in surgery is anywhere from 15 minutes to about an hour.

Veterinarians charge around $400 per hour for their time in surgery. Usually, they do not charge for the actual time of the spay or neuter. They will pre-calculate the average time it takes to spay or neuter dogs in several weight ranges. This way, the cost can be presented upfront.

  • Medications:

Pain medications are generally sent home for spays and neuters. This is for the comfort and safety of your dog. Most progressive hospitals do not use antibiotics for routine procedures like spays and neuters.

Typically, low-cost spay and neuter clinics do not carry any medication to go home with your dog. This is not usually an issue for young healthy animals, but it increases the amount of time it takes to heal from the surgery.
Basic anti-inflammatory pain medication should each be under $30 for dogs. Some clinics prefer to use a long-acting injectable antibiotic which can quickly become very expensive in larger dogs, over $100.

Ask your veterinarian what their plan is for pain medication and antibiotics. See if they have any more affordable options if necessary.

Will Pet Insurance Cover This Procedure?

Another major question is whether or not your pet insurance would cover the spaying or neutering of your dog. In the strictest sense, most comprehensive animal insurance companies won’t cover elective surgery, unless there is a risk in the life and overall health of the patient.

Now, don’t fret yet. There’s still a chance. That’s if you choose the right kind of insurance.

Wellness Plans, for example, cover most non-emergency surgical procedures, checkups, and vaccinations.
You may also avail of Care Credit which is a credit card that caters to pet health services with installment options of 6 to 24 months with no interest.

How Long is the Recovery Time after Spaying/Neutering?

Following the surgery, your dog’s full recovery will take up to two weeks. During this time, it is better to keep your dog inside the house and do not let it play or do any vigorous physical activity.

As you would do with any family member who’s undergone a surgery, you would need to provide a private space for your dog which is quiet and comfortable to lessen the stress it might experience.

Bathing is prohibited for at least 10 days after the procedure. This is veterinarian-specific. Until sutures are removed is a common recommendation.

Your veterinarian will most likely talk to you about pain management and will also prescribe canine pain medication for you to administer at home.

Check your dog’s incision site to ensure that it is healing correctly and there are no signs of infection. Place a cone around your dog’s neck to prevent it from licking its stitches and wound. A topical wound product may be applied to the site that will help decrease inflammation and promote healing.

When you observe loss of appetite, lethargy or vomiting, call the vet right away.

Over several days, your dog will start to get more active and behaving like normal. This means your pet is close to recovery. Supervise its playtime unless you are absolutely sure that the wound has healed and your dog is no longer in pain.

Spay and Neuter Fallacies

Neutering is the solution to behavioral issues – since male dog aggression and unwanted behaviors are linked to its testosterone levels, many believed that eliminating the source solves the issues altogether. Behaviors likely won’t change without training. Neutering can help, but will not completely fix behavior issues.

Neutering makes male dogs confused about their gender – unlike humans, pets, particularly dogs, do not have an idea about sexual identity, much more about ego. They won’t confuse themselves as any other gender besides the one they were born with just because something in their reproductive organ has been removed. If desired, ask your vet about neuticles. These are a silicone implant to replace the testicles. This way your dog will not have a change in appearance.

Spaying or Neutering at a low-cost clinic is dangerous – In the veterinary world, higher cost does not necessarily mean better care. Some charity spay and neuter clinics actually have higher medical standards than some veterinary clinics. Feel free to ask low-cost spay and neuter services what they offer compared to a normal veterinary clinic.

Author Bio

Dr. Patty Khuly

Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA is a prolific pet health writer, occasional media personality, and a practicing veterinary clinician (for almost 23 years!).
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