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Advantages of Spaying Bitches

Author: Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Now that our Border Collie pup Fern is six months old, we have been looking into having her spayed soon. Spaying, which is neutering a female dog, is advised while they are young, i.e. from six months of age.

The main advantages of spaying her at this age are: preventing pregnancy, preventing infection of the uterus (pyometra), preventing ovarian or uterine cancer and reducing the likelihood of mammary (breast) cancer, all of which can be life-threatening conditions.  It also prevents the inconvenience of having a bitch in season every six months with the constant and unwanted attention from visiting male dogs.

Fortunately, the risks involved in the anaesthesia and surgery are very small indeed compared with the risks of the other life threatening conditions noted, which can be prevented by spaying your beloved pet.

There is no medical reason to let a bitch have one season or a litter before her spay operation, in fact some of the benefits like protection against mammary tumours can be lost if the operation is delayed. Unless an owner is fully committed to having a litter, after careful consideration regarding any potential complications, along with all the work, concern and expense that can then be involved, and also ensuring that the bitch is suitable in temperament and free of any potential hereditary problems, then breeding from your female dog should not be considered.

Some people expect that their bitch will get gain weight after a spay, but in fact this is entirely preventable with an appropriate healthy diet meant for a neutered dog and fed to the advised daily measured amounts and with regular exercise.

Bitches can be spayed from the age of six months of age either by a routine standard spay method or now by "key -hole" surgery.

It is not a good idea to spay when a bitch is in oestrus/ season or about to come into season because the blood vessels supplying the uterus and ovaries are all larger and this will increase the risks of surgery. The other time we try to avoid is the eight weeks after a recent season, when a bitch may have a natural hormonal imbalance called a "false pregnancy". If this happens, she may be acting as if she is nursing pups and spaying her at this time would cause further sudden changes in her hormone levels.  Also if she was producing milk, the enlargement of the milk glands would make it more difficult for the spay wound to heal.

For all of these reasons, the ideal time chosen to spay is usually either before the first season occurs, at around six months of age, or three to four months after the first season.  A pre-op examination by your vet will determine whether a six month old female dog is mature enough to spay before her first season. With some large breed dogs this may be delayed until they are older, so do seek your vets advice.

Your Vet will advise you on the best option for your female dog, so do arrange an appointment for a full pre-operative examination and for good professional advice on spaying her and on her care afterwards.

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