Spay Day

Cone of Shame

Last week we covered the plan for neutering Skipper… so what about your female puppy?

There are many reasons to spay your dog, including eliminating the risk for a life-threatening uterine infection (pyometra), decreasing the risk of mammary, uterine, and vaginal cancers, and preventing unwanted puppies.   Small breed female dogs can experience their first heat cycle by 6 months of age, sometimes as early as 4 months.  Large breed female dogs tend to mature later; their first heat cycle occurs between 9 months and 2 years of age.  Heat cycles occur once to twice yearly in most dogs.  During a heat cycle, your dog will exhibit physical as well as behavioral changes, including vaginal discharge, and the desire to escape/roam away from home looking for a mate.  Skipper’s housemate, Lily, went through a heat cycle between her adoption and spay date when I was in college. I have lots of stories, but can tell you that it was not a fun time for either of us and something I recommend avoiding if possible!

Historically, it’s been recommended to spay dogs between 4-6 months of age.  Your veterinarian may recommend spaying a little later for certain individuals.  Similar to the literature for male dogs, there are studies which show a decreased risk for orthopedic conditions like cranial cruciate tears (ALC tears) or hip dysplasia for dogs who are spayed later than 4-6 months of age.  However, this benefit has to be weighed more carefully for female puppies.  With each heat cycle, the risk for mammary cancer increases, to a 26% risk for mammary tumors by the second heat.  Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of spaying, and the appropriate timing for your female puppy with her veterinarian.

We are fortunate to have two spay procedure options at Aldie Veterinary Hospital. A traditional spay is completed through an abdominal incision that is a few inches long; the ovarian vessels are individually tied off with suture material, and the ovaries removed from the body. Pets typically stay in the hospital the night after this procedure to monitor for post-operative complications, such as pain or bleeding.

A minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedure affords the opportunity to utilize a much smaller (about 1-2 centimeter) abdominal incision, through which a special camera and instruments are introduced. The ovarian vessels are cauterized during this procedure. These patients are typically able to go home the evening after surgery. Laparoscopic procedures are highly recommended for large breed dogs due to the decreased risk for postoperative bleeding and the ability to make a smaller skin incision.

As with any procedure, there are risks associated with each of these options including anesthetic complications, intra or postoperative hemorrhage, pain, or in the specific case of laparoscopic procedures, the need to convert the procedure to an open-abdominal approach if there are any concerns noted through the camera. Pre-operative lab work is reviewed for each patient prior to her procedure, to ensure she is a good candidate for anesthesia/surgery, and able to process pain medications postoperatively.  A licensed veterinary technician is with your dog for the entire duration of her procedure, from sedation to recovery.  Her technician monitors her vital signs, makes sure she stays warm and comfortable, and keeps her relaxed and calm during her recovery time.

Once she goes home, your dog will need to take it easy for about 2 weeks, in order to give her body and skin incision time to heal.  She will not be able to have a bath or go swimming until she’s fully healed. She will go home with pain medications to help keep her comfortable in the first few days following the procedure. It’s critically important to keep her e-collar on at all times during the entire recovery period. Healing incision can be itchy, and she may want to lick/chew at the incision site. This can introduce bacteria to her surgery site, or cause the incision to open up.  These complications can be severe, even life-threatening in some situations, and could require hospitalization, or a second surgery to treat.  About 10-14 days following surgery, your dog will be scheduled for an incisional recheck, to ensure she is fully healed and cleared to return to normal activity.

Be sure to ask your dog’s veterinarian about the right timing and procedure for your dog at her puppy appointment! We are happy to answer any questions at any time!

 

Here’s to the cone-of-shame pictures and keeping our girls healthy!

 

-Dr. Conroy, Skipper, and Lily

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