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8 Facts About Canine Spaying

1.  If you are not intending to responsibly breed from your bitch, four advantages of getting her spayed are:

  • Avoidance of accidental pregnancy and a litter that may be difficult to find homes for
  • Avoidance of false pregnancy
  • Prevention of a very serious bacterial infection of the womb called pyometra
  • There will be none of the mess and hassle associated with seasons (e.g. having to keep your bitch confined, or walk her very late at night in safe areas only where she will not attract the attention of entire males)

It used to be widely accepted that spaying reduced the risk of mammary tumours, but the British Veterinary Association now say that the evidence is not entirely conclusive. However, bitches spayed before their first season are extremely unlikely to suffer from mammary neoplasia, and those spayed before their second season also have a significantly lower prevalence of the condition.

2.  The medical term for the removal of the uterus and ovaries is ovariohysterectomy. This is preferable to an ovariectomy (where the ovaries only are removed) in the bitch because in the latter procedure, the uterus is left intact so pyometra is still possible.

3.  Some vets prefer to spay a bitch before her first season at around 5-6 months of age. The main reasons for this are that she is less likely to be overweight at a young age, less likely to be suffering from any medical conditions that may make anaesthesia more risky, and it is generally easier to perform the surgery on the young, healthy organs. However, a bitch spayed at a very young age may be at risk of urinary incontinence in later life, which can result from inadequate oestrogen production. She should be sufficiently mature before undergoing a procedure that affects her hormones so dramatically.

4.  A bitch shouldn’t be spayed during a false pregnancy (pseudocyesis) as there is a risk that she may remain psychologically in a state of false pregnancy for the rest of her life!

5.  A season can be medically inhibited by the use of progestogen / androgen compounds. Depot injections may be administered during anoestrus to prevent the next anticipated heat. Side effects that can arise from the medical inhibition of heat may include:

  • Increased appetite and subsequent weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Mammary enlargement
  • Coat changes
  • Possible temperament changes
  • Increased risk of inducing pyometra

6.  Some owners do have reservations about spaying. Potential disadvantages are mainly related to hormonal changes which can affect the oestrogen production (particularly in bitches spayed very young) and result in urinary incontinence in later life, and coat condition. Spaying may predispose some bitches to weight gain, but this can be regulated by reducing her calorie intake if required.

7.  It is better not to spay a bitch when she is in season because during heat, the blood vessels that supply the ovaries and uterus become engorged. During surgery, tissues may tear more easily and there may be greater blood loss. Even tissue not associated with the reproductive organs such as the skin, fat and muscle tissue can be more friable and seep more than normal during the surgical procedure. This makes for a riskier anaesthetic and operation. For this reason, elective spay surgery is usually carried out between seasons unless there are extenuating circumstances.

8.  Keyhole (laparoscopic assisted) spay surgery is more expensive than regular surgery, but it has several advantages which include:

  • It is a safer and less invasive
  • Surgical trauma is greatly reduced
  • Lower levels of pain/discomfort after surgery
  • A speedier recovery
  • A smaller wound which is less likely to be interfered with or result in complications such as burst sutures

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