An Introduction to Canine Spay Surgery

Spay surgery, also called overiohysterectomy (OHE), involves removing your dog's ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus so that she cannot become pregnant. Though the procedure is major abdominal surgery, it is very common and rarely causes complications. Many veterinarians believe that the advantages of spaying your dog far outweigh the disadvantages. Understanding the procedure beforehand will help you to make an informed decision whether to spay your dog, as well as to better care for your dog afterward.

Spaying Eliminates Unwanted Aspects of Heat Cycle

If you do not want to breed your dog, spay surgery will prevent the following inevitabilities of her heat cycle:

  • Bloody discharge with bad odor
  • Attention of males wanting to mate
  • Pregnancy and associated risks

Spaying Prevents Growth and Spread of Female Cancers

The ovaries produce estrogen, which spurs the growth and spread of uterine, ovary and mammary cancers. Essentially, spaying prevents these types of cancer by halting the production of estrogen through removal of the female organs. Spaying before the first heat cycle reduces to near zero the risk of your dog developing mammary cancer later in life. Spaying your dog beyond her second heat will still offer her significant protection against this common and devastating disease. Finally, spaying can inhibit the growth and spread of tumors in dogs already diagnosed with mammary cancer.

Spaying Prevents Life-Threatening Uterine Infections

Un-spayed dogs in middle age and beyond do not experience anything analogous to human menopause. As a result, they will, with near certainly, develop pyometra, a serious uterine infection. Pyometra occurs during the heat cycle when bacteria in the vagina invade the uterus, causing it to swell with toxic pus and tissue. Spaying is mandatory to save a dog's life at this point. These symptoms signal pyometra:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Vaginal discharge

Step-by-Step Guide to Spay Surgery

Here is what your dog will experience during conventional spay surgery:

  • Your dog fasts at least eight hours prior to surgery.
  • Blood work is done.
  • An intravenous catheter is inserted in your dog's leg for the administration of anesthesia.
  • Your dog receives a tranquilizer intravenously to make subsequent administration of anesthesia easier.
  • A tube is inserted in your dog's throat to maintain a clear airway during surgery.
  • Anesthesia is administered through the tube, which is connected to a monitoring machine.
  • Your dog's abdomen is shaved and cleaned.
  • Your dog's bladder is drained.
  • The surgical site is indicated by clothing or paper draped over your dog's abdomen.
  • Your vet makes an incision and removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and womb.
  • Your vet stitches the incision closed.
  • Your dog is kept in recovery until able to walk.

Your vet will give you complete instructions in caring for your dog after spay surgery. At home, your dog may experience mild pain, nausea and loss of appetite. Provide your dog with a quiet place to recover and limit your dog's physical exertion to allow the incision to close properly. Request an Elizabethan collar if your dog licks her stitches. Notify your vet know if a fluid pocket at the incision site forms and begins to drain.

Why Laser Spay Surgery Is Becoming More Popular

Your vet may perform spay surgery using laser beams rather than a scalpel to make incisions. Veterinarians who prefer this type of surgery report that it causes less damage to tissue, resulting in less pain, bleeding and incidence of infection. Moreover, lasers repair nerve endings during surgery, reducing the amount of anesthesia and post-operative pain medication necessary. Ask your vet about the availability and comparative costs of laser spay surgery in your area.