(Spaying Your Female Pet)
Neutering means removing the reproductive organs. In
females, these are the ovaries and uterus, and the procedure is
called an ovariohysterectomy, or spay. Most often in
veterinary practice this surgical procedure is performed on dogs
and cats, but it may also be applied to rabbits, rats, squirrels,
and many of the other female animals which are housed as pets in
our homes. The discussion below applies to those pets as
well, but for more information on surgery for those specific
animals, please contact our hospital.
Spaying is performed for a variety of reasons, including
population control and treatment of disease. Medical reasons for
spaying include treatment of uterine infection, cancer of the
uterus, ovaries, and mammary glands, and some skin
conditions. Also, evidence suggests that some animals with
diabetes and seizure disorders respond better to medication if they
Spaying is an abdominal operation. The procedure is done
with the animal under general anesthesia and consists of a small
incision in the abdomen and removal of the ovaries and
uterus. Recovery is generally fast. Most cats and dogs
can go home the day after surgery and are back to normal within 5
to 7 days.
Advantages of Spaying
- A spayed pet is usually a happier, healthier pet.
- Dogs spayed before their first heat (6 months of age) are
virtually assured of not developing mammary cancer, a
relatively common disease in unspayed females.
- Spayed pets cannot develop the uterine infection called
"pyometra," which occurs commonly among older, unspayed dogs
and cats. Pyometra can cause severe damage to the liver and
kidneys, and left untreated, this disease can lead to death.
- Females that have been spayed cannot become pregnant.
- Dogs that have had an ovariohysterectomy do not attract males
because they have no more heat cycles.
- A spayed pet cannot have false pregnancy, a condition in which
the pet's body reacts as if it was pregnant because of certain
Spayed animals do not go through heat cycles or produce unwanted
puppies or kittens. "Heat" refers to the time when female
dogs and cats prepare for mating and pregnancy. Cats and
dogs have their first heat at 5 to 12 months of age. In
dogs, heat cycles occur approximately every 6 months. The
external genitals swell, a bloody discharge occurs, and females
attract males. Heat cycles last from 14 to 21 days and
can be messy and inconvenient. In cats, heat cycles can start
at any time, but most often occur in the spring and fall.
Cats in heat do not usually have swelling or discharge, but they do
attract tomcats. They exhibit unusually affectionate rubbing
behavior, stretch and extend the back in a reverse arch, and meow
loudly and continuously. This behavior may continue for days
at a time over a period of weeks if mating does not take
Answers to Common
- Spaying will NOT make your dog or cat fat and lazy unless she
- It is NOT true that a cat or dog should have one litter before
being spayed. This only leads to more unwanted puppies and
- Spaying will NOT change your pet's personality. Cats'
personalities do not fully develop until about 1 year of age, and
dogs' between 1 and 2 years. If your pet's personality
changes after spaying at an early age, it would have changed
- A small percentage of spayed dogs have trouble retaining
their urine when they reach old age. This can usually be
controlled by medication.
General Care Before and After
ovariohysterectomy (spaying), the best age for dogs and cats is
between 6 months and 1 year, but the surgery can be done at
any age. The pet must be healthy.
Make sure your pet has
no intestinal parasites (worms) and has had all necessary
vaccinations before surgery.
Do not feed your
pet for 12 hours before admittance for surgery. Water is
withheld for a few hours.
Restrict your pet's
activity for 2 weeks after surgery.
Your pet should
be brought to the hospital for recheck examination and suture
removal (if skin sutures were used) 10 to 14 days after
Check your pet's
incision daily for abnormalities.
If there are any
questions, or if you see someting concerning your pet after surgery
that concerns you, contact your veterinarian.
veterinarian if the following occur:
a. Your pet removes sutures or otherwise irritates
the incision by licking or chewing.
b. The incision appears red or swollen, or drainage
from the incision is seen
c. Your pet vomits or refuses to eat, or seems
depressed after the first day home.
Remember that millions of dogs and cats are put to sleep
annually in this country because of overpopulation. Neutering your pet
and encouraging your friends to do so helps to solve this