Surgical sterilization of
the female dog, commonly referred to as "spaying," is one of the most
significant aspects of female dog care an owner can provide. The
benefits to the dog FAR outweigh simply not having puppies, though as
pet over-populations looms as a societal problem it is important to be
"part of the solution" rather than "part of the problem." Spaying
involves removal of the uterus and ovaries. It is a major surgery but a
very commonly performed one, ideally performed while a female dog is
still a puppy, prior to her first heat cycle.
Consider this page an educational resource among many to bring the
importance of this surgery to light.
WHY ALL FEMALE
DOGS SHOULD BE SPAYED
A female dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero
chance of developing
mammary cancer. After the first heat, this incidence climbs to 7%
and after the second heat the risk is 25% (one in four!). It is easy to
see that an early spay can completely prevent what is frequently a very
difficult and potentially fatal form of cancer.
But is it too late if a dog is already past her second heat? No, in
fact spaying is important even in female dogs who already have obvious
tumors. This is because many mammary tumors are stimulated by estrogens;
removing the ovaries, the source of estrogens, will help retard tumor
Spaying removes both the uterus and both ovaries and is crucial in
the prevention as well as the treatment of mammary cancer.
The older unaltered female dog has an irregular heat cycle. There is
no end of cycling comparable to human menopause. If you still decide
against spaying, be very familiar with the signs of pyometra. (These
include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, excessive thirst, marked
For more information on pyometra,
The female dog comes into heat every 8 months or so. There is a
bloody vaginal discharge and attraction of local male dogs. Often there
is an offensive odor. All of this disappears with spaying.
is very important that the patient has not been fed in at least 8 hours.
Anesthetic medications commonly induce nausea and vomiting can be very
dangerous in a sedated patient (vomit can be inhaled/aspirated leading
A preoperative evaluation is performed; blood work is recommended
for older females and may be recommended as a normal pre-anesthetic
consideration. An intravenous catheter may be placed to facilitate the
administration of anesthetic drugs, for any fluid administration, and
for use in case of emergency. This necessitates shaving a small patch of
skin on one of the legs.
tranquilizer or other pre-anesthetic medication may be administered to
ease the induction of anesthesia. A special medication is given
intravenously to induce sleep. This medication is called an "induction
agent" and lasts only long enough to establish the maintenance of
anesthesia by the inhalant anesthetic (gas). Once the pet is asleep, an
tube is placed in the throat to insure that a clear airway is maintained
through out the procedure.
Sometimes a cough is noted for a couple of days after surgery. This
may have been caused by the tube in the throat. Such coughs only last a
couple of days; anything that persists longer should be
tube is hooked up to a special machine to deliver a specific
concentration of inhalant gas mixed in 100% oxygen. A special technician
is assigned to the monitoring of this pet so that the concentration of
inhalant gas can be changed, color, heart rate, respiration and other
parameters are followed.
In the surgical prep area, the abdomen is shaved and scrubbed. The
bladder is emptied and the patient is moved to a surgical suite, where
she is draped with special cloths or papers to isolate the area where
surgery will take place.
An incision is made on the midline of the abdomen, and the three
points where the ovaries and uterus attaches are tied off and cut. The
abdomen is checked for bleeding and two or three layers of stitches are
placed to close the incision.
is helpful to know that should the skin stitches come out, there are two
layers below holding everything closed. Sometimes skin stitches are not
placed but if they are present, you will need to return in 10-14 days to
have them removed.
The anesthesia technician continues monitoring until the pet dog
wakes up and coughs out the throat tube. The patient is kept in an
observation room until she is able to walk.
Our hospital feels strongly that a night in the hospital is important
to an uneventful recovery. This night in the hospital is analogous to
strict bed rest, just what you would expect to be needed after a major
abdominal surgery. This night also allows for proper administration of
pain medication for a longer time period as well as a post-operative
check up with the doctor the morning after surgery.
Most spay patients go home the next day as if nothing had happened
though some will need pain medication for a few days.
Some nausea may occur in the first couple of days after surgery and
it would not be unusual for the pet to refuse food for a day or two
As noted above, a cough may persist for a couple of days as a result
of the throat tube. This should not persist longer than a couple of
who show a propensity to lick their stitches will need an Elizabethan or
"E" collar to restrict access to the stitches. This is not very
comfortable for the dog but must be used strictly until the stitches are
out and the incision is healed.
Activity should be restricted during the week following surgery.
Excessive activity can lead to swelling or fluid accumulation under the
incision. If a fluid pocket does form, it should resolve on its own
after a few weeks. If a fluid pocket forms and drains liquid from the
incision, the dog should be
re-checked with the veterinarian.
The female dog's reproductive tract is dormant for most of the year.
It only activates for the three week period of heat. This means that
from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts spayed most of the
time. This said, there has been a documented slowing of metabolism after
spay and it may be necessarily to use a reduced Calorie food in an adult
dog. Check with your veterinarian about nutritional recommendations.