A female dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero
chance of developing mammary cancer. After the first heat, this
incidence climbs to 7% and after the second heat the risk is 25
percent (one in four!). It is easy to see that an early spay can
completely prevent what is frequently a very difficult and
potentially fatal form of cancer.
But is it
too late if a dog is already past her second heat? No, in fact
spaying is important even in female dogs who already have obvious
tumors. This is because many mammary tumors are stimulated by
estrogens; removing the ovaries, the source of estrogens, will
help retard tumor spread.
removes both the uterus and both ovaries and is crucial in the
prevention as well as the treatment of mammary cancer.
WHAT IS PYOMETRA?
The female dog comes into heat every 8 months or so. There is a
bloody vaginal discharge and attraction of local male dogs. Often
there is an offensive odor. All of this disappears with spaying.
"Pyometra" is the life-threatening infection of the uterus that
generally occurs in middle-aged to older female dogs in the six
weeks following heat. The hormone "progesterone," which primes the
uterus for potential pregnancy, does so by causing proliferation
of the blood-filled uterine lining and suppression of uterine
immune function. It is thus easy during heat for bacteria in the
vagina to ascend to the uterus to cause infection. The uterus with
pyometra swells dramatically and is filled with pus, bacteria,
dying tissue, and toxins. Without treatment, the pet is expected
to die. Despite her serious medical state, she must be spayed
quickly if her life is to be saved.
THIS IS AN EXTREMELY COMMON DISEASE OF OLDER
UNSPAYED FEMALE DOGS!
PYOMETRA IS NOT SOMETHING WHICH "MIGHT" HAPPEN; CONSIDER THAT
IT PROBABLY WILL HAPPEN.
unspayed female dog has an irregular heat cycle. There is no end
of cycling comparable to human menopause. If you still decide
against spaying, be very familiar with the signs of pyometra.
(These include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, excessive
thirst, marked vaginal discharge).
NOW THAT WE KNOW WHY IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO
SPAY, WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS?
It is very important that the patient has not been fed in at least
8 hours. Anesthetic medications commonly induce nausea and
vomiting can be very dangerous in a sedated patient (vomit can be
inhaled/aspirated leading to pneumonia).
preoperative evaluation is performed; blood work is recommended
for older females. An intravenous catheter may be placed to
facilitate the administration of anesthetic drugs, for any fluid
administration, and for use in case of emergency. This
necessitates shaving a small patch of skin on one of the legs.
notice such a shaved patch, this is undoubtedly from an
tranquilizer or other pre-anesthetic medication may be
administered to ease the induction of anesthesia. A special
medication is given intravenously to induce sleep. This medication
is called an "induction agent" and lasts only long enough to
establish the maintenance of anesthesia by the inhalant anesthetic
(gas). Once the pet is asleep, an tube is placed in the throat to
insure that a clear airway is maintained through out the
cough is noted for a couple of days after surgery. This may have
been caused by the tube in the throat. Such coughs only last a
couple of days; anything that persists longer should be
The tube is
hooked up to a special machine to deliver a specific concentration
of inhalant gas mixed in 100 percent oxygen. A special technician
is assigned to the monitoring of this pet so that the
concentration of inhalant gas can be changed, color, heart rate,
respiration and other parameters are followed.
surgical prep area, the abdomen is shaved and scrubbed. The
bladder is emptied and the patient is moved to a surgical suite,
where she is draped with special clothes or papers to isolate the
area where surgery will take place.
is made on the midline of the abdomen, and the three points where
the ovaries and uterus attaches are tied off and cut. The abdomen
is checked for bleeding and two or three layers of stitches are
placed to close the incision.
helpful to know that should the skin stitches come out, there are
two layers below holding everything closed. Sometimes skin
stitches are not placed but if they are present, you will need to
return in 10-14 days to have them removed.
anesthesia technician continues monitoring until the pet dog wakes
up and coughs out the throat tube. The patient is kept in an
observation room until she is able to walk.
feels strongly that a night in the hospital is important to an
uneventful recovery. This night in the hospital is analogous to
strict bed rest, just what you would expect to be needed after a
major abdominal surgery. This night also allows for proper
administration of pain medication for a longer time period as well
as a post-operative check up with the doctor the morning after
colleagues at the Ocean Beach Veterinary Hospital in Longview
Washington have put together a slide show demonstrating the spay
surgery. To see this slide show click here (http://www.cport.com/~obvc/slides/spay/intro.htm).
WHAT TO EXPECT AT HOME:
Most spay patients go home the next day as if nothing had happened
though some will need pain medication for a few days.
may occur in the first couple of days after surgery and it would
not be unusual for the pet to refuse food for a day or two after
above, a cough may persist for a couple of days as a result of the
throat tube. This should not persist longer than a couple of days.
show a propensity to lick their stitches will need an Elizabethan
or "E" collar to restrict access to the stitches. This is not very
comfortable for the dog but must be used strictly until the
stitches are out and the incision is healed.
should be restricted during the week following surgery. Excessive
activity can lead to swelling or fluid accumulation under the
incision. If a fluid pocket does form, it should resolve on its
own after a few weeks. If a fluid pocket forms and drains liquid
from the incision, the dog should be re-checked with the
SPAYING IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
PREVENTIVE HEALTH MEASURES THAT
CAN BE PROVIDED FOR A FEMALE DOG OF ANY AGE.
WHAT ABOUT BEHAVIORAL CHANGES?
The female dog's reproductive tract is dormant for most of the
year. It only activates for the three week period of heat. This
means that from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts
spayed most of the time. It is unlikely that any change will be
HEALTH BENEFITS FROM SPAYING ARE
TOO IMPORTANT TO IGNORE.
PLEASE CALL FOR SPAY SCHEDULING FOR YOUR FEMALE DOG.