Spay in dogs

Spay is a routine surgical procedure done in female dogs to prevent pregnancy and has many other health benefits. This means your dog will be neutered and can’t have puppies.

Spaying is a surgery to remove a female dog’s ovaries and uterus. Your dog’s size and breed will determine the appropriate age for spaying. This routine surgical procedure also helps reduce the pet overpopulation crisis. Spaying can also be called neutering, ovariohysterectomy (OVH), or ovariectomy (OVE). After surgery, keep your dog with her buster collar and do not let her lick the wound.

Spay in dogs
The reproductive system in the female dog


What it’s for

Why should bitches be spayed?

Your vet may recommend this surgery for your female dog to prevent or treat the following conditions:

  • Seasons or being in heat.
  • To reduce the chance of mammary cancer, especially when the surgery is performed before the first heat cycle.
  • Womb infections (pyometra).
  • Uncontrollable false pregnancies (phantom pregnancy).
  • As an aid in diabetes treatment.
  • Unwanted pregnancies and risks of birth problems.

The number of puppies born every year is still far greater than the number of good homes that can be found for them. Spaying can help the overpopulation crisis.


How it’s done

How is the surgery done?

The surgery may be done in a traditional “open” manner or through minimally invasive means using laparoscopy. Both procedures are performed under general anaesthesia.

Open surgery

Ovariohysterectomy or Ovariectomy

Surgical incision is usually made on the midline of the tummy. Followed by the ovariohysterectomy, which consists of the removal of the uterus and ovaries. Or ovariectomy, where only the ovaries are removed. The length of the incision depends on the size of your dog, the type of procedure, and any complications.

Laparoscopic surgery

Generally, 2-3 small (usually less than one inch long) incisions are made in the tummy for insertion of a camera (laparoscope) and instruments. Ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy can then be performed.

What happens on the day of the spay?

Before the surgery day:

  • Your dog should have had a pre-neuter check with a vet or a nurse.
  • Your dog should have been starved from the night before.
  • You can leave water available.
  • Make sure your dog is not dirty on the day of the operation.
  • Try to ensure they go to the toilet on the morning of the operation before you take them to the vet.

In practice:

  • A vet or a nurse will admit your dog.
  • Then the vet will do a hands-on examination to make sure the operation can go ahead.
  • When necessary, pre-anesthetic blood tests will be performed.
  • Then a sedative and pain relief will be given to your dog.
  • While waiting for the pre-anaesthetic injection to work, your dog will be kept in a calm, warm kennel.
  • Once the sedative has taken effect, your dog will be put under a full/general anaesthetic.
  • In preparation for surgery, the incision site will be cleaned and clipped while your dog is being closely monitored.
  • Surgery will begin.

Soon after surgery:

  • After your dog wakes up from the anaesthesia, they will be placed in a warm, comfortable kennel to recover.
  • Usually, your dog can go home a few hours after their operation, but if they take longer to recover from anaesthesia, they may need to be monitored for longer.
  • You will take home pain-relief medication and you may find your dog more quiet or disoriented that day.



Why do different places charge different prices for spay surgeries?

Cost depends:

  • On the type of surgical technique:
    • Laparoscopic surgery is more expensive than open surgery because of the equipment involved and the special training the vet needs
  • Size of the dog
  • Type of anaesthesia monitorization
  • Geographic location of the vet practice



What are the risks of spaying your dog?

Potential disadvantages include:

  • Removing reproductive organs also removes some hormones. This slows down their metabolism making them prone to obesity. This can be prevented with adequate feeding and exercise. Speak to a vet nurse for further help.
  • Spaying large breed dogs before bone growth is complete has been associated with an increased risk of cruciate ligament tears (knee injury) and hip dysplasia.
  • Urinary incontinence, can affect middle-aged and older spayed female dogs.

Spaying does not cause a change in personality, intelligence, playfulness, or affection.

Are there any dangers associated with surgery?

Spaying is considered a major operation and requires general anaesthesia.

Mild complications with the surgical wound can occur, such as:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Infection

Severe complications, such as:

  • Anaesthetic risks: higher if your dog has any other medical issues
  • Bleeding (haemorrhage)
  • Urinary obstruction

Surgery can be more difficult in larger or obese pets and is associated with more complications.

Modern anaesthetics and monitoring equipment significantly reduce the risk of complications.

When is the best time to have your dog spayed?

At 6 months old, a developmental checkup or a pre-neuter check is recommended.

The general guidelines are:

  • Bitches weighing less than 20kg can likely be spayed at 6 months of age.
  • Bitches weighing more than 20kg can be spayed at around 14-18 months of age.
  • For giant breeds, spaying is recommended around 18-24 months of age.

Spaying can be done at a later age if necessary.

Can a dog be spayed while in heat?

Ideally not.

Spaying a dog in heat increases the risk of haemorrhage because the blood vessels become much bigger. In addition, hormonal problems such as a long lasting false pregnancy can develop.

Therefore, you should spay your dog 2-3 months after her season, unless there is a specific reason and your vet advises doing it sooner.


Recovery tips

How to care for your spayed dog

The recovery period for a routine spay is generally 10 to 14 days. This period may be longer depending on your pet’s age and other health issues.

Aftercare includes:

  • Giving painkiller medications prescribed by your vet.
  • A buster collar (cone) or pet medical suit may be necessary to prevent licking of the surgical wound.
  • Strict rest, with no running, jumping, or rough play for 2 weeks following surgery. A spay procedure is major surgery, and the complications of internal bleeding due to excessive activity can be severe and even life-threatening.
  • In some cases, your vet may dispense some calming medications.


When to worry

When to worry after a spay?

Seek vet care if your dog has:

  • Bleeding or other discharge from the wound
  • Pale gums
  • Collapsed
  • Laboured breathing
  • Weakness (lethargy) that persists more than 24 hours after coming home
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea, or loss of appetite that persists more than 24 hours after coming home
  • Your pet’s pain does not seem controlled

Joii can help if:

  • There is bruising around the wound
  • There is vaginal discharge
  • You cannot keep your dog calm
  • Your dog can lick or chew at the incision
  • You have difficulty administering prescribed medication
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