Should I Spay My Female Dog?
Spaying means surgically removing the ovaries (with or without the uterus) from a female dog. This removes female hormone production, stopping the dog having seasons and preventing breeding. Spaying (neutering) is a routine procedure not requiring hospitalisation, with an average recovery time of 7-10 days.
What are the benefits?
- Neutering prevents accidental mating (monitoring your dog’s bleeding for fertility is not exact)
- Un-neutered females are more likely to develop mammary (breast) cancers, of which 50% are aggressive
- Neutering prevents false pregnancies, which occur when hormones don’t “reset” properly after a season – this causes behavioural changes and even milk production, and is likely to happen again after every following season
- Approximately 25% of un-neutered females will develop pyometra by 10 years old; this is a life-threatening infection of the uterus requiring emergency surgery
- Ovarian and uterine cancer are uncommon but often aggressive and difficult to detect until they are very progressed
- Breeding carries significant risks to the mum, including need for caesarean, development of mastitis, and death during or after birth
Are there any alternatives?
There are no permanent methods of chemical neutering for female dogs, and the high risk of serious problems such as pyometra means spaying is almost always recommended.
Keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery involves smaller wounds with reduced post-operative discomfort and faster recovery times. It is a great option for big, bouncy dogs but can be suitable for any dog over 5kg. Keyhole surgery is not available in every practice as specialist equipment is required.
What are the risks?
All procedures have risks; however, spaying is generally considered a routine and safe procedure. Specific risks include:
- Swelling or infection of the wound; risk reduced with rest and use of a buster collar
- Energy requirements drop drastically after neutering so weight gain is common - obesity can cause many problems so careful weight management is important
- Urinary incontinence in older dogs is more common in neutered females, and larger breeds, however the risk is significantly increased with early neutering (before 3 months) which is not performed in the UK. Urinary incontinence can be managed very successfully with medication.
- Some dog breeds may experience a change in their hair coat texture after neutering
- Anaesthetic deaths and excessive bleeding during surgery can happen but are extremely rare
When should we spay?
There are no health benefits to having a season, or a litter, and spaying from 6 months old (before the first season) is suitable for many dogs.
- Most female dogs have a season every 6-7 months. It is recommended to neuter in between these to reduce the risk of bleeding, typically 3 months post season.
- Studies show that dogs with an adult weight over 20kg have a higher incidence of joint problems if neutered before a year old
- It is recommended to delay neutering of large and giant breeds until 18 months old. However, this risk must be off set with the risk of false pregnancies or accidental mating
Please speak to your vet or nurse to decide what is best for your pet.
What happens on the day?
- You will be asked to bring your pet to the clinic in the morning
- A member of the team will go through a consent form to confirm the procedure and answer any questions you have
- Your dog will need to stay in the clinic for the day; most practices won’t be able to give you the exact time of your pet’s procedure
- Before surgery, a pre-medication injection containing pain relief and a mild sedative will be given to your pet
- Once under anaesthetic, the procedure area will be shaved to allow the skin to be cleaned and made sterile. Some dogs have a mild reaction to clipping which usually settles within a few days
- Surgery typically takes 20-60 minutes however both operating time and the size of the surgical wound vary with the size of dog and different surgeons
- Pets recover from anaesthesia at different speeds, but once your pet has woken up fully, she will be offered something to eat, and a discharge time arranged
What happens afterwards?
- Your dog may be groggy for up to 48 hours as the anaesthesia wears off, but generally most young dogs recover quickly
- You will be given a buster collar and must use this, or a surgical body suit, to prevent your pet from licking her stitches. As they heal, they will become itchy, but interference can cause serious infections.
- It is advised to keep your dog quiet for the first few days and do no more than short lead walks to toilet for 10 days post-surgery
- Check-ups will be in the first couple of days after the procedure and again at 7-10 days post-op
- Removing any sutures and the buster collar will be done at the 7-10 day post-op check-up
Get 20% off neutering when you are a member of The Healthy Pet Club. Please contact your practice to discuss and book neutering your dog.