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What is the procedure?

‘Spaying’ is also known as an ovariohysterectomy. This means removal of the ovaries and uterus. This stops the bitch from having regular heat cycles and from being able to reproduce.

Should I get my bitch spayed?

Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to spaying and ongoing research means advice is constantly evolving. It is a decision that should be based on the age, breed and your aims as an owner, carefully considering the benefits and risks. If you are at all unsure, then don’t hesitate to discuss the decision with us at Orchard Vets.

So, what are the proven benefits?

  • Eliminates the risk of uterine or ovarian cancer.
  • Eliminates the risk of developing pyometra (pus in the uterus). This is an entirely preventable and common condition that can prove fatal. Emergency surgery is almost always required to treat this condition.
  • Reduces the risk of developing mammary cancer later in life, if carried out before the third heat cycle.
  • Protection against unwanted pregnancies.
  • Eradicates oestrus behaviour and associated bleeding.
  • Prevents pseudopregnancy.

When should I get her spayed?

It is generally advisable in most cases to allow a female dog to go through her first heat cycle, as this can reduce the risk of vaginitis due to a recessed vulva, and is thought to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence later in life (USMI). If you would particularly like to desex younger than this, for example if you think it will not be possible to prevent accidental mating, please arrange to discuss with one of the veterinary team.

If you have no intention to breed your female, we usually advise spaying between the first and second seasons/ heat cycles. This allows some of the benefits of a heat cycle, but still minimises the risk of mammary cancers and pyometra.  The natural variation in the age of first heat between small breed dogs and larger breed dogs will generally ensure that all dogs are appropriately mature at this point.

The best time to spay is during anoestrus, which is generally about three months after a season. This may need to be delayed if physical or behavioural changes suggestive of false pregnancy occur.

What are the potential complications and risks of the procedure?

Spaying is one of the most common operations performed in veterinary practice. Providing the bitch is in good health and aftercare protocols are followed, serious complications are extremely uncommon. However, despite being a routine surgery, ovariohysterectomy is a major procedure and minor to major complications can occur, so it is important that you are aware of them.

  • Slippage of ligatures and bleeding.This can be serious and even potentially life threatening complication that occurs during or after the surgery and may require additional supportive treatment or very rarely surgical intervention in the post-operative period.
  • Haematoma, abscess or seroma. Accumulations of blood or fluid below the incision may occur and will generally resolve without intervention. More rarely, pus may accumulate and require antibiotics. This is very rare due to careful aseptic technique.
  • Infection and wound breakdown. Stopping her from licking her incision and restricting exercise is important in preventing this.
  • Herniation. Rarely, the internal or external stitches fail allowing fat or abdominal contents to come through. This may have serious consequences and requires prompt surgical intervention.
  • Anaesethetic risk. Multiple measures are taken to reduce this risk and your pet will be closely monitored at all times. The weight of the patient and length of anaesthesia are some factors that increase the risk.
  • Weight gainpost surgery if her diet is not adjusted appropriately.
  • Mild gastro-intestinal upset post surgery that is usually self-limiting.
  • Very rarely a portion of reproductive tract may be left requiring further surgery.
  • Though extremely rare, damage to the urinary tract or bowel are recognised possible complications.

A special mention: Rottweilers

There is some evidence to show that rottweilers are at an increased risk of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) after spaying.

What should I expect after the procedure?

Your bitch will go home the same day as the surgery. She will be given a buster collar or medishirt to prevent her from licking her incision. She will need to have her exercise restricted, only going out to the toilet on the lead for the first 3 days.

We will see her for a check up 3 and 10 days post surgery to make sure she has recovered from the anaesthesia and that there are no complications that need addressing. At the 3 day check up exercise will be discussed and gentle lead exercise may be advised depending on the progression of healing