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Spaying Your Dog or Cat

Randy Walker DVM

About Spaying...

The spay (technically referred to as an ovariohysterectomy or OVH) is a commonly performed surgical operation whereby the ovaries, uterine horns, and part of the uterus of the female dog or cat are removed. This is done in order to sterilize the patient (meaning to prevent pregnancy) and to prevent estrus (also referred to as "coming in season" or the "heat cycle").

Briefly, Describe How The Spay Operation Is Performed.

We first place the patient under a mild general anesthesia. Then, using strict sterile technique, we make a midline incision over the abdomen and locate the uterus and ovaries within the abdominal cavity. After locating the uterus and ovaries we then remove them, taking care to ligate (meaning to "tie-off") all of the appropriate blood vessels. After we have removed the ovaries and uterine horns the patient is left with approximately 1/3 of their uterus intact. Then the abdominal incision is closed using three layers of sutures. After the patient is again alert and mobile they are free to go home.

What After care Is Recommended For My Pet After Spaying?

We recommend that after spaying you give your pet food and water in very small amounts for the rest of the day then go back to regular feeding and watering the next day. Also, you should keep the activity level reduced for at least 7 to 10 days after spaying. If external skin sutures are used you will need to return to tile clinic and have them removed in l 0 to l4 days.

What Are The Benefits Of Spaying My Pet?

The benefits of spaying your pet are: (1) it eliminates the heat cycle (also called "season" or "estrus"); (2) it eliminates the chance of having unwanted pregnancies; and (3) it decreases the chances of acquiring mammary tumors by about 98% if the spay is performed early enough in life.

How Old Should My Dog Or Cat Be Before Spaying?

I personally consider the '"perfect'' time frame for most pets to be spayed is shortly after they are 6 months old, but before they come into the first heat cycle.

Why Is It Best To Wait Until The Pet Is Over 6 Months Old To Have Her Spayed?

This is my personal preference because it's best for all of the permanent teeth to have come in and for most of the bone growth to have occurred before we spay the pet. Most dogs and cats, no matter what breed, will get their last permanent teeth in at about 6 months of age. When all the permanent teeth are in, I believe the pet is old enough to be spayed. It is my opinion that in some cases, if the pet is spayed too young, we can see problems with the permanent teeth coming in properly and problems with bone growth. Another reason I prefer to wait until 6 months of age before the spay is performed is because at this age we are dealing with a more mature system (liver, spleen, heart, etc) which is better able to handle anesthetics.

Why Is It Best To Spay The Pet Before Her First Heat Cycle?

We prefer to spay the pet before the first heat cycle because it has been shown that this reduces the incidence of mammary tumors by about 98%. In unspayed female dogs and cats, mammary tumors are three times more common than in human females, while in pets who have been spayed early in life mammary tumors are very uncommon. When mammary tumors occur in pets they are cancerous more frequently than in human females. Mammary tumors in cats tend to almost always be cancerous (meaning that their malignant cells will eventually migrate to other parts of the body and be fatal if the tumor is not removed). Other reasons why we prefer to spay the pet before the first heat cycle are that (1) this eliminates the chances of pregnancy and (2) this also eliminates estrus signs and the headaches that go along with this ( such as attracting male dogs, dripping bloody discharge (in dogs), howling and rolling (in cats), etc.

What Other General Benefits Are There To Having My Pet Spayed?

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, spaying your pet eliminates the chances of cancer of the ovaries (since they are removed in the operation) and greatly reduces the chances of and the severity of pyometra (which is a serious infection of the uterus) since most of the uterus is also removed.

So When Is The Optimum Time To Spay My Pet?

Between 6-8 months of age; preferably closer to 6 months.

Can My Pet Still Be Spayed If She Is Older Than This?

Yes. The pet can be spayed at any age over 6 months.

I've Heard That I Should Let My Pet Have A Litter Of Puppies (Or Kittens) So That She Will Be "Fulfilled". Is This True?

Keeping in mind that no one can truly claim to know exactly what a pet is feeling or thinking, it's the consensus opinion of most animal behavior experts that pets who have been spayed before producing offspring suffer no adverse psychological effects. In fact, carrying, delivering, and raising a litter of puppies or kittens can be a great burden on a young female dog or cat and so many pet owners choose to avoid motherhood for their pets on this basis.

Will My Dog Or Cat Become Overweight After Spaying?

After spaying some pets do tend to put on weight. If this is the case we should control the pet's weight by reducing food intake, switching to a higher fiber/lower calorie food and increasing exercise (in dogs). It should be noted that although we do see spayed females who have a tendency to become overweight, we also see many spayed females who are normal weight or thin depending on their individual metabolism. Just because a dog or cat has been spayed does not automatically mean that she will gain weight. Another interesting point is that, of the spayed pets who put on weight, most of them become overweight due to a combination of several factors (including a high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, overeating, etc.) and not just because they have been spayed.


- Randy Walker DVM
Sun Lakes Animal Clinic
May 17,2004



"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
- Anatole France, 1921 Nobel Prize Speech -


Titlebar Image: The Gentle Doctor, 1937-38 by Christian Peterson (U84.179) - Iowa State University