At most veterinary hospitals, spay and neuter surgeries are charged according to the dog’s weight, with the potential for additional fees for females who are overweight, in heat, or pregnant, and males who have one or both testicles retained in their abdomen (rather than “dropped” into their scrotum). But the geographic location of the veterinary hospital also affects the price. A spay surgery that might cost $200 in a smaller suburban city could cost as much as $800 in a large city.
Nationwide averages for spaying healthy females run between $200 and $500, while averages for neutering healthy males run between $75 and $250.
Be aware that the price quote from any given clinic may cover only the cost of the surgery; some clinics charge separately for pre-surgical blood tests, IV fluids administered during surgery, and oral pain medication to administer to the dog for a few days after surgery. In some clinics, these services are optional and must be authorized by the owner before surgery, while in others, these services are considered mandatory. Be sure to ask whether there are charges beyond the cost of the surgery itself.
Pre-surgical blood tests help veterinarians determine whether the dog is truly healthy enough to undergo surgery safely. A complete blood count (CBC) reveals the number and percentages of the dog’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The results would let the veterinarian know whether the dog had anemia, an infection of any kind, and/or a problem with blood clotting. A blood chemistry test gives the vet more information about how the dog’s kidneys and liver are functioning. These organs play the most significant role in processing the sedative and anesthetic medications your dog is given before and during surgery. A veterinarian who knows – before surgery – that this function is compromised in the patient can take special precautions with the medications to protect the patient.
While private veterinary clinics are the most expensive, they are best able to prevent and address complications and may offer the best pain-control regimen for their patients.
In most areas, there are nonprofit organizations that help organize and finance clinics and spay/neuter programs to help reduce costs. They keyword here is “nonprofit” – some of these clinics charge little more than their costs for the surgeries! Low-cost spay/neuter clinics may charge as little as $40 for neutering and $100 for a spay, or as much as $75 (neuter) to $375 (spay).
Be advised that one of the ways that these clinics reduce the cost of these surgeries is by foregoing pre-surgical blood tests, IV fluids administered during surgery, and anything more than the minimum pain-relief medication (typically, an injection of Meloxicam or Carprofen that provides anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving activity for about 24 hours). Some, but not all, low-cost clinics may provide these services and medication for additional fees.
What’s involved in spay and neuter surgeries
While spay and neuter surgeries are quite routine today, spaying a female dog means removing her reproductive organs. The traditional spay procedure, which removes both the ovaries and uterus, is called an ovariohysterectomy. A more widely used procedure in Europe, one that’s becoming popular in the U.S., is the ovariectomy, which removes both ovaries and leaves the uterus undisturbed. There are risks and benefits to both procedures, as with all surgeries.
Neutering, also known as castration, is a surgical procedure that removes a male dog’s testicles, making it impossible for him to fertilize a female’s eggs and reproduce. The surgery usually reduces testosterone-driven behaviors, such as urinating to mark territory; mounting other dogs, objects, or humans; excessive roaming; and escape attempts.
When to spay or neuter
According to veterinarian and author Eileen Fatcheric, DVM, the best time to spay a female dog depends on her breed and size, as some studies have shown links between the early spaying of large breeds and joint disorders and cancers. Most veterinarians spay small breeds before their first heat cycle at age 6 months, while the general recommendation for large-breed dogs is to wait until at least 12 months to spay. Overall, Dr. Fatcheric concludes, there are more pros than cons to spaying your female dog if she is not intended for breeding. Ovariohysterectomy spaying means no messy heats, no unwanted pregnancies, less chance of breast cancer, no chance of ovarian or uterine cancer, and no chance of uterine infection (pyometra), which is a common surgical emergency in older, intact (not spayed) female dogs.
Dr. Fatcheric explains that veterinarians now recommend waiting to neuter male dogs after they reach full skeletal maturity, especially large-breed males. “Allowing these dogs to grow under the influence of their sex hormones means they grow more naturally, resulting in healthier joint angles and structure,” she says. “They also grow stronger and less injury-prone tendons and ligaments. We have scientific proof that neutering a dog too early potentially makes him more prone to orthopedic problems like hip dysplasia and torn cruciate ligaments in the knee.” This changes the male neutering timetable to later dates than were previously recommended, such as 12 months of age for small breeds, 18 months for medium to large breeds, and 2 years for giant-breed dogs.
Simple or complicated
The simplest spay/neuter surgeries are performed on young, healthy, active, slender dogs. Females in season, pregnant, older, or overweight have more complicated operations that cost more. A male dog’s neutering is far less expensive than spaying because the surgery is less invasive, although if your dog’s testes are still inside his body and have not properly dropped (called cryptorchid testes), the procedure is more complicated and costly.
How to locate lower-cost spay/neuter services
The North Shore Animal League America SpayUSA is a nationwide referral network for affordable spay and neuter services. For over 20 years SpayUSA has helped owners obtain low-cost, quality spay and neuter services for their cats and dogs. Enter your zip code at the link above or call toll-free (800) 248-SPAY.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) provides information about low-cost spay/neuter programs in New York, Los Angeles, and North Carolina.
Your local PetSmart store can connect you to the company’s $25 Spay and Neuter Program, which is available to pet owners who cannot otherwise afford the surgery. Requirements vary by program and location. The $25 fee typically covers the cost of surgery, including anesthesia and pain medication. Some programs include a pre-surgical exam and post-operative care.
Best Friends Animal Society maintains a resource map of spay/neuter network partners throughout the United States. The map currently lists 791 low-cost spay/neuter clinics, 685 voucher or financial assistance programs, and 85 mobile clinics.
Check local and county animal shelters for information about spay/neuter programs in your area. Look for statewide programs, too, such as these representative examples: