Neutering a female dog is also known as ‘spaying’. The technical name for the procedure is ovariohysterectomy.
The operation involves the removal of the entire womb (uterus) and the ovaries. The operation is done through her tummy, at the midline.
Normally your pet is admitted for surgery between 8 and 9 am. She will be given a pre-medication injection to make her feel more relaxed and to give some pain relief. Another painkilling injection is given before your pet has the operation. After a full general anaesthetic and her op, she will be ready to go home later on the same day, with some painkilling medication for you to give her for a few days. Recovery after the procedure is quick, unlike in women, and your pet should be back to normal by the time the skin stitches are removed 10 days later.
When to spay?
For small and medium sized dogs we recommend spaying at 6 months of age, before the first season. For larger breeds of dog (greater than 20kg at 6 months of age) we recommend spaying 3 months after the end of the first season. Bitches of any age can be spayed but naturally the benefits are greater the younger the dog. There are no health benefits for your dog in letting her have puppies before she is spayed.
Pros & Cons
- Your bitch will not have seasons so cannot become pregnant.
- No season associated bleeding.
- Greatly reduced risk of mammary (breast) tumours if your bitch is spayed before her first or second season. The reduction in risk is greatest the earlier the surgery is done and there is no reduction in risk if she is spayed after the age of 2 years.
- No season associated stress for male dogs living in the same household.
- Removal of the womb and ovaries eliminates the risk of developing a womb infection (pyometra) or ovarian cancer later in life.
- False pregnancies are prevented.
- Vaginal polyps are reduced in occurrence.
- Although routinely done, ovariohysterectomy is a major operation, with potential risks including postoperative wound problems and rarely, bleeding during or after the operation. General anaesthesia always involves slight risk.
- Obesity can develop in some spayed dogs. Reducing the food intake, especially treats and dried food, prevents this from happening.
- A small proportion of dogs (usually of large breeds, Labrador size plus) can develop urinary incontinence after spaying. This can be treated with medication. Spaying 3 months after the first season in large dogs helps avoid this problem, although bitches can be spayed from 2 months after the end of a season until just before the next season.
- Minor coat changes can occur, most noticeably in breeds with long glossy hair e.g. Setters and Spaniels.
Spaying your bitch is a safe and reliable way of preventing unwanted puppies. The additional advantages include elimination of the regular 6 monthly seasons, and some important health benefits.