Spay Your Female Puppy To Protect Her Health
Spay your companion dog is not negotiable. If you have a female puppy romping around your home, one of the very important parts of her puppy care will be to have her spayed. Spaying your dog is necessary.
You need to schedule her appointment before her first heat cycle, the surgery should usually be done before six months of age. Several tragic things can happen to dogs who are not spayed. Quite often she will develop mammary cancer in her mid to later life. She has a near zero chance of this disease if she is spayed before her first heat, this increases to just under 10% chance after her first cycle, and increases yet again to about 25% chance after her second heat.
It is never too late however, if she is already gone through a cycle or more. The sooner the better. Spaying your dog is the best way to protect her longevity. A dog will come into heat about every six to eight months, some may vary on either side of that estimate slightly. Her vulva and her nipples will swell and she will have some degree of bloody vaginal discharge.
She will stay in heat for three weeks and will be able to conceive for about 10 days. During this time she will discharge blood and stain whatever she sits on, she will need to urinate more frequently and therefore be outside more often, she will exude an odor to attract a mate and she will probably try to get out and find one. Though often she will not have to go to the trouble because a male dog will go to any length to get to a bitch in heat, often scaling six foot fences and cinder block walls. Eventually her organs will shrink to their pre-estrous size the first time or two she goes through heat, but as the tissue ages she will develop permanently enlarged mammary glands and vulva.
An older unspayed female dog is easy to spot and never looks as healthy as one who was fixed early on. A dog’s cycle becomes more irregular as she ages but it never stops completely. Dogs do not reach what we know as menopause. As the cycle becomes more irregular it will become more difficult to detect if something is wrong. Spaying your dog eliminates all of this.
Mammary cancer is very common in female dogs who are not spayed. Ovarian cancer and cysts also occur in dogs and like in people are very hard to detect because the outward symptoms don’t occur until the growth inside has caused a lot of damage. Uterine cancer can also occur with the same problem of not being noticed until it is often too late. Spaying your dog eliminates all of this.
The course of treatment for any of these forms of cancer will begin with the dog undergoing an ovariohysterectomy, where both the uterus and ovaries are removed to stop the hormones from causing proliferation of the cancer. This surgery is similar to what would have originally been called a ‘spay’ but is much more complicated to perform at this stage, and while the end result is the removal of the same organs, it is no longer the simple everyday occurring surgery that it would have been early on. Any obvious tumors and affected lymph glands will be removed and sent in to the laboratory for analysis.
This picture shows an engorged uterus of a dog. The uterus exhibits pyometra and is filled with pus. Pyometra is even more common than cancer in unspayed dogs, and is more of a question of when it will happen, not if. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus usually occurring about four to six weeks after her heat cycle.
Bacteria that is introduced to the uterus during estrous is more likely to cause an infection due to the lower immune response that the uterus has during this time. The immunity of the uterus in lower to allow the eggs to implant if she should become pregnant. If the bacteria causes an infection, her uterus will fill with pus and she will become toxic. She will likely stop eating, drink excessively, become lethargic, and have a foul vaginal discharge.
This infection will most likely prove to be fatal if it is let go for very long. It is very important to recognize these symptoms early if she is to be saved. An ‘open’ pyometra means there will be a lot of drainage from the vulva, this also can mean that the uterus is less turgid, less fragile. A ‘closed’ pyometra will show less outward discharge of pus but also indicates that the uterus is likely more full, more tense, and much more fragile. At this state, the dogs only chance is surgery. This is no longer what we think of as a spay. This is now a major surgery, very involved and very critical. The success of the surgery hinges on many factors, including her own strength and will, and the toxicity of her system. Her survival will be uncertain for sometime.
Follow up care will remain critical following any of these procedures. It often involves lengthy hospital stays, IV fluids and antibiotics to flush away the toxicity, sedation so healing can occur, confinement, bandage changes and careful handling to avoid rupturing any sutures, inside or out. The first week is extremely critical as she is healing. Spaying your dog eliminates all of this. Of course major health issues aside there are simply too many puppies now. If you have ever been to a shelter you already know there are many more dogs than people who want them.
Accidental litters of puppies should be avoided. Thousands of healthy happy dogs are euthanized every year because there are not enough homes in which to place them. No one wants them. We really don’t need to add to that population. Having your dog spayed helps ensure that those puppies in the shelters find homes instead having new litters to dilute the homes available. Spaying your dog eliminates all of this.
There really is no option when it comes to female dogs. There is absolutely no benefit to leaving her unaltered, and there is a great deal of harm that may come to her if you don’t do it.
The Spay Procedure
Spaying your dog is obviously a very common procedure, done everyday in most practices. There is always some risk with anesthesia but generally there is very little to worry about. When you arrange to have your dog spayed you can discuss the procedure and the risks with your veterinarian before the surgery so you know better what to expect. The procedure follows basically the same course no matter where you go. The puppy should have her food withheld for eight to twelve hours before the surgery. Anesthesia can cause nausea and vomiting which can be very dangerous in a sedated dog as they can inhale or aspirate the vomit, causing obstruction or leading to pneumonia.
The puppy will often have a catheter placed in her leg for access to the vein for medications, and pre-anesthetics. You may notice a small patch of hair shaved away where the catheter was placed. Once she is sedated, she will have a breathing tube placed down her throat which will be administering a mixture of anesthetic gas and oxygen. These are monitored closely while she is asleep.
During the surgery both the uterus and ovaries are removed. The surgery time varies depending on the puppy’s age and whether she was in heat at the time of the surgery. Even her breed will make a little difference to how quick the surgery goes. Deep chested dogs like Boxers and Dobermans are a little more difficult as their bone structure tends to hide things well.
Dogs that are overweight are more difficult as well due to the excess of fatty tissues surrounding the organs. Generally the surgery will probably take about 20 minutes or so. After the surgery the dog will wake up within a few minutes, but remain groggy for several hours. She will probably be given an antibiotic and anti-pain shot and kept for observation until the next day. It is very important that she stay quiet and confined for the first 24 hours. Once she goes home, she will need to stay confined inside and be kept as quiet as possible. No stairs, no running or playing, and no walks for about a week. You will want to feed her a bit lightly and offer water regularly but not continually the first day so she doesn’t over do it. She will be thirsty, but monitor her intake in case of vomiting.
She will return to the vet in ten to fourteen days for the suture removal and evaluation to return to her normal routine. This is one of the very best things you can do for her quality of life, both now and down the road. Protect her from the things you can, there is enough over which you will have no control.
The Temporary Exception
The only female dogs that should go unaltered are the ones who will compete for championship show titles. If you plan to show your dog, she must remain intact. If this is your path, you have already purchased your puppy from a breeder with a champion blood line and have undoubtedly been briefed in the necessary steps about how her career will flourish and when you will breed her, for how long, and when you will have her spayed.
About The Author
This article was written by Laura Anderson, a veterinary technician with more than 15 years experience in the veterinary field. The views and statements expressed in this article, and all other articles found on Puppy’s Place, do not under any circumstance, constitute veterinary advice. Always seek professional veterinary care for your pet.