Desexing your Female Dog (Ovariohysterectomy)

Why should I have my dog speyed?

Speying is advised for all female dogs that are kept as pets. Aside from reducing the number of unwanted puppies, there are many very good medical reasons to spey (remove the ovaries and uterus from) female dogs.


What are the advantages?

Prevention of heat or oestrus: During the heat cycle there are behaviour and hygiene problems. Females in heat will actively search out male dogs and may attempt to escape from the house or yard, putting them in the danger of traffic, being lost or getting into fights. Often there is a sudden influx of male dogs around the home and yard. Owners need to contend with the vaginal bleeding that typically lasts for up to 21 days.

Prevention of uterine infection (pyometra): Many female dogs have problems with a severe uterine disease called pyometra following their heat cycles. In this disease the uterus becomes filled with pus and if not treated can prove fatal. Treatment requires a complicated and expensive ovariohysterectomy and the pet is more at risk due to the severity of the condition. Medical therapy alone for a pyometra rarely works.

Prevention of Unwanted Pregnancies: Speying prevents unwanted pregnancies which may result in an expensive caesarean and unwanted puppies.

Eliminates the possibility of false pregnancy: Some bitches fail to go out of their heat cycles correctly causing a condition we call ‘false pregnancy.’ In these cases, even though the bitch may not have mated with a male dog, her body believes it is pregnant due to incorrect hormonal stimulation that it is receiving. The dog may have abdominal swelling and/or engorgement of the mammary glands and in some cases they will even make nests and snuggle with socks or toys against their bodies. Most animals experience no long term serious problems, as the behaviour disappears when the circulating hormones return to their appropriate levels. Some dogs may develop mastitis (infection of the mammary gland), metritis (infection of the uterus), or pyometras.

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The prevention of mammary cancer:
Dogs speyed before the first “heat” have less than 0.5% chance of developing mammary (breast) cancer. Animals that are speyed prior to one year of age very rarely develop this malignancy. Speying a dog before her first heat significantly reduces the chance of mammary cancer.

Eliminates risk of uterine and ovarian cancer: Removal of the uterus and ovaries means that the dog is not at risk from uterine or ovarian tumours.

What are the disadvantages?

Most of the perceived disadvantages are false. The most commonly cited are that the dog will become fat, characterless and useless as a guard dog if speyed.

Speying doesn’t cause a change in personality, guarding instincts, intelligence or playfulness.

Obesity is the result of overfeeding. By regulating a dog’s diet, caloric intake and exercise, you can prevent obesity in speyed females.

It is a myth that having a litter will calm a dog down. There is no scientific evidence that having puppies has any calming psychological effect.

When should the operation be performed?

We recommend speying at 5 to 6 months of age although it can be done earlier.

Are there any dangers associated with the operation?

Speying is considered a major operation and requires general anaesthesia. With today’s modern anaesthetics and monitoring equipment, the risk of a complication is very low.


What happens when I leave my dog for this procedure?

Your pet will be examined and pre-anaesthetic blood tests may be performed. If everything is acceptable, your pet will then be anaesthetised.

Your pet will be placed on a gas anaesthetic – this allows for accurate monitoring, anaesthetic and oxygen delivery. After clipping and preparing the surgical area, the uterus and ovaries are removed through a small incision just below the umbilicus (belly button).

Absorbable sutures may be used that do not require removal or external sutures may be placed that require removal by the veterinarian.

What post-operative precautions I should take?

Rest and restriction of activity are important aspects of post-operative care. Most dogs can resume normal activity five to ten days after surgery. Until then the dog should have only on-lead walks with no running, jumping, swimming or stair climbing.