(Spaying Your Female Pet)
Neutering means removing the reproductive organs. In females, these are the ovaries and uterus, and the procedure is called an ovariohysterectomy, or spay. Most often in veterinary practice, this surgical procedure is performed on dogs and cats, but it may also be applied to rabbits, rats, squirrels, and many of the other female animals which are housed as pets in our homes. The discussion below applies to those pets as well, but for more information on surgery for those specific animals, please contact our hospital.
Spaying is performed for a variety of reasons, including population control and treatment of disease. Medical reasons for spaying include treatment of uterine infection, cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and mammary glands, and some skin conditions. Also, evidence suggests that some animals with diabetes and seizure disorders respond better to medication if they are spayed.
Spaying is an abdominal operation. The procedure is done with the animal under general anesthesia and consists of a small incision in the abdomen and removal of the ovaries and uterus. Recovery is generally fast. Most cats and dogs can go home the day after surgery and are back to normal within 5 to 7 days.
Advantages of Spaying
- A spayed pet is usually a happier, healthier pet.
- Dogs spayed before their first heat (6 months of age) are virtually assured of not developing mammary cancer, a relatively common disease in unspayed females.
- Spayed pets cannot develop the uterine infection called “pyometra,” which occurs commonly among older, unspayed dogs and cats. Pyometra can cause severe damage to the liver and kidneys, and left untreated, this disease can lead to death.
- Females that have been spayed cannot become pregnant.
- Dogs that have had an ovariohysterectomy do not attract males because they have no more heat cycles.
- A spayed pet cannot have false pregnancy, a condition in which the pet’s body reacts as if it was pregnant because of certain hormones.
Spayed animals do not go through heat cycles or produce unwanted puppies or kittens. “Heat” refers to the time when female dogs and cats prepare for mating and pregnancy. Cats and dogs have their first heat at 5 to 12 months of age. In dogs, heat cycles occur approximately every 6 months. The external genitals swell, a bloody discharge occurs, and females attract males. Heat cycles last from 14 to 21 days and can be messy and inconvenient. In cats, heat cycles can start at any time, but most often occur in the spring and fall. Cats in heat do not usually have swelling or discharge, but they do attract tomcats. They exhibit unusually affectionate rubbing behavior, stretch and extend the back in a reverse arch, and meow loudly and continuously. This behavior may continue for days at a time over a period of weeks if mating does not take place.
Answers to Common Questions
- Spaying will NOT make your dog or cat fat and lazy unless she is overfed.
- It is NOT true that a cat or dog should have one litter before being spayed. This only leads to more unwanted puppies and kittens.
- Spaying will NOT change your pet’s personality. Cats’ personalities do not fully develop until about 1 year of age, and dogs’ between 1 and 2 years. If your pet’s personality changes after spaying at an early age, it would have changed without surgery.
- A small percentage of spayed dogs have trouble retaining their urine when they reach old age. This can usually be controlled by medication.
General Care Before and After Surgery
- For an ovariohysterectomy (spaying), the best age for dogs and cats is between 6 months and 1 year, but the surgery can be done at any age. The pet must be healthy.
- Make sure your pet has no intestinal parasites (worms) and has had all necessary vaccinations before surgery.
- Do not feed your pet for 12 hours before admittance for surgery. Water is withheld for a few hours.
- Restrict your pet’s activity for 2 weeks after surgery.
- Your pet should be brought to the hospital for recheck examination and suture removal (if skin sutures were used) 10 to 14 days after surgery.
- Check your pet’s incision daily for abnormalities.
- If there are any questions, or if you see something concerning your pet after surgery that concerns you, contact your veterinarian.
- Notify your veterinarian if the following occur:
- Your pet removes sutures or otherwise irritates the incision by licking or chewing.
- The incision appears red or swollen, or drainage from the incision is seen.
- Your pet vomits or refuses to eat, or seems depressed after the first day home.
Remember that millions of dogs and cats are put to sleep annually in this country because of overpopulation. Neutering your pet and encouraging your friends to do so helps to solve this terrible problem.