Spaying a bitch

Neutering a Female Dog

The medical term for the spaying of a female dog (bitch) is an ovario-hysterectomy. This consists of surgically removing the ovaries and, usually, the uterus. It is considered to be a major operation since there is a need to enter the abdomen. After it is as young as 8 to 10 weeks of age, a female dog can be spayed at any age with differences arising depending on the breed. After the operation, the owner would no longer be able to breed from the bitch since the procedure is irreversible. Bitches are generally spayed due to domestic problems, to stop the bitch going into heat, or to prevent pyometra or ovarian cancer.

At what age should a female dog be neutered?

Bitches can be spayed as early as eight to ten weeks although there is some debate as to whether they should be allowed to have their first season before the operation. It is believed by some practices that spaying too early may stunt growth due to a lack of necessary hormones. Whether this is true or not is widely argued throughout those involved in Veterinary Medicine though the majority of contemporary views now argue against the idea. Bitches must not be spayed during, or four weeks after, the month of their heat cycle since this can cause complications during the operation and is very dangerous.

The Operation

A pre-anaesthetic medication is given for sedation before the operation, along with an intravenous anaesthetic in order to place a breathing tube down the windpipe. During surgery, the main anaesthetic will be received by the dog in a form of a gas along with the oxygen supply. The bitch will then be connected to monitoring equipment including an ECG monitor and a pulse oximeter in order to check the heart and the blood oxygen saturation. Once these are recording accurately, veterinary nurses will then place the dog on its back, clip the hair on the belly and disinfect this area by scrubbing with surgical soap. A sterile towel is draped off the surgical site and this is followed by a surgical drape.

The veterinary surgeon then creates an incision near the umbilicus around 3-5 inches long. The incision continues through the subcutaneous layer and the body wall made up of muscle known as the linea alba. If any bleeding occurs from small blood vessels, then these vessels will be clamped or cauterised. The linea incision is extended and a spay hook is often used to draw gently out one of the uterine horns.

The ovaries can then be located, isolated and pulled out through the incision. To prevent the possibility of a haemorrhage, the ligament joining the ovary to the abdomen (also known as a pedicle) is clamped with one of the three clamps used in this procedure. Just above this clamp the second one is applied in addition to the last clamp. This is placed on the other side of the ovary to the first where the tissue is then completely removed. The tissue between the second and third clamp is then severed and the third clamp is taken away.

The veterinary surgeon then carefully places sutures under the first two clamps and releases both final clamps. The pedicle is gently put back into the abdomen. Once this is done, the process can be repeated on the remaining ovary. The cervix will then be taken out from the abdominal cavity. The uterus and the two ovaries can then be removed following the cervix being clamped. Sutures are placed and the cervix is put back into the abdominal cavity.

After this has been done and there is no bleeding, the wounds can be closed up. The linea alba is the first to be sutured and this is followed by the suture of the subcutaneous layer. The linea alba is closed with stainless steel stitches and dissolvable ones are used at the subcutaneous layer. Finally, the skin can be sutured and these are removed by the veterinary surgeon ten days later.

Are there other ways to spay a female dog?

Birth control medication is available for female dogs and is required to be received orally. However, the majority of these are not long lasting, cannot be used too frequently, are very expensive, and have many negative side effects.

Post op care

In the majority of cases, the female dog can be returned home on the same day as the operation. Though it will seem dazed and tired, these effects as a result of the medication should wear off the next morning. The dog may be offered a small portion of food and a little water after an hour at home and some more several hours later. Overfeeding should be avoided due to the anaesthesia. Furthermore, activity, including going outside, should be kept to a minimum thus allowing the surgical wound to heal.


Spaying a female dog will result in her becoming overweight

Following sterilisation, due to hormonal changes, the bitch may experience a greater appetite. However, generally a larger amount of food will not required and so an increase in weight will be by cause of overfeeding and not as a result of the operation. This weight gain may also occur if the dog is fed a high energy diet which was suitable when it was a puppy but as it enters adulthood, is no longer needed.

It is too expensive to spay a dog

Dog spays are relatively inexpensive when comparing to the complications, such as pyometra, which can arise if the bitch is left unneutered. If owners simply cannot afford to pay for the operation then there are charities available which can help fund them. Most veterinary practices will have established contacts with these charities and so will be able to give out their information to those who require their financial aid.

It is unnatural to prevent dogs from having puppies

It is deemed by some against nature to sterilise a dog. However, it must be noted that dogs themselves are only a result of human intervention anyway. Dogs do not live a “natural” existence and so not spaying them cannot be for this reason alone.


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