Should I have my bitch spayed?
What is meant by a spay operation?
A surgical incision is made down the midline of the bitch’s abdomen to gain access to the abdominal cavity. The surgeon locates the uterus (womb) and both ovaries and these three organs are removed. All of the supporting blood vessels are tied off to avoid haemorrhage and then the abdominal musculature, the sub-cutaneous tissues and finally the skin are stitched together in three layers. The technical name for this procedure is ovaro-hysterectomy and it takes between 45 minutes and an hour to complete. Although considered as a routine operation, it is nevertheless still a major abdominal procedure requiring considerable surgical skill. In humans the recovery time is several weeks but dogs will try to behave as if nothing has happened, so the owner must control the pets activity to avoid problems after the operation. Most animals return home later the same day and a post-operative advice sheet is supplied when collecting your pet.
Does she need a full anaesthetic?
The bitch does need a general anaesthetic and the owner has to prepare the animal accordingly (there is a separate advice note for this). Once admitted your pet will be weighed, health checked, possibly blood sampled (see separate advice sheet) before being given a premedicant injection for sedation and an analgaesic injection for post-operative pain relief. When the time comes for surgery the dog is given an anaesthetic injection to send her to sleep, a tube is placed in her windpipe and anaesthesia is maintained by inhalation of anaesthetic gas and oxygen from a machine. Trained personnel using several electronic devices monitor her progress during the operation. Whilst anaesthesia is made as safe as possible through use of the most modern drugs and careful monitoring, no general anaesthetic can be considered to be 100% risk free, unexpected reactions will occur in both human and animal cases although very rarely.
What are the benefits of neutering?
The main reason that people have bitches spayed is to ensure that there is never an unwanted pregnancy and to get rid of the unwanted physical and behavioural symptoms of the bitch in heat. These include blood drips in the house, excessive cleaning by the bitch, behavioural and appetite changes, the tendency to run off and find a mate (with the risk of a road traffic accident) and male dogs queuing up in the garden!
From the bitches viewpoint the advantages are that she will never have to undergo a pregnancy and labour (with the risk of a caesarian operation), and will never get pseudo pregnancies with all of the behavioural and psychological problems that this entails. Also she will never suffer a condition called pyometra, a relatively common and serious condition necessitating ovaro-hysterectomy when the animal is ill, which carries much greater risk. Cancer of the ovary, uterus, cervix and in some cases mammary cancer can also be avoided as can ovarian cysts.
When should my bitch be neutered?
One major advantage of neutering a bitch before ever having a heat is that she will almost never get mammary (breast) cancer in later life. We advise female puppy owners to have them operated between 7 and 8 months of age. Most bitches will come into heat for the first time at round about 9 months but are only well enough grown after 7 months, so timing is important!
Once your pet has had a heat then in order to minimise surgical risk, we would only spay her in the period between 8 weeks after the end of the heat and 4 weeks before the next heat is due.
Are there any disadvantages to having my pet spayed?
Apart from the anaesthetic and surgical considerations there are few other problems associated with spaying. Certainly neutered bitches will have a tendency toward weight gain. If the owner has a sensible and responsible attitude to feeding and can exercise the dog to a reasonable degree then weight is not a problem. However if the dog is fed in an undisciplined way and inappropriately exercised then a truly obese animal will result, bringing all of the health problems that this then entails.
Are there any alternatives to surgical spaying?
It is possible to prevent bitches coming in to heat using drugs that are administered twice yearly either by tablet or injection. Whilst these may be useful for occasional use, in the long term and for continual prevention of heats they do carry unwanted side effects some of which would necessitate surgical spaying to resolve. Also the cost of continual medication would outweigh the “one-off” cost of a spay operation.
I can’t really afford the cost of a spay operation, is help available?
Very often there are charities that will partly assist with the cost of spaying provided that you can give evidence of a means tested benefit and some local authorities have a neutering scheme. Please ask our receptionist for further information.