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A look at the science behind the procedure

We get asked a lot of questions about dog neutering here at Knutsford Veterinary Surgery and many pet owners are keen to know more about the procedure and its benefits. In this article we delve into some scientific research to answer some of the most common questions that we get asked about bitch neutering.

Bitch neutering refers to the spaying a female dog. This is the process of removing the ovaries and uterus (ovario-hysterectomy) carried out in some cases, or the removal of just the ovaries (ovariectomy) carried out in other cases. If you have any questions about any of the information in the article, don’t hesitate to get in touch and keep your eyes peeled for our next article about male dog neutering.

Why is it recommended that I spay my dog?

Bitch neutering is advisable for the purpose of population control if you are not intending to breed from your pet in a controlled manner. Unplanned breeding can often lead to problems for the bitch during pregnancy and labour (whelping) as well as perpetuating genetic defects. From a practical point of view, it can be stressful for bitch owners as they have to aide their dog throughout the pregnancy and once the puppies are born.

Bitches in season will often receive unwanted attention from any male dog that it comes in contact with. In addition to this there are also a range of veterinary conditions which can be prevented through neutering.

There are a range of veterinary conditions that can be prevented through neutering.

Problems with season and false pregnancies

Bitches often develop problems with their seasons, as well as false pregnancies which lead their bodies to believe they are pregnant. These episodes can cause your dog the mammary glands to develop and start producing milk. This is associated with signs of impending whelping, such as nest building and treating toys like puppies, which can be distressing for the dog. Bitches can also have a significant reduction in appetite throughout these periods.

Mammary tumours

Hormonal activity also affects the mammary glands which has an association with the occurrence of mammary tumours. Although research is currently limited it’s thought that neutering reduces the likelihood of these tumours occurring.

Cystic endometrial hyperplasia

Bitches who have repeated seasons may also often develop an overgrowth of the lining of the uterus (cystic endometrial hyperplasia) due to hormonal changes. Bitch neutering obviously prevents seasons and can therefore prevent this condition.

Pyometra infection

During a season white blood cells that protect against infection do not enter the uterus in order protect sperm and early pregnancy. Because of this bacteria can enter and establish a life threatening infection called pyometra. As the uterus enlarges with pus, discharge can be seen from the vulva if the cervix is open. If the cervix is closed the uterus fills with pus. The dog may not show signs of a problem, but most dogs rapidly develop sepsis. The likelihood of survival if sepsis has developed is reduced.

The advantages outweigh any negatives, but there are a few things to look out for

When is the right time to spay my dog?

Advice on this topic can vary. At a minimum for dogs it is advised to wait until 6 months old. Here at Knutsford Vets Surgery we assess each dog on an individual basis. On some occasions we may recommend delaying the procedure if your female dog is very tucked up in the region of the vulva which can lead to urine coming into constant contact with the skin, causing infections and rashes. In these cases allowing a season will increase the size of the vulva and cause it to drop further away from the inner thighs.

If your bitch is showing any signs of being in heat or mammary development your vet will normally advise delaying. It is important that the hormones are withdrawn at the right time in the case of mammary development and that the uterus and blood vessels are as small as possible as the organ increases in size during heat.

The biggest debate is whether to neuter before the first season or after. Currently the research is conflicting and further studies are required. The British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) current position is ‘that there is no current scientific evidence to support the view that the spaying of bitches should take place after the first season’. Neutering prior to 6 months old is common practice in the USA. However, the BVA state there is insufficient data on benefits and risks associated with ‘early’ neutering.

Some research supports the view that spaying bitches prior to the second season lowers the prevalence of mammary tumours compared to entire bitches. New research continues to become available.

As always, your team here at Knutsford Vets are always on hand to talk to about particular benefits and risks to your dog before electing to neuter your pet.

Knutsford Vets Advice

Waiting 6 months is always advisable, but we judge every case on it’s own merit

Paul Adams, Lead Vet

Are there any disadvantages to spaying my dog?

One of the greatest risks that is associated with bitch neutering is the increased chance that the bitch can develop early onset urinary incontinence (UI). Dogs that are neutered before 6 months are at a greater risk than those neutered later, whilst the risk of UI is also associated with increased weight. It’s also emerged that Hungarian Visla and Irish Setters are at a higher risk than other breeds.

It is also recognised that neutering can increase the likelihood of your dog becoming overweight later in life due to the reduction in hormones. We always advise reducing the amount you feed your dog immediately following neutering to prevent weight gain. Spaying can also affect the texture of your dogs coat as hormones influence the growth.

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