What Is Spaying?
Spaying, also called an ovariohysterectomy, is a surgical procedure in which both of a female dog’s ovaries, as well as her entire uterus, are removed through an incision made in the abdomen under general anesthesia. In Europe, and increasingly in the United States, just the ovaries are removed; this is called an ovariectomy or oophorectomy. Although spaying female dogs is common, any abdominal surgery is serious and should not be considered routine. Most veterinarians recommend withholding food for 12 to 18 hours before surgery, because a full tummy can trigger vomiting and aspiration of stomach contents into the lungs, which can cause other complications. Owners should discuss pre-surgical planning with their dog’s veterinarian well before the spay operation takes place.
Why Spay A Female Dog?
Spaying has many health and behavioral benefits for the dog and its owner. The main goal of an elective spay is to prevent the dog from having puppies. Spaying eliminates the risk of pregnancy and also prevents ovarian and uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, irregular or prolonged heat cycles, false pregnancies, uterine torsion, uterine prolapse, ovarian cysts, metritis (inflammation of the uterus) and pyometra (accumulation of pus in the uterus). Spaying can also help control some endocrine abnormalities, including epilepsy and diabetes. It eliminates the barking, whining and destructive behavior caused by intact males living in or nearby the household. Females spayed before their first heat cycle are extremely unlikely to develop mammary gland (breast) cancer. The chance of mammary cancer increases with each subsequent cycle. Spaying after the first but before the second heat reduces the risk of mammary cancer by about 8% compared to an intact bitch; spaying after the second but before the third heat reduces the risk by about 25%. Spaying after that has no measurable impact on the risk of mammary cancer. Occasionally, females are spayed to repair diseased, damaged or malformed reproductive tissue. Females don’t need to go through a heat cycle or have puppies to be happy or mature normally. Spaying won’t change a dog’s basic instincts or temperament, nor will it make her lazy or fat. Obesity in domestic dogs is almost always caused by too little exercise and too much food, although a decrease in estrogen can be an appetite stimulant.
When To Spay A Female Dog?
Historically, female dogs have been spayed between 6 and 9 months of age, before they go through their first heat cycle. Increasingly, many authorities believe that spaying can safely be done as early as 8 to 12 weeks of age, although this is somewhat controversial. Spaying before 12 weeks of age has been associated with an increased risk of urinary infections and incontinence. Early spaying, before a puppy goes to its forever home, eliminates the chance of future breeding misuse. Most animal shelters and rescue organizations spay dogs before they are put up for adoption.
Potential Complications of Spaying
Any procedure that requires general anesthesia carries certain risks, up to and including anesthesia-related death in rare cases. Female dogs that are spayed before 3 months of age have an increased risk of developing life-long urinary incontinence.