There is a lot of debate nowadays regarding when to spay your dog. Additionally, with more and more dogs going through heat cycles people are having to navigate their dogs heat cycle (estrus) which is not straight forward if you have never had a dog in estrus. This blog will aim to guide you through these phases of your dog’s life.
General Reasons to Spay
- Longer Life Span: spayed dogs live longer than intact.
- Increased Risk Cancer: mammary, ovarian, & uterine.
- Pyometra (life threatening uterine infection): 25% of intact females who live to 10 years of age will get a pyometra.
- Hassel & Convenience: many pet parents are not accustomed to having to manage a female dog in heat (twice a year). Females will bleed and go through behavioral changes.
- Social Obligation: most of the country & world are faced with overpopulation.
- Legal Obligation: many city, state, & private ordinances require it.
Canine Heat Cycle
- Heat Cycle Frequency: typically every 6 – 8 months. Breed dependent, large breeds cycle less frequently than small breeds.
- Duration of Heat: symptoms typically last 10 – 14 days, but can linger until 30 days.
- Signs: swelling of vulva, bloody vaginal discharge, increased urination, urine marking, behavioral changes (nesting, barking, irritable, lethargic).
- First Heat Cycle: for many, their first heat cycle will be somewhat dramatic or irregular. It is important to note and monitor for excessive degrees of the above signs.
- Recommend Tracking Heat Cycle Dates: useful to know when their last heat cycle was to better plan surgery date.
- Recommend Diaper: given discharge many utilize diapers: Best Canine Diapers
Heat Cycle & Planning the Spay
The size and breed of your dog will generally frame the timing of the spay. General recommendations:
- Large Breed: 1 heat cycle, then spay 2 – 3 months after.
- Medium Breed: 6 – 8 months of age or after 1st heat.
- Small Breed: 6 – 8 months of age (prior to 1st heat)
- Discuss with your veterinarian about your specific pet.
Going Through a Heat Cycle (Pros)
- Decreased rates of joint disease, some cancers, and urinary incontinence.
- Positive impact on growth.
Going Through a Heat Cycle (Cons)
- Spay surgery & recovery tends to be longer.
- Increased mammary cancer risk after one heat cycle.
- Physical hassle to manage dogs in heat (mess & short term behavior changes).
Overview of Spay Procedure
It is important to note the significance of the spay or ovariohysterectomy surgery. While it is a routinely performed procedure it is a much bigger surgery than a feline spay, or canine/feline neuter. The reason is the surgery is internal, and the vessels are much larger.
While the veterinary profession is recommending patients be spayed later in life, it is important to recognize the increased intensity of surgery, recovery, and complications. Historically animals have been spayed right at six months of age. At this age they have not gone through a heat cycle and all reproductive organs are under developed, and animals have a lower body fat percentage.
Patients will be given a sedative, pain, and anti nausea injection prior to an IV catheter being placed. They will then be intubated, surgically prepped and put on IV fluids. The surgery can take anywhere from 30 min to 120 min.
Post Operative Care
Once the surgery is done it is crucial that recovery is taken seriously to assure smooth surgical healing, this includes:
- Keeping the patient calm, quiet, and from running, jumping, and playing. This ensures the suture stays in place and does its job.
- Wear a cone 24/7. It does not matter how well behaved your dog is, odds are they will still lick and chew at their incision. Licking & chewing increase rates of infection.
- In humans the equivalent procedure will often keep humans bed ridden for a matter of days – weeks. Allow your dog to rest and receive all of their pain medication. Be