Everything You Need to Know About Spaying Dogs
Spaying your dog is an important and sometimes overwhelming decision. If you’re a dog owner, it’s best to have all of the facts before you make a decision about spaying your dog. Learn more about the benefits and myths associated with spaying, as well as how to care for your dog after a spay procedure!
What Is Spaying?
Spaying a dog refers to the surgical procedure of removing a female dog’s reproductive organs. Typically, both the ovaries and the uterus are removed. This is known as an ovariohysterectomy.
In some cases, only the ovaries are removed, which is known as an ovariectomy. Both procedures are effective at making the dog unable to reproduce and eliminating her heat cycle.
What Are the Benefits of Spaying?
There are numerous behavioral and health benefits of spaying your female dog. Some of the benefits include:
- Reducing the risk of certain health problems: Spaying female pets can protect them from future health problems, including uterine infections (pyometra) and mammary cancer as well as other cancers of the reproductive system.
- Increasing your dog’s lifespan: According to the Humane Society of the United States, the average life expectancy of spayed female dogs is 26.3% longer than unspayed female dogs.
- Eliminating your dog’s heat cycles: Heat cycles can be messy and a pain to deal with. Spaying your female eliminates her heat cycle and the mess. Reducing unwanted behaviors: Spaying your pet often reduces or eliminates unwanted behaviors associated with sexual maturity and breeding, such as roaming, aggression, excessive whining, restlessness, frequent urination, and nervously pacing.
- Helping reduce pet overpopulation: Pet overpopulation is a big problem. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year. Unfortunately, most animal shelters are overwhelmed with animals, which is partly caused by unwanted litters.
Myths About Spaying Dogs
Unfortunately, there are many myths associated with spaying dogs. Pet owners should be aware of these myths so that they can make an informed decision. Some common myths about spaying dogs include:
- Spaying my dog will make her fat: This is simply not true. According to PetMD, dogs tend to need 20% fewer calories after being spayed. If you are intentional about keeping your pet active and adjusting her diet, you can help prevent weight gain.
- Spaying my dog will change her personality: Your pet’s personality and behavior are influenced by much more than just sex hormones, including training, history, environment, genetics, and instinct. If there are any changes in behavior, they are usually positive changes like reducing the unwanted behaviors mentioned above.
What You Need to Know Before the Procedure
- Before your dog’s procedure, your veterinarian will give your pet a thorough physical examination to ensure that she is in good health. Your vet may also do blood work to check for any underlying health issues.
- Your dog will be put under general anesthesia during the procedure. There are always risks associated with a surgical procedure and anesthesia, but thankfully, complications are rare.
- After surgery, your dog will likely be groggy. You should encourage your dog to take it easy so that the incisions have a chance to heal.
Caring for Your Dog After Surgery
Caring for your pet after a surgery can be overwhelming, especially if this is her first surgery. The ASPCA has some great post-operative tips for keeping your pet comfortable and safe after spay surgery:
- Limit your pet’s activity for 7 to 10 days. It’s important that your pet takes it easy for a week or two after surgery. Running and jumping could disrupt the healing process and cause complications with the incision. You should put your dog on a leash to relieve herself and avoid taking her on long walks.
- Keep the incision dry. It’s important to keep the incision dry so that it can properly heal. For this reason, you should not bathe your pet during the recovery period, apply any topical ointments to the incision site, or allow your dog to lick the incision. Using an Elizabethan collar can help prevent your pet from licking the area. It’s best to keep your pet away from other animals and indoors where she can stay clean and dry.
- Keep an eye on the incision. Your dog will have a midline incision in her abdomen. You should check the incision site twice a day to make sure it is healing properly. There should be no drainage, discharge, or odor. Redness and swelling should be minimal.
- Discuss pain management with your vet. Your dog may or may not need pain medication after surgery, but it’s best to be prepared and discuss this with your vet. Having the appropriate pain meds on hand after surgery will be helpful if it’s needed.
- Call your vet if you have concerns. Although rare, complications can occur after surgery. Be sure to call your vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, discharge or bleeding from the incision, loss of appetite, pale gums, difficulty urinating or defecating, or labored breathing.
When Is the Best Time to Spay a Dog?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, it’s recommended to spay dogs before they are 5 months old. Most veterinarians recommend spaying a female dog before her first heat cycle because it reduces her risk of developing mammary cancer. Plus, it’s usually an easier procedure if it occurs before the first heat. Most dogs go into heat for the first time between 5 and 10 months of age.
However, it’s important to note that several factors can influence the timing of spaying your dog. For example, small-breed dogs are sometimes spayed earlier than large-breed dogs because small dogs tend to reach sexual maturity quicker. Because each pet’s situation is unique, it's best to consult with your veterinarian for your pet’s specific situation.
Should You Spay Your Dog?
Spaying your dog can have many potential benefits. Unless you plan on being a responsible breeder, it’s probably best to have your pet spayed. VCA Hospital points out that there are some scientific studies that suggest there is an increased risk of certain health conditions associated with spaying. However, it’s still agreed that spaying is considered to be the best option for the overall health of your dog.
If you have any concerns or questions about spaying your dog, be sure to talk to your veterinarian!
The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.