Canine and Feline Spaying

The term “spaying” refers to the surgical procedure of removing the ovaries and uterus of an intact female dog or cat, thereby rendering the pet infertile. In both dogs and cats, this procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A small incision is made on the midline of the lower abdomen in order to gain access to the structures destined for surgical removal. Once the major blood vessels associated with the ovaries and uterus are tied off, these structures are removed and the abdomen is closed. Typically, closure is performed such that are no external skin stitches present that will later warrant a second visit for removal

The doctors and staff at Mount Rose Animal Hospital strongly advocate that all intact dogs and cats, excluding those intended for breeding purposes, are spayed. Not only does this make clients active participants in helping solve our national pet overpopulation problem, but spaying also helps to ensure better health for our pets.

Medical Benefits of Spaying

There are many medical benefits to spaying. The most important reason affecting both dogs and cats pertains to the issue of mammary (breast) cancer. There are many types of cancer that pets can succumb to that we as veterinarians can only cope with “after the fact”. With regards to mammary cancer however, the power of prevention does lie partially at least within ourselves. The female hormones released in dogs and cats over years can prime mammary tissue later to becoming cancerous. Certainly, genetics also plays a role in the development of this type of cancer. Nevertheless, veterinary research has proven that spaying dogs and cats prior to them having their first heat reduces their risk for developing mammary cancer by 99.9% later on in life. Even spaying prior to their second or third heat still reduces the risk of mammary cancer, although the degree of protection is not as great.

For pets facing mammary cancer, spaying is a critical component of treatment. Even with the primary mammary tumor being surgically removed, spaying the pet greatly reduces the levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones which potentially further contributes to new mammary tumor formation or recurrence.

The other serious and potentially life threatening medical problem prevented by spaying is pyometra. “Pyometra” literally means “a pus-filled uterus”. It is a life threatening infection that occurs most frequently in intact, middle-aged or older female dogs and cats approximately four to seven weeks after having a heat period. During this time, the hormone progesterone, which is normally responsible for priming the uterus for maintaining a pregnancy, is present in higher concentrations in the blood stream. One inadvertent effect that progesterone has, is to lower the local, natural defenses in the uterus. Therefore, if bacteria from the lower genital tract ascend into the uterus, a devastating infection may ensue. The pet becomes extremely ill. Clinical symptoms of pyometra may include any of the following: lethargy, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, depression and/or an abnormal-looking vaginal discharge. The pyometra condition progresses quickly. The uterus fills with pus, bacteria, dying uterine tissue and toxins. These toxic substances can also enter the bloodstream (aka sepsis) resulting in life threatening multi-organ failure. It is also possible that the uterus can rupture allowing the abscess material to contaminate the entire abdomen (aka peritonitis). The bottom line: pyometra is a life threatening emergency. Pets sick due to pyometra are treated very aggressively. The are hospitalized and stabilized as best as possible and then taken to surgery to be spayed. If you have an intact female dog or cat not intended for breeding, have them spayed! More often than not, the benefits far outweigh any potential risks.

A Cycling Female Dog Or Cat Is A Hassle That Can Be Avoided

Female dogs typically start cycling by six to eight months of age and on average have one to two heats per year. Female cats are induced-ovulators (meaning that they have to be bred in order to release eggs). However, they still have heat cycles and typically start cycling at six to eight months of age. Starting in early spring, most cats have heat cycle after heat cycle until they either successfully breed or the breeding season ends. During their heat, female dogs typically will have a bloody vaginal discharge and attract local male dogs. Female cats, on the other hand, typically have no noticeable bloody discharge, but their obnoxious behaviors, excessive rolling and rear display stances and vocalization are hard to miss. All of these annoying behaviors can be resolved by spaying your pet.

Misconceptions About Spaying

As with neutering, spaying your dog or cat will not change her personality. It will not make her fat or lazy. It will not stunt her growth or development and lastly she will not have a better disposition or be more loving if allowed to have a litter prior to spaying.

Frequently asked questions:

Q. When Is The Right Time To Spay?

A. Spaying can be performed at any age over eight weeks old. Many shelters with spay/neuter programs will spay their female puppies and kittens prior to them being adopted out in order to ensure that these pets don’t later contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. At Mount Rose Animal Hospital, the doctors and staff advocate spaying when puppies and kittens have finished their vaccine series at approximately four to six months of age. Ideally, the surgery is best to be performed prior to the pet’s first heat cycle. Once the puppy or kitten is at least four months of age, they are considered to be “safer” anesthetic patients. In addition, their larger size ensures the procedure to be easier from a technical standpoint.

Q. My Pet Is Ready to Spay, What do I do Now?

A. At Mount Rose Animal Hospital, either during an appointment or over the phone, the doctors and staff are more than happy to review a spay estimate with you and set your pet up for surgery. Elective surgeries such as spays are performed Monday through Friday. On the day of surgery, a doctor will meet with you in the morning, review with you the surgery and the estimate, answer any of your questions, and check in your pet for the day. Pre-anesthetic blood work is optional for younger pets being spayed, however for the safety of older pets we do require the blood work up. At Mount Rose Animal Hospital, the doctors and staff recommend pre-anesthetic profiles for all patients as a strategy to screen for underlying problems that could make your pet a greater risk for anesthesia and/or surgery.

Q. What if my pet is in heat?

A. There are many reasons why a client may request to have their pet spayed during its heat cycle. Whatever the reason, it is possible to spay a pet when it is in heat. In some regards the surgery is easier. The ovaries and uterus typically are more engorged with more prominent blood essence, its almost as if the tissues are yelling “here I am, take me out!” That being said, to minimize surgical complication risks, extra time is taken during an in-heat spay surgery. Consequently, due to this increased surgical time, there may be a small extra charge incurred for these patients.

Q. What if my pet is pregnant?

A. Spaying can be performed for dogs or cats whether they are in heat or not; pregnant or not. Oftentimes, a client may not even be aware of the pet’s condition. If you are concerned that your pet may be in heat or pregnant at the time of the scheduled procedure, please address the issue with your veterinarian. Due to the extra surgery time involved and the increased degree of difficulty regarding the procedure, spaying a pregnant dog or cat typically has an additional fee associated with the procedure. The veterinarian will discuss this fee in the overall estimate reviewed with the client at the time of check-in.