Many pet owners know a few main things about spay surgeries–they are costly, common, and highly recommended. Do you really know what a spay surgery involves, though? Why is it important to have your pet spayed? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking as an informed pet owner!
What is a spay surgery?
A spay surgery (ovariohysterectomy surgery) is the procedure undergone to sterilize a pet by completely removing the uterus and ovaries from the abdomen. The pet will be put under anesthetic and will be asleep for the entire process! The procedure lasts about 45 minutes and is among the most common tasks performed by veterinarians.
Why should I have my pet spayed?
This seems like a simple question with a simple answer, right? “So my pet doesn’t get pregnant, of course!” Well yes, but that is arguably the most insignificant benefit to having a pet spayed. Sterilizing your pet before its first heat can save its life by reducing their risk of developing mammary cancer to almost ZERO. This form of cancer is very dangerous and can often be fatal, so spaying your pet before their first heat is the best way to keep your pet safe!
This will also eliminate the risk of acquiring pyometra. Pyometra is a fatal illness characterized by a swelling infection of the uterus most commonly seen in middle-aged dogs following their heat. This particular disease is unfortunately quite common in unspayed dogs–25% of dogs who reach age 10 will get it. The bright side? Spaying your pet will prevent it from ever happening!
What happens if I don’t spay my pet?
If your pet is not spayed, then its uterus, ovaries, and reproductive system is all intact. As a result, just as with the female human, they will have a menstrual cycle aka ‘going into heat‘. For dogs, around every 8 months they will experience a bloody vaginal discharge (which can have an unpleasant odour), and will need to wear a diaper. This cycle will last about 2-3 weeks but the occurrence and duration of cycles varies between breeds. For smaller dogs, it will be more frequent, and for larger dogs, it may be as infrequent as once every 12-18 months. For cats, it is quite different, and they will cycle frequently during their breeding season (which varies geographically). During the right season, their heat will last 1-7 days and then they will be out of heat every 1-2 weeks. Unlike dogs, discharge is not as common, but rather behavioural changes will be apparent. They will become more affectionate, attention-demanding, and vocal.
One commonly held belief is that if you wait to spay your pet until after they have their first heat, this will positively affect their personality, making them more affectionate. This is a MYTH! Spaying should be done as soon as possible, and the experience of going into heat or giving birth does not affect a pet’s personality. The female dog’s reproductive tract is dormant for most of the year therefore from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts spayed most of the time.
Just like with any surgery, your pet will be fatigued for a few days following surgery. It is not uncommon for them to show signs of nausea, or to show a disinterest in their food for a day or two. Please let your veterinarian know if this happens. Pain medication may be administered to some animals if they are feeling discomfort, and physical activity should be restricted to allow for healing. In some cases where the pet continuously licks their stitches, they may require an Elizabethan collar to restrict access to the area. This is not a comfortable experience, but necessary if the incision is to heal properly!
Brooks, W. C. (2001, January 01). Canine spay faq. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=584
Estrus cycles in cats. Retrieved from VCA Animal Hospitals website: http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/estrus-cycles-in-cats/5635
Estrus cycles in dogs. Retrieved from VCA Animal Hospitals website: http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/estrus-cycles-in-dogs/5778
Content Supervisor: Dr. Sandy Drury