Spaying is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on female dogs.
Pet owners are the ones who usually request spaying their female dogs, mostly to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, although it is a fairly simple procedure whose technique is nowadays widely performed by professionals, many questions arise about ethical issues: What is the best age to spay pets? Which are the health risks associated with spay in dogs? Is it the right thing to do?
What Are Spaying And Neutering And How Are They Performed?
In common speech, the term sterilization is used for both genders: in both cases, in fact, the purpose is to reduce the risk of certain diseases or prevent breeding and, therefore, new pups. However, spaying a dog refers to the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs, while neutering refers to the procedure that’s done for males. These are two different surgeries with two different scientific names.
In females dogs, when both ovaries are removed, it is called an ovariectomy surgery (OVE), but when both ovaries and the uterus are removed in a surgery, it is an ovariohysterectomy (OVH). On the other side, when neutering a male dog, both testicles are removed. This surgical procedure is called orchiectomy.
Spaying in Female Dogs: Advantages and Disadvantages
The main purposes for which these types of surgeries are performed are birth control, and prevention or removal of diseases. In the case of birth control, some experts argue that this is an intervention against nature and that the dogs experience important changes in their behavior.
From a physical point of view, some consequences can be easily observed: The female dog is often overweight. Therefore, it is appropriate to control its diet carefully. It may also suffer from incontinence.
The scientific community investigates the hypothesis that large spayed female dogs have a higher risk of developing certain types of tumors.
Thus, all these issues should be taken into account by pet owners and veterinarians before deciding whether to spay or neuter their dogs.
On the positive side, spaying female dogs:
- If done before 2.5 years of age, greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer, the most commonly diagnosed tumor in female dogs;
- Nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra – a disease associated with infection of the uterus that affects on average nearly 23% of female dogs and kills approximately 1% of them;
- Reduces the risk of perianal fistulas;
- Eliminates the very small risk (≤0.5%) of uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancer.
On the negative side, spaying female dogs:
- If done before the age of one year, significantly increases osteosarcoma risk (or bone cancer). This common cancer in larger breeds with poor prognosis;
- Increases the risk of splenic hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 2.2 and heart hemangiosarcoma by a factor >5. This is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds;
- Triples the risk of hypothyroidism;
- Triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems;
- Causes “urinary spay incontinence” in 4-20% of female dogs;
- Increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4;
- Increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs spayed before puberty;
- Doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract tumors;
- Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders;
- Increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations.
Spaying in Female Dogs: What is the Procedure like?
As we said before, this is not a complicated surgery. However, in the case of female dogs, this process is a little more invasive, since it affects the animal’s abdominal cavity. This does not happen in the neutering of male dogs, so the post-operative recovery is faster. In young female dogs it is only necessary to remove its ovaries, which is the most common intervention. But when the animal has had several estrous cycles, it is advisable to remove the uterus as well.
In both cases, this is a simple procedure that requires total anesthesia and is generally well tolerated by the bitch. The postoperative phase is also easy to tolerate.
Spaying in Female Dogs: Post-operative Phase
During the first 24-28 hours after the surgery, the female dog resumes its diet, its physiological functions back to normal, and only a few hours after the surgery, it starts to walk.
For a few days, it will be quieter than normal, it will stand up and sit more carefully due to the surgical wound which may cause slight pain. The dog mustn’t lick the wound. To prevent this from happening, it would be a good idea to place an Elizabethan collar around its neck or cover the wound with a postoperative T-shirt for dogs over the first 10 days after the surgery.
During this time, the dog should not be outdoors or run to ensure optimum healing.
Spaying in Female Dogs: What is the Best Age to do it?
It is not easy to say exactly the ideal age to spay your female dog: without international guidelines, the subject remains controversial. It is advisable to make a decision together with the veterinarian, assessing the risks and benefits of surgery.
However, before making the decision, it is good to know that there is a greater tendency to urinary incontinence in spayed female dogs in pre-adult age, according to recent studies. These studies suggest that it would be better not to spay our dog before the first heat. Do not allow your dog to suffer from urinary incontinence.
According to some opinions, the ideal would be to wait for its sexual maturity. However, this implies the risk of being in heat and, therefore, the possibility of an unwanted mating before undergoing this process.
If a male and a female dog live in the same house and cannot be separated, the best option may be to spay and neuter them before the first heat. The potential decrease in the occurrence of mammary tumors if the procedure is done at 6 months to 2 years of age should also be taken into account at the moment of deciding when to spay your female dog.
To sum up, there is no single rule: in order to decide, we must consider several factors, including the size and members (including other possible pets) of the family in which the animal lives.
That is why it is important to rely on a serious professional who will carefully evaluate our dog’s life history and health and guide us towards the right choice.
Spaying in Female Dogs: How Much Does It Cost?
Sterilization costs can vary considerably depending on the veterinary clinic and the country where you are. Generally, we can say that the cost ranges between 180 and 250 dollars, about 200 English pounds, for a traditional intervention. It costs a little more if the operation is performed laparoscopically.
We always advise not to rely on centers that offer too cheap prices. Although the dog’s sterilization is a fairly simple surgery, it is always an intervention that requires full anesthesia and, therefore, must be performed by specialized and serious people.
If in doubt, consult a professional who will give you good assistance and answer all your questions.