Spaying Your Female Dog
Female Dog Health
I love all dogs, but that doesn't mean that I want puppies. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, the dog is already spayed or will be shortly after adoption. However, you may still have questions about the whole process. The best thing that you can do to ease your insecurities is to make sure that you know everything you can about the surgery.
It is actually an important surgery because it will truly reduce the risk of breast cancer and it will reduce the risk of an unwanted pregnancy by 100%. Spaying your female dog can feel scary for the owner. Below is the basic information that should hopefully help you ease any worries about having your precious pup spayed.
When to Spay a Female Dog
There are a lot of breeders who recommend that you wait until after the dog's first heat to get the dog spayed. This is because many people believe that a female dog is not fully done growing until she has her first heat, when she becomes an adult, so to speak. By spaying too early, some theorize that you prevent the dog from maturing to its full size. (I believe that a dog will grow to its full potential no matter when you spay, but it's up to you whether you believe it or not.)
Otherwise, the main concern is spaying the dog before the first heat. Some vets will spay females as early as 6 weeks old given that the puppy weighs more than 5 pounds, but most vets wait until the puppy is at least 6 months old. By spaying before the dog's first heat, you prevent an unwanted litter and you give your pet more protection against developing breast cancer in the future.
The actual stats on preventing breast cancer are as follows:
- A dog spayed before her first heat has a mere 0.5% risk of developing breast tumors later in life.
- A dog spayed between her first and second heat has an 8% risk of developing breasts tumors.
- A dog spayed after her second heat has a 26% chance of developing breast tumors, which is the same as a dog who is not spayed.
The only time that you want to wait until after the first heat is if your female puppy has severe vaginitis, as it may be resolved by letting her go through one heat cycle before spaying her.
If you wait too long, your dog's odds of developing a uterine infection greatly increase. If you do not have the dog spayed by the time she's 5 years old, her odds of a uterine infection are pretty high. The treatment is to surgically remove the uterus, but if you don't notice the signs of the infection early enough, then there may not be anything the doctor can do.
Sometimes, you can get your dog spayed during her heat, but very few vets will actually do it as it is more complicated during the heat, and saying this that means it's more expensive. I personally waited it out until my American Pit Bull Terrier was about 8 months old before I had her spayed, trying to get as close as I could to her first heat without actually having to experience it.
What Is the Process of Spaying a Dog?
Although it is a pretty routine and basic surgery for vets, for a pet owner, it can be scary knowing that your beloved pup is going under anesthesia and having major surgery. It will calm your nerves if you understand the process.
The basics involve your dog being put under general anesthesia just like a human would be using a breathing tube in the trachea that is connected to the anesthesia machine. Your dog's heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure will be monitored throughout the procedure, as well.
Your dog will be positioned on her back on a heated surgical table. The hair on the abdomen is shaved and the skin is cleaned with a surgical scrub. Using a scalpel, the vet will make an incision, and depending on the size of the dog the incision will vary between 1.5 and 4 inches long. The vet will locate the uterus underneath the bladder and follow each horn of the uterus up to each ovary. Then, using clamps and sutures, the vet will tie off the blood vessels before he/she cuts the uterus and ovaries free to remove them.
The vet will then suture the abdominal muscles back together, and then sutures or glues the skin back together. The anesthesia is turned off, and the vet techs will watch your dog as she slowly wakes up where she will be moved to a recovery kennel.
What Happens After the Surgery?
Depending on your vet, they will either require that you leave your dog overnight or they will allow you to pick up your dog later in the evening. Some dogs will show some signs of discomfort after the surgery, but not all will.
In most cases, your dog will act completely normal after the surgery, but you want to monitor what the dog eats due to the anesthesia. Sometimes dogs will react to the anesthesia just like humans do. Many vets will recommend that you half the dog's normal diet for the first meal. It took about 3 days for my APBT to fully recoup her surgery, as she got sick drinking water much less eating an ice chip. It will typically take about 10 to 14 days for the incision to heal.
What are the risks of spaying your dog?
For the most part, the biggest risk is death from an unpredictable anesthetic reaction, excessive bleeding, or an abdominal infection. It is extremely rare for a healthy young dog to die as a result of being spayed. Other complications can include fever, pain, skin irritation the sutures, or reaction to the anesthesia (typically throwing up).
Myths About "Fixing" Your Dog
A few myths associated with spaying and neutering dogs include the following:
- She will no longer want to protect her family or home. (Protection is a natural instinct that cannot be taken away by removing hormones. The actual extent of the protection trait will depend on genetics, environment, and training.)
- She will get fat and lazy.
- She will either stay a puppy or revert to puppyhood forever.
- It's expensive. (Remember spaying your dog once prevents a full litter of puppies that you have to feed, care for, and find homes for.)
- She'll be sad and upset with me because she can't have a litter of puppies. (She doesn't want the puppies. You do. Your female dog will not act or behave any differently if you breed her once or if you never breed her at all. It's all animal instinct, and if you remove the hormones, for the most part, the instinct is gone.)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.