Spaying and neutering are routine but serious surgeries that have many health benefits. Make sure you have all the facts on what the procedures might cost and what the options are for your dog.

By Katie Mills Giorgio
August 24, 2020
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Credit: dima_sidelnikov / Getty

Typically, the decision to spay or neuter your dog is an important one you make early on in your pet’s life. Spaying a female dog and neutering or castrating a male dog are widely considered the best ways to control the pet population and can actually keep your dog healthier and help her live a longer, happier life.

“In addition to helping prevent pet overpopulation, altering your pet can improve the overall health of your pet and help reduce bad behaviors like marking,” Preston Moore, Iowa State Director, State Affairs for The Humane Society of the Americas, says.

But even if you believe in the benefits of the procedures, you may have some questions about how much it costs to spay or neuter a dog. And the truth is, it isn’t cheap. But animal lovers and advocates don’t want finances to be a barrier to making the decision to get your dog spayed or neutered. Some organizations, usually nonprofits or government agencies, have raised money through donations to offer spaying and neutering surgeries at a lower cost for people who typically would not be able to afford such a procedure for their pet. Whether you pursue these low-cost options or take your dog to your veterinarian, find out what spaying or neutering will cost and pick the right course of action for you and your dog.

What’s the Average Cost of Spaying a Female Dog?

The cost to spay your female dog, which involves a surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus so she is unable to have puppies, depends on a few variables:

  • Where you live
  • The size of your dog (smaller dogs like Chihuahuas are less expensive than a Great Dane, for example)
  • What type of veterinarian you choose 

While there are a lot of variables, spaying will typically run $50–$500. Costs at the low end of that spectrum are typically subsidized through a public agency. “There are many low-cost spay and neuter clinics around the country to help make the process more accessible to all pet owners,” Moore says. “To find a low-cost clinic in your area, check with your vet, local animal shelters, or simply do an online search for ‘low-cost spay and neuter clinic’ for your area.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers low-cost spay and neuter services in major cities around the country. National retailer PetSmart also has a searchable database for low-cost spay and neuter options. You can also reach out to your local animal shelter and humane society to see if they offer spaying at reduced costs.

A traditional, privately owned veterinarian office will likely charge upwards of $400 for such an operation. While that’s not a small sum of money, keep in mind that it is likely less than you’d pay to care for her during pregnancy and deliver and to care for a new litter of puppies. 

It’s worth having a conversation with your vet when discussing your options as well, since they may offer a payment plan or have other financing options to tap into. Either way, you should expect a high level of care for your pet during her spaying procedure. And experts caution that price should not be your motivating factor. “Please don’t price shop for a spay,” says Pam Nichols, DVM, President-elect of the American Animal Hospital Association. “An adult, large breed, slightly overweight or obese dog spay is the single most difficult surgery that most veterinarians will do.” 

What’s Included in the Cost of Spaying a Dog?

Spaying is a major surgery, so it’s understandable that it’s expensive. And there’s a fair amount of care that will go into it—your vet needs to ensure your pet is a healthy candidate for surgery, does well while being operated on, has appropriate pain management options, and recovers well.

The surgery involves putting your dog under anesthesia. This is something to discuss with your vet. You’ll want to know what’s going to be used and how your dog will be monitored while she is under. Of course, the cost covers the operation itself and all the blood work and monitoring that takes place. In a traditional veterinarian office, someone will likely be with your dog until she fully awakes from surgery.

If you utilize a low-cost service, you may need to clarify what is included pre-surgery (there’s not usually a full pre-exam or blood work, for example) and post-surgery. If the low-cost service simply covers the surgery, you may need to make a follow-up appointment with your regular vet.

And if the procedure is more complicated than expected, such as if your dog has pre-existing conditions and needs extra blood tests before surgery or is older, that could add an additional $100 to $200 to the total cost. But talking with your vet can help you get a handle on these costs and you should be made aware of this upfront. Your vet may also be willing to give you a tour of the facility, including the operating room so you’re comfortable with where the procedure will take place as well as the cost. 

What Does It Cost to Neuter a Male Dog?

While not as expensive as having a female dog spayed—which is a more complicated surgery—neutering is still a surgical procedure and doesn’t come cheap. Neutering procedures can run anywhere from $35–$250 depending on your dog’s breed and age, where you live, and what type of veterinary clinic you visit. If your dog has any pre-existing conditions, the price could go up. That’s why it is super important to sit down with your vet and talk through all the elements beforehand. 

Ideally, your regular veterinarian would perform your dog’s castration. As your dog’s primary healthcare provider, he is best equipped to understand any factors that should be considered before performing surgery. And, many veterinarians are able to provide payment plan options to space out the cost of your dog’s neutering procedure. However, if you do decide to seek help elsewhere, rest assured you can still get professional care at a reputable low-cost clinic.

Nellie Goetz, DVM MPH, is Executive Director of Altered Tails, a high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinic serving 22,000 patients a year. She wants pet owners to know that low-cost does not mean low quality when it comes to getting your dog neutered. 

“When you go to a low-cost clinic, you should be getting the same level of care you would expect at a full-service clinic,” she says. “Today, vets and staff at these clinics are highly trained and can do many more spay/neuter surgeries a day than a full-service practice because of the level of efficiency.”

What’s Included in the Cost of Neutering a Dog?

Neutering is a surgical procedure where the doctor makes an incision on your dog’s scrotum and removes his testicles. And as with any surgery, there are procedures that happen beforehand to make sure your dog is a good candidate for surgery. 

At a private vet’s office, the cost you pay for neutering likely includes the pre-exam and blood work that needs to be run. Prior to the operation, your dog will be anesthetized and then monitored while under, so that is included in the procedure cost as well. Small dogs may cost less than large ones, because they take less anesthesia. The cost also most likely includes someone monitoring your dog during the entire procedure and afterward as he begins to recover from anesthesia. 

Many veterinarians treat the cost of neutering on a case-by-case basis because each dog is a unique patient to treat. Have an open conversation with your dog’s care provider before he heads into surgery so you thoroughly understand the procedure and what’s included.