Dogs – Spaying
What is spaying and when should it be done?
Spaying is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus of the female dog, thus making her sterile. Another term used is "ovariohysterectomy." We recommend spaying your puppy between 3 and 6 months of age, before her first heat, when sexual development is about complete. Studies on spaying as early as 8 weeks of age ("early-age spay") indicate it to be safe and to not cause any behavioral or physical problems.
Why are female dogs spayed?
Female dogs are spayed in order to prevent the side effects of heat cycles, pregnancy, false pregnancy, production of unwanted puppies and development of cancers of the female reproductive tract and mammary glands.
The behavior changes of a female dog in heat (estrus) are usually of concern to guardians. A female is usually more nervous, irritable, and aggressive during her heat periods.
A female dog can have her first heat cycle usually between 6 and 12 months of age and come into heat twice a year. Each heat cycle lasts 21 to 30 days. The heat cycle is characterized by a swelling of the female's external genitalia and a bloody discharge that is usually profuse and messy.
Pregnancy can be extremely stressful for some dogs, such as the old or obese, and even cause death if eclampsia (loss of calcium) or hemorrhage or dystocia (difficult birth) develops.
Some female dogs after a heat period experience a false pregnancy, where they act and even look pregnant, but are not. This false pregnancy is due to a hormonal imbalance.
A female dog can have 1 to 15 puppies per litter and produce puppies until she is in her teens. In one female dog's life, many puppies can be produced which explains why millions of dogs are destroyed every year.
Unneutered female dogs are prone to cancers of the ovaries and mammary glands, and infections of the uterus including pyometra, a usually life threatening toxic infection of the uterus.
What are the effects of spaying?
The level of the female hormone, estrogen, declines rapidly after spaying. The spayed female dog will not show signs of estrus or be able to have puppies.
A spayed female dog is no longer at risk to cancer of the ovaries or infections of the uterus. If spayed before her first heat your dog will not be prone to mammary gland cancer. This is the primary reason we recommend that you have your female puppy spayed and spayed early!
Dogs spayed before their first heat cycle have less than a 1% risk of developing mammary gland cancer compared to an intact bitch. Dogs spayed after their first, but before their second heat cycle, have an 8% risk. Dogs spayed after their second heat have a 26% risk of developing mammary gland cancer compared to an intact bitch.
A spayed female dog has fewer medical problems, lives longer on the average, does not add to the pet overpopulation problem and makes a more loving and rewarding pet.
I have heard that....
Spayed dogs become fat and lazy.
False. Too much food and lack of exercise leads to obesity. You must be willing to control the dog's food.
Dogs should have one litter before being spayed.
False. This is an old wives' tale. On the contrary, the surgery is harder on the dog that has had a litter, is more complicated, and more expensive.
What is involved in spaying my puppy?
This elective surgery should be performed when the puppy is healthy and has finished her puppy vaccines.
Anesthesia is required to perform this operation. Although anesthesia always carries a degree of risk, the modern anesthetics and monitoring equipment used in modern hospitals and clinics minimizes this risk.
The surgery is performed aseptically after the abdomen has been shaved and surgically scrubbed. An incision is made midline on the abdomen through the skin and muscle layers. The ovaries and uterus are located, the corresponding arteries/veins are ligated, and the uterine body is ligated. The ovaries and uterus are removed, the abdomen is checked for bleeding, and the abdominal muscle and skin layers are sutured.
An analgesic is given to prevent discomfort and the puppy is monitored during recovery from anesthesia.
What type of scheduling is needed for spaying?
First, it is preferable to schedule the surgery when the dog is not in heat. Preferably the surgery should be scheduled between 3 and 6 months of age. If the dog has gone into heat, you should wait 1 month after going out of heat to have her spayed.
It will be necessary to withhold food after 6 PM the night before, and to withhold water after midnight the night before.
Your dog may be able to go home the same day, or she may be ready for discharge after a 1- or 2-night stay. This policy varies among veterinary hospitals.
Please withhold food and water for one hour after returning home. The dog should be given a small amount of food and water that evening and returned to normal feeding the next morning.
Confinement indoors and restricted activity with hand walking for one week will provide the dog rest and you the opportunity to watch for swelling or bleeding. Please make an appointment to have the sutures removed 7–10 days after the surgery.
Please remember that a spay is comparable to a hysterectomy in a woman. A woman may need to stay in the hospital for days, and when she comes home she is not allowed to go up stairs or do much activity for weeks.
Ideally this is what would be best for your dog for optimal healing, but realistically your dog won't stay this quiet, and thus she puts a lot tension on the sutures. This tension may cause inflammation of the incision, a weeping of serous fluid (clear to bloody liquid) from the incision, and slower healing. This is common in very active puppies, overweight dogs, large breed dogs, and adult dogs where a lot tension is put on the incision and sutures. This tension comes from the dog's movements and the weight of the abdominal organs.