Spaying Female Dogs: What You Should Know About This Practice
The neutering of female pets, which is more popularly known as spaying, is something that veterinarians will prescribe to the majority of pet owners as a matter of course.
In the UK, this is accomplished through a technique known as ovariohysterectomy, in which the ovaries and uterus of the female are surgically removed.
This operation often takes place between the ages of six months and one year.
Because of this, the source of the female sex hormones is removed, and the hormone-driven oestrus cycle is subsequently eliminated. This indicates that the bitch will no longer “come into heat.”
This not only provides the owners with a number of benefits in terms of the management of their pets, but it also significantly minimizes the number of serious health hazards that females face as they get older.
However, recent research conducted in the United States, which is one of the few countries in the world that routinely spays and neuters pets at an earlier age, suggests that at the very least for some dog breeds, spaying should be postponed and that other potential risks should be carefully considered before the procedure is carried out.
An Overview Of The Female Reproductive Anatomy
The vulva, which is the part of the reproductive tract that is exposed to the environment, connects to the vagina, which is the part of the reproductive tract that travels via the pelvic canal.
Internally, it is connected to the body of the uterus via the fibrous cervix, which acts as a conduit. When a pregnancy occurs, the uterus, also known as the womb, is the location where the embryo or fetus implants and is cared for.
As the pregnancy progresses, the cervix will eventually split into two separate branches, which will become the horns of the uterus.
There is an ovary at the end of each horn, and within each ovary are thousands of eggs (ova) that are ready to mature and be released while the bitch is in heat.
Mature eggs leave the ovary and travel through the extremely narrow Fallopian tube on their way to the uterine horn, which is located nearby.
The Oestrus Cycle
In addition to egg production, the ovaries are responsible for the cyclical production of significant quantities of female sexual hormones.
The vast majority of bitches will have two cycles like this per year, while some will only experience it once. The vulva swells during menstruation due to increased blood flow as well as increasing levels of the hormone estrogen.
Internally, the cells that line the vagina go through a rapid turnover, which results in a tiny quantity of blood loss, which the owner of the animal will often be aware of.
Bleeding can occur up to two weeks before a woman is ready to be mated; however, this is sometimes misunderstood to suggest that the bitch is no longer in the fertile portion of her cycle while, in reality, this is a common misconception.
The term “proestrus” refers to this stage of the menstrual cycle. Around the time that estrogen levels are at their highest, any vaginal bleeding will begin to lessen or stop altogether.
This marks the beginning of the oestrus phase, which is the time when eggs are released from the ovaries and the female is receptive to mating.
In the event that mating does take place, the duration of pregnancy is approximately nine weeks, during which time the effects of progesterone, which is another hormone, are predominant.
However, progesterone levels also rise significantly in females that have not been fertilized, which can result in the development of outward symptoms that are typically associated with pregnancy, such as the enlargement of the mammary glands.
This condition is referred to as a “fake” pregnancy or a pseudopregnancy in some circles. Many dogs that are going through a pseudopregnancy will even produce milk.
This is a phenomenon that first appeared in wolves, where non-pregnant females would function as wet nurses for their sisters’ pups. In dogs, pseudopregnancy mimics the behavior of wolves.
The Advantages Of Spaying
Although there are numerous additional benefits, which I will describe in more detail below, population control is the primary reason that many people choose to have their female pets spayed.
Without spaying or neutering, it can be very challenging to control unwanted reproduction since a female dog in heat will fight against any attempt to keep her contained.
The owners who do not wish to have their female pets neutered must have a garden that is extremely safe, not only to prevent their female pets from fleeing but also to discourage potential suitors from approaching them.
Pheromones that are released by the female dog during oestrus have the ability to travel significant distances and attract male dogs from the surrounding region.
When keeping female dogs home, the owner should always make sure that there are at least two closed doors between the bitch and the outside world.
Many people have been startled by how quickly a dog may get out of the house if the front door is left open, even for a moment.
Spaying Removes Certain Medical Conditions.
Mammary Cancers Or Tumors
Mammary (breast) tumors are extremely common in older females who have not been neutered. Mammary tissue has the propensity to become “lumpy” with age. This is typically caused by cycles of enlargement, as well as the production of milk in some cases.
Although the majority of these bumps will be made up of fibrous tissue or cystic cavities filled with fluid that is similar to milk, some of them will actually be aberrant tissue growths.
Even though benign tumors typically stay relatively small throughout their course, they may experience periods of rapid growth during oestrus cycles. On the other hand, malignant tumors will continue to grow even after their blood supply becomes inadequate.
They also have a tendency to disseminate through the blood and lymphatic systems in order to set up secondary tumor sites. The lymph nodes and the lungs are the most typical examples of these secondary locations.
Without taking tissue biopsies, it is not possible to differentiate benign mammary tumors from malignant mammary tumors. As a result, the most prudent course of action for dealing with these lumps is to remove them completely as soon as they are discovered and then use the entire mass as the sample for the biopsy.
When it comes to cancerous tumors, a good rule of thumb is that those with a diameter of fewer than three centimeters at the time of excision are either benign or malignancies that are in an early stage and have not yet spread.
As a result, the prognosis that follows operations of this kind is favorable. Larger tumors in dogs call for more extensive diagnostic testing to look for any indications that cancer has spread. At the very least, this should involve a biopsy of the lymph nodes and chest x-rays.
When performed at six months of age, spaying reduces the risk of breast cancer by a factor of thousands, making it one of the most effective preventative measures. Even while this benefit is still present for those who are neutered later in life, the risk of acquiring a tumor rises with each cycle of oestrus.
Tumors Of The Ovary
Ovarian tumors are significantly less prevalent than other types of tumors, but they do occur on occasion. These tumors can either be benign or malignant, and they may induce a vague feeling of discomfort in the abdomen region or a loss of weight. Some of them can grow to be quite large before anyone notices them because of their inside position.
A woman’s hormone cycle has a number of effects, one of which is to gradually cause the uterine wall to get thicker over the course of her lifetime. There is also a propensity for cysts to grow within the uterine wall, which can result in a condition known as cystic endometrial hyperplasia.
These changes in the organ make it prone to infection, particularly during oestrus when the cervix relaxes and does not provide as much of an obstacle to germs rising from the outer genitalia. This makes it more likely that the organ will become infected during this time.
It is possible for massive amounts of infected fluid and pus, measuring up to several liters, to be produced by the bacteria that thrive in the womb, which provides an excellent habitat for their reproduction. This infection is referred to as a pyometra, and its severity is determined by whether or not pus can drain outwardly from the cervix. It can be opened or closed.
Bitches who have an open pyometra will be seen to leak foul-smelling fluid from the vulva. Additionally, they may vomit, be inappetent, and drink far more than they normally would. In patients who have a pyometra that has been closed, there is no fluid discharge; however, the other symptoms are very similar, although they are frequently more severe.
The treatment entails the administration of fluids to improve renal function, the administration of antibiotics intravenously, and surgical removal of the infected womb. Both anesthesia and surgery carry inherent dangers, and around 10% of people who undergo these procedures do not make it through.
Before attempting surgery on the dog, it is possible to try to improve the dog’s condition through the use of hormone treatment in order to decrease the amount of pus that is present; however, this is not always an option, and the attending veterinarian will need to consider all of the available options.
The vaginal swelling that normally takes place during oestrus can be extremely pronounced in some bitches. This can cause vaginal tissue to protrude into the vulva in these bitches. This vaginal tissue is scarlet in color, very delicate, and can grow to be as big as a grapefruit.
Tissue self-mutilation and self-inflicted trauma are very common, both of which can result in infection and loss of blood. Even though there is no cure or treatment that is proven to be beneficial for this problem, the swelling will go down after about two weeks due to changes in hormone levels.
If a bitch has shown evidence of vaginal hyperplasia, she should be spayed before her next heat because the swelling is likely to become more apparent in subsequent heat cycles.
Pseudopregnancy is not literally a medical concern, as was explained above; but, in the context of the modern household setting, it is not generally helpful to a bitch. Alterations in behavior, fatigue, and loss of appetite are common symptoms of a fake pregnancy, as is the production of milk in the breasts.
Changes in behavior can be disruptive to the equilibrium within the household, particularly if there are other dogs present. In this situation, the bitch may exhibit nervousness or even aggression as she tries to defend her nesting area or adopted toys that act as child surrogates when she goes through these transitions.
Even though it is possible to treat a fake pregnancy—either with hormone drugs or by simply withholding food for twenty-four hours—the experience can be very painful for the dog, which is one of the primary reasons why owners of adult female dogs choose to have their pets neutered.
Problems Commonly Encountered After Spaying
When compared to female dogs that have not been neutered, castrated male dogs (dogs that have had their testicles removed) have a significantly higher metabolic rate.
The result of this is that people believe that spaying leads to obesity. However, it is not the neutering itself that causes weight gain, but rather the inappropriate feeding that occurs after it.
There is a wide variety of food available that has been specifically developed to assist owners in managing the weight of their neutered pets. These foods have less calorie density and more of a satiating effect on the animal.
It is a very good idea to schedule two or three weight checks at the veterinary practice in the weeks following surgery in order to pick up on any slight gain in weight before it becomes a major issue.
Veterinarians and veterinary nurses are in an ideal position to advise owners on nutrition in the time leading up to and immediately following surgery.
Another typical side effect of spaying is an increased risk of urine incontinence, which can be traced back to the procedure. Incontinence, or the loss of control over one’s bladder, will affect approximately five percent of unneutered bitches at some point in their life.
This risk is approximately two times as high for spayed and neutered female bitches, and it can reach up to twenty percent in large breed dogs spayed before their first birthday.
Because of this, it is generally recommended that larger females go through at least one cycle before being spayed. This is because doing so reduces the likelihood that the spayed female will suffer from incontinence.
When To Neuter
In spite of the fact that veterinarians have felt a high level of confidence in suggesting early neutering for many decades, the question of when exactly to do the procedure has become increasingly prevalent in recent years due to the publication of some fascinating research findings.
Although early sterilization of puppies as young as three months of age has been common practice in the United States for quite some time, the minimum age often regarded acceptable in the United Kingdom and Ireland is six months.
This age appears to be appropriate for the vast majority of small and medium-sized dogs, although it is recommended that larger breeds wait until they are approximately twelve months old, or even older in the case of some types.
Recent studies conducted in the United States have shown a correlation between spaying, and more specifically early spaying, and a variety of health issues that are common in certain dog breeds.
It appears that removing the influence of sex hormones can raise the risk of joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis and cruciate ligament rupture, as well as the risk of some malignancies, in particular in Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers.
These findings are concerning, despite the possibility that the influence of increasing obesity rates in neutered bitches served as a confounding factor in the trials under question.
When it comes to any type of surgical procedure, veterinarians are required to take the time to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of spaying with their clients.
Furthermore, when determining the best age for neutering, it is essential to take into account all relevant factors, including the breed of the animal.
The spaying technique is an intrusive one since it requires the veterinarian to enter the abdominal cavity of the dog being spayed.
The dog is given a general anesthetic and then turned over so that the hair on her underbelly can be cut while she is lying on her back.
After that, the exposed skin is cleansed, and a sterile drape is used to cover the abdomen in order to prevent infection from the hair in the surrounding area.
In order to access the abdominal cavity, the surgeon will first make an incision right beyond the umbilicus (also known as the belly button).
This incision will extend through the skin, the subcutaneous fat, as well as the abdominal muscles. The main blood veins that supply the ovaries and uterus must be ligated, or tied off, in a secure manner during the process.
This is the most important element of the procedure. This can be difficult to accomplish in large or overweight dogs, and failure to achieve a secure ligation can result in quick and significant blood loss.
Thankfully, this is an uncommon complication that can be identified and treated during the treatment itself. The cervix is also ligated in a similar manner before the surgeon removes the uterus and the ovaries.
Finally, the abdomen is closed with at least three layers of sutures in order to prevent wound breakdown from developing.
Every dog that undergoes surgery receives some form of pain management; nonetheless, spaying is a major surgical procedure; therefore, it is reasonable to anticipate that the dog may experience some level of discomfort if she overexerts herself in the days after the procedure.
Bitches are typically discharged later on the day of operation, and their owners will be encouraged to keep them relaxed until the time that suture removal is scheduled, which is typically around 10 days after the procedure.
Alternatives To Spaying
There are hormone therapies available that can be used to delay or prevent the oestrus cycle; however, these therapies are associated with a variety of adverse effects.
Changes in behavior, mammary tumors, and an increased risk of pyometra are all prevalent in bitches that receive these therapies for an extended period of time.
For this reason, the majority of veterinarians would advise against the use of these medications.
In addition to the potential health risks, these medications inflict discomfort when they are administered, and over the course of a dog’s lifespan, they end up costing substantially more money than spaying or neutering the animal.
Questions People Also Ask: (FAQs)
Do Female Dogs Change After Being Spayed?
After undergoing spaying, a female dog should revert to her regular behavior within the first three weeks. This is because the procedure prevents rapid changes in hormone levels. However, the spaying procedure will not alter your dog’s temperament in any way. If hyperactivity and hostility are already part of her regular nature, she will not experience any change as a result of the spay operation.
Should A Female Dog Be Allowed To Go Through Heat Cycle Before Being Spayed?
Should I wait till my dog has gone through heat before I get her spayed? A: From a veterinary standpoint, it is best to spay your dog before they experience their first heat. It significantly lowers the likelihood of developing breast cancer. Those who don’t spay their female dogs until after their second heat considerably increase the likelihood that their canines will develop mammary cancers later in life.
After Getting Spayed, Will It Be Okay For My Dog To Walk About The House?
For the next week, try to keep her as quiet as you can. An excessive amount of exercise too soon after surgery will interfere with the healing process and may cause edema as well as the formation of a fluid pocket under the incision. In the event that a fluid pocket does form, known medically as a seroma, it ought to disappear on its own within a few weeks. It’s fine to take your dog for a quick walk on a leash.
What Behaviors Are Dogs Unable To Perform Once They Have Been Spayed?
After having your pet spayed or neutered, you will need to limit your activities to a minimum for many weeks. Running, leaping, and other forms of play might increase the risk of the stitches failing, which can lead to bleeding, pain, and other post-surgical complications. Following spaying or neutering, your pet may not be allowed to engage in certain activities for 10–14 days, as directed by your veterinarian.
If A Female Dog Is Spayed, What Are The Advantages Of Doing So?
Your pet will live a longer and healthier life if she is a female.
It is estimated that approximately fifty percent of canine and ninety percent of feline breast tumors are malignant or cancerous. Uterine infections and breast tumors can both be prevented by spaying an animal. The greatest defense against these diseases is to have your pet spayed before she has her first heat cycle.
After Having Her Spayed, Is It Safe For My Dog To Go Up And Down Stairs?
The first week after your dog has been spayed or neutered is the most important week, and during this time you should make sure that your dog is not running, jumping, or roughhousing with other dogs. Following the surgery, you should usually wait a few days before resuming normal activities with your canine companion, including going up and down stairs while on a leash walk.
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