What You Need to Know About Spaying Your Female Dog
Spaying female dogs is a common practice. This procedure is called an ovariohysterectomy, where both ovaries and the uterus are surgically removed. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of spaying your dog and how to care for her after the surgery!
Benefits of Spaying Your Dog
The best-known benefit of spaying a female dog is to prevent pregnancies and unwanted litters of puppies. But there are also very important behavioral and health benefits to consider.
Spaying will eliminate your dog’s heat cycles and associated hormone fluctuations. Female dogs that are spayed at a relatively young age often have fewer problems with hormone-related behaviors. These include aggression towards other dogs and people as well as urine marking (although this is more common in males). However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all behaviors are linked to hormone levels. Many behaviors must also be managed with training and socialization.
An important health benefit to spaying is eliminating your dog’s risk for developing a pyometra (uterine infection) or other diseases that affect the ovaries and uterus.
Pyometra is a serious, often life-threatening, infection. The most common treatment is an emergency surgery where the ovaries and infected uterus are removed. This procedure carries a higher level of risk than the elective operation. A dog may spend several days in the hospital following a pyometra surgery.
It’s important to note that if a dog is spayed before two years of age, her risk of developing mammary tumors decreases significantly. This is a significant benefit because about 50% of mammary tumors can become malignant cancers.
Disadvantages of Spaying Your Dog
Ovariohysterectomies are major abdominal surgeries. Fortunately, the surgery carries few risks for a healthy dog. Pre and post-surgical checks and protocols are used to keep your pet as safe as possible.
After your dog is spayed, her metabolism can decrease by up to 30%. Obesity can become a risk factor for other problems and diseases. However, there are three things you can do to prevent weight-gain: reduce the daily food allowance, change the diet to one specifically formulated for spayed dogs, and ensure that she gets enough exercise.
People are often concerned that spaying their dog will change her personality, but this is not the case! You may notice behavioral changes like those mentioned above. However, your dog’s personality traits are a product of genetics and her environment. These won’t change when she’s spayed.
Unfortunately, some female dogs may develop urinary incontinence (leak urine) weeks to years after being spayed. This is most common among larger dogs, and most cases can be managed with medication.
What Happens During the Spay Surgery?
An ovariohysterectomy is performed under general anesthesia. An incision is made along the midline of the abdomen. Secure ligatures are placed around the ovarian vessels and the cervix to prevent bleeding. The ovaries and uterus are then removed. The abdominal wall is sutured together in several strong layers. The skin is typically closed using sutures, skin staples, or glue.
Caring for Your Dog in the Post-Op Period
Usually, your dog can go home the same day as the surgery. If rare complications arise, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two postoperatively.
She will need an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking of the surgical incision. Anti-inflammatory/pain medication will be prescribed to give your dog for several days after the procedure.
If there are visible skin sutures or staples, they are typically removed after 10-14 days. Any hidden sutures under the skin will dissolve by themselves and don’t need to be removed. Your dog should still wear an Elizabethan collar until the incision has healed completely.
This surgery involves making an incision through the abdominal muscles. For this to heal quickly and safely, your dog needs to be kept quiet for 2-3 weeks. Too much exercise and movement will put excessive strain on the delicate tissues and slow down healing. She must be kept calm and not allowed to jump up or down from furniture or the car. She must only go for walks on a leash. Quieter activities are recommended for the first month.
When is the Right Time to Spay?
There are many things to consider when determining the best age to spay your dog. Your veterinarian will help you make this decision based on your dog’s breed, size, weight, and other health factors.
Elective surgeries should be done when your dog is healthy and not overweight. Surgical risks are higher when the dog is in-heat or pregnant and should be avoided if possible - your vet may recommend waiting 1-3 months before spaying.
For more information on when to spay your dog, check out the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
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