Preventing Pregnancy Ovariohysterectomy (spaying)

The best way to prevent conception in a female dog is to spay her. In this operation, called an ovariohysterectomy, the entire uterus, including the body, horns, and uterine tubes, is removed, along with the ovaries. The operation is done through the abdomen. Spaying prevents the bitch from coming into season and eliminates the problems of cystic ovaries, false pregnancies, pyometra, uterine cancer, irregular heat cycles, and the need to keep her confined during estrus.

Spaying before the first heat reduces the frequency of mammary tumors by more than 90 percent. Finally, with a spayed female there is no inconvenient heat to go through twice a year.

A bitch does not need to have a litter of puppies to be fulfilled. Dogs are people oriented. They seek human companionship and look to their owners for happiness and personal fulfillment. Spaying will not change a female’s basic personality, except perhaps to make her less irritable at certain times of the year. Nor will it affect her basic breed instincts, such as hunting, pointing, retrieving, herding, coursing, or protecting livestock and property.

Spaying does not make a bitch fat and lazy. Obesity is caused by overfeeding and lack of exercise. By coincidence, a bitch is often spayed as she enters adulthood, at which time her caloric requirements diminish. If she continues to eat a high-calorie puppy food and puts on weight, the tendency is to blame the operation.

Traditionally, bitches have been spayed at about 6 months of age, before they go into heat for the first time. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Kennel Club, and other organizations agree that it is safe to spay or neuter most puppies as early as 8 weeks of age. Research has shown that there are no adverse effects on growth (if anything, the pups will grow a bit taller) and development with early spaying. The operation is not difficult to perform at this time, provided good anesthetic equipment and expertise are available. The risk of complications is small. Early spaying before the puppies are placed in their permanent homes ensures that individuals with genetic or conformation defects will not be used for breeding. Early spaying is often practiced at animal shelters to ensure that the dog will indeed be spayed. There have been concerns about increases in urinary infections and incontinence with early spaying, but this is controversial. For dogs who participate in sporting events, many veterinarians suggest waiting until adult size is reached before spaying or neutering, as this is healthier for joints, which will be stressed over the lifetime of the dog.

When you’ve made arrangements to have your female spayed, be sure to withhold all food and water the evening before the surgery. For very young dogs, this protocol may be adjusted. A full stomach may result in vomiting and aspiration while the dog is under general anesthesia. Check with your veterinarian concerning other instructions or precautions to be taken before and after the surgery.