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Spaying bitches - advantages and disadvantages

Spaying female dogs has always been common, but what do you need to consider when making this decision to neuter your bitch? During a spay, both the ovaries and the uterus are removed. This is called an ovariohysterectomy. In some cases, you can choose to remove only the ovaries, an ovariectomy. In this article we go through the pros and cons of neutering your bitch, and how to care for her after the operation!

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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Benefits of neutering

Neutering can help a bitch to feel more relaxed as she will avoid being in heat and the associated hormone fluctuations. She can also not get pregnant, which can be an advantage if you have both male and female dogs in the household. Another advantage is that the bitch can not get a pyometra (uterine infection) or other diseases that affect the ovaries and uterus.

Pyometra is a serious infection; the most common treatment is typically an emergency operation, where the ovaries and infected uterus are removed. This operation carries a higher level of risk than the elective operation, which is done in a healthy bitch. Occasionally bitches that develop diabetes will benefit from being neutered to help control the disease. It is important to note that if a bitch is spayed before the age of two years, the risk of mammary tumours decreases significantly.

Disadvantages of neutering

The operation itself and the anaesthesia can pose a risk to any healthy pet. However, the risks are small. Pre and post-anaesthesia checks and measures are used to reduce these risks as much as possible.

After neutering, baseline metabolism decreases by about 30%. This means that you need to give less food, or feed a specially adapted food for neutered dogs, so that your bitch does not gain weight and risk becoming overweight. Obesity in turn increases the risk of other problems and diseases.

Unfortunately, some individuals may become urinary incontinent after neutering, ie they leak urine. This is most common among larger dogs and in most cases can be medically managed.

Some bitches may develop coat changes post-neutering, where the fur is perceived as fuzzy, richer or rougher than before.

How does a castration of a bitch work?

In the UK, most bitches are neutered via an incision along the midline of the abdomen. Secure ligatures are placed around the ovarian vessels and the cervix, which are removed together. The abdominal wall is then sutured together in several strong layers. The skin is then closed using sutures, skin staples or glue.

In recent years, some clinics offer keyhole surgery for spaying. Usually only the ovaries are removed, leaving the uterus in place. Two small incisions are made on the side of the abdomen. However, this method is not suitable for all individuals and assessment is made on a case-by-case basis.

The post-op period

Bitches can usually go home the same day as the operation. If complications arise, a bitch may have to remain at the for observation for a few days postoperatively. A Buster collar or a bodysuit will be used so that she is not able to lick the surgical site. She will also be prescribed painkillers, which are fed by mouth for a few days after the operation.

If your bitch has skin sutures or staples, these will need to be removed after 12-14 days. If the surgical site has been closed with glue, she should still have a collar or body until the incision has healed completely. Any hidden sutures under the skin will dissolve by themselves and do not need to be removed.

The operation involves making an incision through the abdominal muscles. In order for this to be able to heal well quickly and safely, your dog needs to have 2-3 very quiet weeks. Too much exercise and movement will put excessive strain on the delicate healing tissues and slow down healing. She must be kept calm and not jump up or down from the sofa, or the car. She must only go for walks on the lead. Quieter activities are recommended for the first month.

If the bitch has had keyhole surgery, the recovery time is often shorter. In most cases, the clinic will provide detailed information on aftercare. If in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask what exactly applies to your dog.

Age for neutering

There are divided opinions about when the optimal time for a neutering of a young bitch should take place. You can neuter bitches from about 6 months of age. Many people elect to neuter their bitch after the first season, so that they have reached sexual maturity. You can discuss with your vet what may suit your dog, depending on, for example, the breed, size and growth.

Elective neutering should be done when a bitch is healthy and a healthy weight. It should be planned three months after the last season, as the risk of complications is at its lowest. During heat and pregnancy the risk of neutering is higher, and therefore this should be avoided if possible.

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