The medical term for a spay procedure is ovariohysterectomy, and involves the complete surgical removal of the ovaries, oviducts, uterine horns, and the uterus. Not only does this sterilize your pet and prevent them from becoming pregnant, it eliminates a pet’s heat cycle (estrus), reduces hormone driven behaviors, and helps reduce the risk of illnesses caused by a lifetime of exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Without these organs, your pet cannot develop ovarian or uterine cancer. Without having a uterus, your pet cannot experience the painful medical condition known as pyometra, which is a serious infection of the uterus that can cause death. Your intact pet can develop pyometra even if she’s never been mated with or pregnant, since bacteria can enter through the cervix to infect the uterus at any time, but especially when your pet is in heat. Pyometra can cause serious complications in pets, making them very high-risk surgical cases that require Intensive Care recovery. The best way to cure pyometra is through an emergency ovariohysterectomy surgery, and an intensive care hospital stay that involves intravenous fluid therapy and antibiotics. Failure to treat pyometra in a timely manner can lead to your pet becoming septic, and dying as the infection spreads to other parts of their body.
Some illnesses caused by imbalanced estrogen and progesterone production are false pregnancies and unkempt, shaggy hair, or even hair loss. In a false pregnancy, the imbalance of hormones in the female’s body trick it into thinking she is pregnant, and your pet may display nesting behaviors and even lactate despite the fact that they have not been mated. False pregnancies can result in infections of the mammary glands (mastitis) and uterus (metritis), or become pyometra infections. Estrogen is particularly responsible for hair loss in unspayed pets, and can cause a pet’s hair to seem mangy or brittle. Sometimes, these high levels of estrogen result in such hair loss that the only cure is to spay your pet.
The reduction in estrogen and progesterone production caused by the removal of the ovaries also reduces the chances of your pet developing mammary gland (breast) cancer later in life. Reducing estrogen and progesterone eliminates your pet’s heat cycle, thus preventing behaviors most associated with being in heat, such as roaming, marking, nesting, excessive vocalizing, and attracting male dogs. Be aware that behaviors have as much a psychological and emotional basis as they do a hormonal one, and the reductions of estrogen and progesterone will not eliminate all unwanted behaviors once those behaviors have become established as habits, but spaying is recommended as the first step towards addressing unwanted behavior concerns.
The best time to spay your pet to reduce their lifetime risk of developing cancer, pyometra, or behavioral difficulties later in life is between 6 months to 8 months old, and before their first heat cycle.
While it is possible to spay your pet during their heat cycle, it is not often advisable to do so. During your pet’s heat cycle, the blood vessels that supplies your pet’s reproductive organs become engorged with higher than normal volumes of blood. This engorgement makes your pet a higher anesthesia and surgical risk compared to a pet which is not in heat. If you cannot spay your pet prior to their first heat cycle, we recommend you have your pet spayed immediately after the completion of their first heat cycle.
An ovariohysterectomy is far from a routine surgical procedure, as each patient is different and requires different anesthesia and surgical protocols to make their surgery as risk-free as possible for them. Your pet will receive multi-modal pain management, including a session of our therapy laser, during their laser surgery with us, and pain medication to go home with, to make their post-operative recovery as comfortable as possible for them. While it may seem as if your pet is ready to go as soon as they are discharged, remember, they just underwent an extensive surgical procedure, and should be given the time necessary to heal properly so as to prevent complications during their recovery.
All surgical and anesthesia procedures come with a certain degree of risk. At the Suffolk Veterinary Group Laser Surgical Center, by taking our time to assess your pet as an individual, perform pre-surgical exam consultations and blood work, requiring all PetCare Team members involved in our surgical services to carry a professional license, and reviewing your pet’s medical history in its entirety, we strive to minimize those risks as much as possible. Because we believe that your pet deserves to be treated with respect, at the Suffolk Veterinary Group Laser Surgical Center we don’t compromise your pet’s health or safety during surgery by reducing our quality of medicine, or creating “assembly line” styles of providing care. Your pet receives their own surgical time, sterilized surgical tools in individual packs designed to be used only on a single patient, and 100% of our attention while they are under anesthesia and recovery with us.