Spaying or Neutering Italian Greyhounds
One of the most important things you can do to prolong the life of your Italian Greyhound is to spay or neuter them. These surgeries are extremely common procedures and are completed within only 10-15 minutes in general in most dogs (and cats too).
One of the most common questions we are asked is "What is the youngest age I can get spay or neuter my Italian Greyhound?" There is a lot of disagreement from various parties about when this should be done, but we recommend to get your IG(s) spayed or neutered at an early age. Most veterinarians recommend getting dogs fixed around 6 months of age, however it is perfectly safe to spay or neuter your iggy(s) as early as 4 months of age. Read more about early neutering or spaying on the Humane Alliance's When to Spay website.
A common misconception about spay/neuter is that your female IG must go in to heat at least one time before you can get it spayed. There is no need to wait for a heat cycle. By 6 months of age, many dogs have completed much of their growth spurt already. Italian Greyhounds have already gained adult teeth, and will primarily be "filling out" more as they age. Therefore, waiting for a heat cycle provides little or no benefit to an early spay.
Even if you purchased or adopted an Italian Greyhound as an adult, the benefits of getting your dog fixed far outweigh any small risks that exist. Adult dogs will gain some of the same benefits as a puppy if spayed or neutered. When we see older female dogs arriving in to rescue who haven't been spayed until later in life, after multiple litters of puppies and/or from a puppy mill type situation, there is a much greater likelihood that they may have mammary (or other) tumors compared to those who were fixed at a young age.
Short and Long-term Benefits of Spay or Neuter
- Reduce Cancer Risks - Testicular cancer in male dogs can be completely eliminated by fixing your male Italian Greyhound. In females, the threat of ovarian cancer is removed, and a spay will also greatly reduce the chance of your IG developing mammary gland (breast) tumors. Finally, pyometra (a uterine infection) risk will completely be eliminated when a female dog is spayed.
- Decrease Pet Overpopulation - It only takes one well-timed encounter between two dogs to contribute to the ongoing pet overpopulation issue. The Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation affiliates throughout the USA place hundreds of IGs in new homes every year, and don't often have room for all dogs that need space in foster homes.
- Curb Roaming Instinct - Male dogs who are un-neutered will want to roam more. It can be due to wanting to explore and mark their territory, or that they are trying to locate fertile females within their neighborhood.
- Marking Behaviors - Male dogs are only generally thought to have marking behaviors, but female dogs have the same marking behaviors too. Male dogs may lift their leg on walls or furniture in the house, or try to cover up the scents from other current or former pets in a house. Female dogs may try to also mark their territory by peeing on carpet, areas near where they spend time napping (to show other dogs this is their area), or even sometimes by peeing on or inside food or water dishes.
- Keep Away Stray Dogs - The scents and pheromones released by a dog in heat can attract dogs from blocks away. Some male dogs have been known to climb fences or dig holes to get out of their yard, or in to another in order to breed with a female in heat.
- Increase Friendliness - A dog who has been sterilized will smell different to other dogs, and take away the perceived threat of having another mating competitor often. Male dogs who are fixed will be less "humpy" than those who are not, and that itself will reduce the quarrels that sometimes come about when such behaviors are displayed. Additionally, you may notice your dog is even more friendly toward people, or sometimes reverts to a more puppy-like stage after a recent spay or neuter.
- Longevity and Quality of Life Improvement - Fixed pets generally live a longer healthier life and face less medical issues over the course of their lives.
How to Save Money for Spay/Neuter Services
The cost of a spay or neuter is often cited as a reason to not get an Italian Greyhound or other animal fixed, but a little research can save an extreme amount of money in some instances. Since IGs are small dogs, their costs are far less than large breed dogs. Even at full price a spay or neuter can reduce costs incurred with complications of cancers, unplanned litters and other medical issues which non-fixed pets may develop over time.
- Low-Cost Clinics - Throughout the entire country there are low-cost spay or neuter clinics that offer a cheap alternative to get your Italian Greyhound spayed or neutered. Some clinics charge as little as $25-50 for any pet (no matter the size), while others work with local veterinarians and provide vouchers to help keep the cost reasonable. Low-income families may also qualify for further discounts from some communities, organizations or regions considered target areas.
- Shop Around - Veterinary clinics charge as little as $100 for a basic spay or neuter, while other multi-vet clinics may charge 5-8 times that amount and add in many additional unnecessary fees or services as part of the procedure. It is always best to shop around, call at least 5 veterinary clinics so you will see the difference in pricing offered from veterinarians only a few miles apart. As your vet about discounts they offer, assistance programs in your area, and what "optional" services can be removed to keep costs reasonable. Finding a veterinarian who owns his or her own practice compared to offices with multiple vets, or those with "hospital" in the name, will often provide more reasonable costs.
- Waive Bloodwork - If your dog is young and healthy, ask your vet if bloodwork is required. At most veterinary offices pre-operation bloodwork is optional, and will often save you roughly $100 off the cost of a spay or neuter. (Note: You may be asked to sign a waiver form if you opt out of pre-operation bloodwork.) The Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation generally waives bloodwork prior to spays, neuters and other minor procedures unless there is a reason to suspect there is another underlying health condition such as weight problems, excessive dental decay or hormonal imbalances. You can generally call any veterinary office, given them the basics about your dog (weight, breed, age) and receive a free quote in the mail or via email.
Types of Spay or Neuter
- Surgical Spay - In a surgical spay, a small incision is made in on the belly of the dog, where the female anatomy is surgically removed. Once the dog is asleep in the vet office, this procedure often takes 10-20 minutes.
- Surgical Neuter - In a surgical neuter, a small incision is made on or around the pouch holding the testicles where they are removed. This procedure once the dog is under anesthesia takes around 5-10 minutes in most instances.
- "Zeutering" - A relatively new procedure available from some clinics, zinc is surgically injected in to a male dog's testicles causing them to become infertile. This procedure does still require anesthesia, so the cost is comparable to a surgical neuter in most cases. Dogs who have been "zeutered" often have a letter z tattooed on the inside top of their back leg. Since no anatomical parts are removed from the dog the dog will still appear to be intact, however their bodies will continue to produce hormones at reduced levels. The effectiveness of this procedure in reducing cancers, marking behaviors, and other benefits generally associated with a surgical neuter, are still being studied.
- Cryptorchid Neutering - Some dogs only have one testicle "drop" as they mature, and are considered "cryptorchid". Neutering of a cryptorchid dog is more involved than a regular surgical neuter, and often will incur more of a cost due to the additional time and attention required. During a cryptorchid neuter, the "normal" testicle is removed from the scrotum as in most surgical neuters. However, the un-descended testicle must have exploratory surgery performed to locate and remove it. In extremely rare instances a testicle may be located in an area where it is unable to be extracted and is left in-place for the safety of the animal.
- Spay/Neuter of Hermaphrodite Dogs - In very rare instances, a dog may have both male and female anatomy. It is always recommended to get these dog fixed, having both the male and female parts removed in the same surgery. Often either the male or female parts are underdeveloped, and may not be observed until the surgery occurs. In other cases, these dogs may exhibit ongoing medical issues, due to hormones being produced from each set of parts within the dog, and these issues may be resolved once the pet is fixed.
Understand the Risks
In general, a basic spay or neuter poses very little risk to an Italian Greyhound, especially when your dog is young and healthy. It is recommended that you use a vet who is experienced with Italian Greyhounds for any surgical procedure, and is aware of their sensitivity to anesthesia. If your IG has any other underlying health issues, please speak to your vet about any additional risks a surgery may pose, and feel free to get a second opinion in order to keep your IG safe.
The following statements are myths commonly told about spay/neuter. These are simply myths and the medical facts support the opposite conclusions.
- My female should have one heat-cycle or litter before spay... Female dogs spayed before their first heat cycle (and therefore before they have a litter of puppies) are typically healthier than those who wait until having a litter or heat-cycle.
- My pet will get fat and/or lazy... More than half of dogs (and cats) are overweight or obese. According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, this is not generally because of being fixed, but rather because they have been feed too much, not given exercise, being fed fatty foods or scraps from the table, etc.
- My dog will have different emotions or be "sad" after they have been fixed... Pets do not have feelings from being spayed or neutered, or about the procedure. This is a common procedure and the dogs recover within a few days. Often we see dogs revert to more puppy-like behaviour after being fixed, including things such as more energy, and squatting rather than leg-lifting when peeing.