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Published: Dec 28, 2023 13 min read

Spay surgery is the common name for the sterilization of a female dog. For pet parents, this is an important part of a dog’s overall wellness plan.

While spaying your dog helps control the pet population — which is hugely important — the procedure also comes with health benefits for your dog. For example, spayed dogs have a lower risk of developing cancer and uterus infections.

Read on to learn about veterinary clinic options for spaying your dog, including average costs, factors that might increase cost, what’s included in the surgery and how to find the best price for a spay surgery without compromising quality.

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What’s the average cost to spay a dog?

The average cost to spay a dog varies depending on where you choose to have the procedure done. You may be able to get your dog spayed for free, or you may pay more than $500. You should consider these costs as you budget for a new dog, as well as any dogs you currently have that are not yet sterilized.

Average cost to spay a dog

Veterinary facility

Cost

State voucher or nonprofit clinic

Free - $100

Low-cost clinic 

$55 - $475

Private veterinary clinic or veterinary hospital

$145 - $700

What’s included in the cost of spaying your dog?

What’s included in the cost of spaying your dog can vary depending on the facility that performs the spay surgery. Generally, the price includes anesthetic to reduce discomfort during the procedure. However, you should confirm this with the vet's office beforehand.

Other services, some of which may be optional, may be free of charge — or they may add to the cost of your service. Be sure to ask your vet about the following:

  • Blood work - The veterinarian may require blood work to determine your dog's overall health before the surgery.
  • Vaccines - If your dog is not vaccinated, the shelter may require a rabies and DA2PP vaccine. (DA2PP covers distemper virus, parvovirus, canine adenovirus types one and two and parainfluenza virus.) You may be charged extra for this service.
  • Pain medication - The cost of spay surgery may cover pain medication for up to three days.
  • E-collar - Many vets send newly operated dogs home with an appropriately sized Elizabethan collar, or e-collar. This cone-shaped device helps prevent the dog from licking, scratching or biting the surgical incision.
  • Sterilization tattoo - During surgery, it’s common for vets to tattoo a small green line near the incision site to indicate the dog has been sterilized. This practice, which helps avoid unnecessary second surgeries, is recommended by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians' Veterinary Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Programs.
  • Microchip - Spay-neuter assistance programs sometimes offer to microchip your dog during surgery.
  • Nail trim - Some veterinarians may trim your dog’s nails during the surgery.
  • Flea treatment - Flea treatment might be administered to your dog. This is more common at low-cost spay and neuter clinics, shelters and nonprofit organizations, but it could also be provided at any veterinary facility.

Factors that may affect the cost of spaying a dog

The cost of spay surgery can vary based on standard factors like pet health, breed and age.

  • Size and weight - Spaying costs for bigger dogs are typically higher because these dogs require more from the service, such as additional anesthesia, sutures and pain medications.
  • Age - Some clinics offer lower-cost spay and neuter services to young dogs. Other clinics may charge more for an older dog with health complications.
  • Breed - Dogs with short snouts, such as English bulldogs and pugs, may be considered high-risk. Certain dog breeds may require an additional charge for closer monitoring and extra medical care.
  • Your location - Veterinary service pricing varies across the U.S. due to operational expenses, as well as state and local taxes.

Why spaying costs more than neutering

Spaying is a more invasive surgery than neutering, and therefore costs slightly more. Spaying is the common name for an ovariohysterectomy, which in this case refers to the surgical procedure to remove the reproductive organs of a female dog. The surgery usually lasts between 20 and 90 minutes and requires that the dog be under general anesthesia and intubated with a breathing tube.

Neutering, or castration, is the removal of the male dog’s testes. Like spaying, it requires general anesthesia and intubation. However, the procedure is shorter, typically lasting between two and 20 minutes, making neutering costs slightly lower than spaying.

In a spay surgery, an incision is made below the dog’s belly button in order to remove the ovaries and uterus. (Some vets perform an ovariectomy instead, in which only the ovaries are removed.) During a neutering procedure, the testicles are removed through an incision at the base of the penis near the scrotum. Large breed dogs may also have their scrotum removed.

At the end of both surgeries, the incision is stitched up under the skin, often followed by additional stitches, skin staples or glue to close the skin. Vets typically provide pain medications after either sterilization surgery.

Additional factors that could increase the cost of spaying your dog

When booking an appointment to spay your dog, be sure to ask the veterinarian about all costs involved in the procedure. The following are some of the additional expenses you may incur:

  • Booking deposit - Some veterinary clinics require an upfront deposit. Be sure to find out if this charge is deducted from the overall surgery cost.
  • Biohazard disposal fee - This fee is often included in the surgery cost; however, if it isn’t, it typically averages around $2.50 per dog.
  • E-collar - A cone-like collar that helps prevent your dog from reaching the incision site may or may not be included in the surgery cost.
  • Vaccinations - Spay surgery typically requires a rabies vaccine. If your dog isn’t already vaccinated, the vet may administer the vaccine and include the cost in your bill.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions - Additional monitoring fees might be applied if your dog has a medical condition that could complicate the procedure, such as diabetes or asthma.
  • Estrus - Dogs in heat (also called estrus or estrous) can be spayed with little additional risk to the dog’s health. However, the procedure may take longer due to increased blood flow to the reproductive organs, which increases the overall cost.
  • Pregnancy - Pregnant dogs can be spayed, even if the dog is already carrying embryos. During the procedure, the reproductive organs and embryos will be removed, effectively terminating the pregnancy and sterilizing the dog. However, this process will cost more compared to a standard spay.
  • Obesity - Spaying or neutering an overweight pet presents certain risks, and the procedure may take longer. Clinics typically charge an extra fee for spaying overweight dogs.
  • Late pick-up - There might be an additional fee if you’re delayed in picking up your dog after surgery, especially if the clinic closes and has to board your dog overnight.

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How to save on your dog’s spay surgery

There are ways to save on your dog’s spay surgery that don’t compromise the quality of service. Consider the following options:

  • Check your local animal shelter - Find out if a local animal shelter offers free or low-cost options.
  • Search low-cost clinics - You can browse the internet for low-cost clinics in your area or search for a clinic using a referral network, such as Pet Help Finder or SpayUSA.
  • Look for a local Spay-A-Thon - Animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society, organize free or low-cost mass spay and neuter events. Check your local organization’s website or social media channels for possible dates.
  • Apply for financial aid - Organizations like Best Friends, Pet Lifeline and Friends of Animals offer funding help.
  • Check veterinary colleges - Some veterinary colleges offer low-cost veterinary care. You can find listings by state via the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
  • Apply for a payment plan - Veterinary service payment plans, such as VetBilling, allow pet owners to pay for services over time, rather than upfront.
  • Start a crowdfunding campaign - You can use any crowdfunding platform to raise funds, or try a pet-specific platform such as Waggle, which directs all funds raised to your veterinarian.

Does pet insurance cover the cost of spaying?

Pet insurance typically does not cover the cost of spaying or neutering. However, the best pet insurance companies offer a preventative care rider, through which you can be reimbursed for the cost. Additionally, some wellness riders can reimburse you up to $150.

Benefits of spaying Your dog

The benefits of spaying your dog are plenty. Not only will you be helping control pet overpopulation, but also setting your dog up for a healthier, happier life.

Benefits of spaying your dog include:

  • Lower risk of cancer - Sterilized dogs, whether male or female, are at a lower risk for developing cancer, according to a Merck Veterinary Manual study. In female dogs, for example, the more heat cycles she experiences before being spayed, the higher her risk of mammary tumors in the future. Male dogs have a lower risk of testicular cancer if neutered.
  • No side effects of heat cycle - During heat, which occurs about every eight months, female dogs experience a bloody, sometimes odorous vaginal discharge. They also often exhibit nervous behavior, including howling and increased urination.
  • Avoid pyometra, a life-threatening condition - Older, unspayed dogs are most susceptible to uterine infections such as pyometra. Symptoms include poor appetite, vomiting, lethargy and increased thirst or urination. Studies show that one in four unspayed dogs that reach 10 years old will develop pyometra.
  • Reduce hormone-driven behavior - Some dogs become less aggressive and exhibit more consistently calm behavior after spaying due to the decrease in hormones, whether testosterone or estrogen.
  • A longer life - Spaying your dog may increase her lifespan. Studies show that, on average, sterilized dogs live almost two years longer than intact dogs.

Disadvantages of spaying your dog

Breeding organizations and affiliated websites occasionally highlight the disadvantages of spaying dogs. However, reputable studies demonstrate that the risks associated with spaying your dog are actually minimal.

Veterinarians widely agree that the only negative change in spayed dogs is a reduced metabolism. However, this can be managed by maintaining healthy eating habits, such as feeding them the best dog food with no more than a 12-hour interval between each meal and opting for nutritious treats like fruits and vegetables.

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How Much Does it Cost to Spay a Dog? FAQs

Can you spay a pregnant dog?

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Yes, a pregnant dog can be spayed. However, the procedure may cost more. Talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible, as complications increase as the pregnancy develops.

How long does it take to spay a dog?

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A typical spay surgery usually lasts between 20 and 90 minutes.

When can you spay a dog?

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The ideal time to spay a dog is before her first heat cycle, typically around five to six months of age. However, dogs can be spayed at any time after this age as well.

How long do you have to wait to spay a dog after heat?

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You don’t have to wait to spay your dog because she’s in heat. Dogs in heat can be spayed, although the cost may be slightly higher. Talk to a veterinarian to find out what’s best for your dog.

What is the difference between spay and neuter a dog?

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A spay surgery is the removal of the reproductive organs in a female dog. A neuter surgery is the removal of the testes in a male dog.

Summary of Money’s How Much Does it Cost to Spay a Dog?

The cost to spay a dog varies depending on your chosen veterinary facility. At a private veterinary practice, the cost ranges from $145 to $700. You may be able to spay your dog for free through a nonprofit organization or find a reduced price — somewhere between $55 and $475 — at a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Cost may also be affected by your dog’s size, age, breed, pre-existing health issues and your geographical location.

Spaying your dog is an important part of pet ownership. It’s a way to help control the pet population, and it also carries a plethora of benefits for your dog, including lowering their risk of health problems and extending their lifespan.

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