Arbor Ridge Pet Clinic

2935 South Fish Hatchery Road, Bay 16
Madison, WI 53711


What is meant by ovariohysterectomy or spaying?
Spaying is the common term used to describe the surgical procedure known scientifically as an ovariohysterectomy. In this procedure, the ovaries and uterus are completely removed in order to sterilize a female dog.
Why should I have my dog spayed?
We recommend that all non-breeding cats be sterilized. Here are several health benefits associated with spaying your dog.
  • Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.
  • Breast cancer is the number one type of cancer diagnosed in intact or un-spayed female dogs.
  • If your dog is spayed before her first heat cycle, there is less than ½ of 1% (0.5%) chance of developing breast cancer later in life.
  • With every subsequent heat cycle, the risk of developing breast cancer increases.
  • After 2½ years of age ovariohysterectomy gives no protective benefit against developing breast cancer.
  • Pets with diabetes or epilepsy should be spayed to prevent hormonal changes that may interfere with medications.
Are there other benefits to spaying my dog?
The most obvious benefit is the prevention of unplanned pregnancies. There is no medical or scientific reason for letting your cat have a litter before she is spayed.
Once a dog reaches puberty, usually at around six to seven months of age, she will have a heat or estrus cycle every four to six months (depending on the breed). She will be "in heat" or receptive to mating for approximately 19 to 21 days in each cycle. During "heat" she will likely have a swollen and edematous vulva and have a clear to bloody fluid exuded from the vulva. When a female dog is not used for breeding the uterus is more prone to developing endometritis and eventually more prone to developing a pyometra (an infected and swollen uterus). A pyometra is serious problem and must be dealt with immediately by your veterinarian. The best treatment is to spay. Even with surgery there is a risk since the dog is so sick already and the uterus is filled with purulent material. Removal of the ovaries will stop her estrus cycles.
When should I have my dog spayed?
Spaying should be performed before the first estrus or "heat cycle". Most dogs are spayed between four and six months of. It is possible to spay your dog if she is pregnant, although there is more risk involved for the dog. 
What does a spay surgery involve?
This is a major surgical procedure that requires a full general anesthesia. You will need to fast your dog the night prior to surgery (for 12 hours prior to surgery). Most dogs can go home the next morning after surgery has been performed.
The operation is performed through an incision made in the midline of the abdomen, just below the umbilicus (the belly button). Both ovaries are removed along with the entire uterus. The surgical incision will be closed with several layers of sutures. In many cases, skin sutures will be placed, and these will need to be removed in 10 to 14 days.
Are complications common with spaying?
In general, complications are rare during spaying of dogs. However, as with all anesthetic and surgical procedures, there is always a small risk. The potential complications include:
1.) Anesthetic reaction: It is possible that any individual animal could have an adverse reaction following the administration of a drug or anesthetic. Such cases are impossible to predict, but are extremely rare. Pre-operative blood work is a useful screening test that may detect pre-existing problems which could interfere with the pet's ability to handle the anesthetic drugs.
2.) Pet Not Properly Fasted: It is important that you properly fast your dog prior to surgery according to your veterinarian's instructions. In addition, any signs of illness or previous medical conditions should be reported to your veterinarian prior to any sedation, anesthesia or surgery.
3.) Internal bleeding: This can occur if a ligature around a blood vessel breaks or slips off after the abdomen has been closed. This is very rare, and is more likely to occur if the dog is extremely active and not exercise restricted. Clinical signs include weakness, pale gums, depression, anorexia or a distended abdomen. 
4.) Post-operative infection: This may occur internally or externally around the incision site. In most cases the infection can be controlled with antibiotics. This most commonly occurs when the dog licks the site excessively or is in a damp environment.
5.) Seroma Formation: This is a pocket of fluid that can develop under the skin where the incision was performed. These will usually reabsorb on there own over time (2-4 weeks) and are usually due to the dog overdoing it or being too active post surgery.
5.) Sinus formation or Suture Reaction: Although extremely rare, occasionally the body will react to certain types of suture material used during surgery. This results in a draining wound or tract that may appear up to several weeks after the surgery was performed. Occasionally a further operation is required to remove the suture material.
Will spaying have any affect on my dog?
In the vast majority of dogs, there are absolutely no adverse affects following spaying. In certain dogs, the hair that grows back over an operation site may be noticeably darker in color. This darker patch may grow out with the following molt as the hair is naturally replaced.
There are many myths and rumors that are not supported by facts or research. Be sure to address any questions or concerns you may have with your veterinarian prior to surgery.