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
#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #FollowFriday #FF
Xylitol is a common ingredient used to sweeten human food products. It’s most notably found in sugarless items like chewing gum, peanut butter, Jell-O, pudding, or other household products like vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Ice Breakers Cubed gum is the most common culprit we’ve seen lately at Aldie, and unfortunately has a high amount of xylitol. Just ONE tiny, little, delicious cube can cause toxicity in a 25-pound dog!
Xylitol toxicity is not documented as well in cats; most research indicates they are a bit more tolerant than their canine counterparts. However, it is not recommended to give cats xylitol and you should contact your veterinarian if you believe your cat has ingested any amount.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
A dog’s body responds to xylitol in the same, but exaggerated, manner that it would typically respond to sugar: it releases insulin. This causes a low blood glucose (blood sugar) level, which can result in subsequent weakness, muscle tremors, or even seizures or death. Xylitol is absorbed rapidly after ingestion; the drop in blood sugar can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion, but signs may take up to 12 hours to develop.
Xylitol can also cause damage to your dog’s liver. It can take up to 2-3 days for evidence of the damage to appear on lab work. The liver damage can range in severity from mild and temporary, to extreme and life-threatening. The liver is an important organ and has many jobs. We typically think of it as the filter/recycler of the body, as it processes blood from all around the body and “cleans” it up. However, the liver also makes many things, including clotting factors. Clotting factors allow the body to stop a severe hemorrhagic event from occurring following a simple injury (think bumping your knee=small bruise, not life-threatening hemorrhage). Dogs with severe liver damage may become jaundiced (have a yellow tinge to eyes/skin). If the clotting factors are also affected, life-threatening anemia can occur, and a blood transfusion may be required.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Time is of the essence! As soon as you realize your dog has ingested something containing xylitol, contact the veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center and bring them in right away! Blood glucose can drop as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, so there’s no time to waste.
WHAT DOES THE VET DO?
We will induce vomiting, and make recommendations for further treatment and monitoring based on how much xylitol your dog ingested. Inducing vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide can work, sometimes. However, there are studies that show that burns from the peroxide ingestion can persist in the esophagus/stomach days after the vomiting episode. Veterinarians have a much more potent vomiting agent, which is more likely to be successful than just peroxide, and less likely to have the abrasive side effects.
After vomiting occurs, we often recommend hospitalization for IV fluid support, dextrose (sugar) supplementation, liver protectant medications, and frequent monitoring lab work. These hospital stays range from 1 day for minimally affected dogs, to a week or more in very severe cases.
Xylitol is a sneakily dangerous food ingredient. Make sure to double check what kind of peanut butter you use to feed treats/medications, and use extreme caution with oral hygiene products, medications/vitamins, and chewing gum in the house. Make sure to keep your toothpaste and mouthwash in a drawer if you have a counter surfer, and keep purses and bookbags with gum up high on hooks to deter “shopping” from these items.
The veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center are here to answer any questions or treat your pet if he/she happens to get a hold of xylitol-containing goodies.