In part one, we discussed the risks of neutering your male dog. Though neutering has its considerations, spaying is more complex, and has interesting considerations.
Formally called an ovario-hysterectomy, the first incision is made through the outer layer of skin, roughly, 2 – 4 inches above the vulva (depending on the size of the female dog, or “bitch”). Unlike a neuter, the doctor must now make an incision in the subdural (or under the skin) muscle layer. This means that he/she must penetrate the body cavity and therein lies the risk. It results in more blood, more sedation (anesthesia), and more careful monitoring of the heart rate, blood-oxygen levels, and number of breathes per minute. The procedure takes more time than a neuter surgery, and it takes longer for the patient to wake up due to the increased anesthesia. It is a more complex surgery than a (comparatively) simple neuter.
The next step is to close off the arteries connecting to the ovaries, as well as, closing off the cervix. An ovario-hysterectomy is the removal of ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. Once these are removed, the muscle wall is sutured back together, followed by the skin. That would mean there are two separate sets of sutures/stitches. Dissolvable sutures are used on the inner body cavity, while removable stitching is used for the skin.
Because a doctor has to enter the abdomen, the healing time is also longer- approximately 14-21 days, as opposed to 10 days in a neutered male (these healing times may vary of course). Most of the veterinarians I have worked with keep a spayed bitch overnight following the procedure, while most neutered dogs can go home same day if the animal wakes up from the anesthesia early enough.
Hearing this, you may think “why would anyone want to do this to their beloved pet?” Because the benefits out-weight what is actually a very small risk. Here is my simple pros and cons list:
The Pros of spaying
1) Females in estrus are often restless and/or uncomfortable with it if there is no “relief”. Much like the neighborhood male dogs who know a female in heat is around; this is very stressful on them. You would be a better neighbor to other male (neutered or not) dog owners.
2) You may find uninvited guests roaming your yard when she is in estrus. Most people are a little surprised to find the neighbors’ dogs visiting at all hours, but even when she is not, they now have very good reason to mark, and compete with other dogs, over rights to your property.
3) No more bi-yearly bleeding. Bitches go into estrus twice a year, and bleed when not inseminated.
4) Spaying greatly reduces the occurrence of mammary, uterine, and ovarian cancer. Again, I hate this reason, but it is true. It also prevents a uterine infection known as pyometra. I have seen this before, and it is not pleasant for the victim, owner or medical staff treating the problem.
5) Population control. In this day and age, some people think leaving their fertile female in the yard or on a tie-out is a good idea. Read #1, and P.S…. males will find creative ways to get to her.
The Cons of Spaying
1) Spaying reduces estrogen levels within the body. Estrogen is considered to play a significant role in mental health. Low levels of estrogen has been noted to “lower the mood” of females and is also plays a significant role in treating obsessive-compulsive disorders.
2) Weight gain is can occur in some spayed females. Estrogen accelerates metabolism.
3) There are studies being conducted by veterinary schools noting the occurrence of urinary incontinence in spayed bitches. This is not a common occurrence, however, and is more of a concern in animals spayed too early. It effects their physical development early on.
4) There are studies being conducted by veterinary schools noting the occurrence of ACL tears and other ligament weaknesses in spayed bitches. This is not a common occurrence either, and is more of a concern in animals spayed too early. Once again, this seems to be a physical developmental issue.
It’s a close call when you look at it from a 5 to 4 score, but my opinion here is that all non-working, non-breeding females should be spayed. With neuters and spays alike, you can “have your cake and eat it too”. Once again, it’s all about the timing of the procedure in conjunction with your dog’s growth and development.
There are some risks with the procedures, but they are relatively small when you consider current veterinary technology and the surgical training and skill of the average veterinarian. Ovario-hysterectomy is a commonly done procedure, so they get a lot of practice in. My concern, as always, is the timing of the surgery. Has your bitch developed physically as a female? I know vets that say “I think she has developed enough”. That’s B.S. if the dog is under 6 months! I think it’s better done as late as possible, but before her first estrus.
I, personally, would rather my girl have her first heat and then spay her, than spay her too early. I am not that afraid of cancer. I am more of a fan and promoter of quality-of-life. If you are more concerned about cancer than me, then definitely spay before the first estrus. After the first heat, the odds of mammarian cancer are increased. I would still like to see a test done on the occurrence of cancers in intact female dogs. One does not exist, and if it did, I bet it would show that if cancer was that prominent, the species would surely be dying out!
In part three, I’m going to talk about the myths, medicine and the business, and the pressure that is applied on the public in reference to “fixing” your pet. I believe it should be your decision. Most of the information available to the public talks about the ease of handling your animal following the surgery- not the actual effects of the procedure on male and female dog.