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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why You Should Spay

This is a very basic, simple question from a reader and one I answer almost every day at work.  But I can't remember the last time I've really addressed it in this blog and I'm trying to get through my backlog of emails, so here you go....from Heather....

I have my own (very good) vet, but in this case I would like an unbiased opinion.  

I have a 3 year old, healthy,  Saint who was originally kept by the breeder for the purpose of breeding.  However, she turned out to be infertile and does not (noticably) go into heat. 

I have always spayed/neutered all of my pets.  I am not sure if the risk outweighs the benefits in this case. She stays in the house, my other dog is neutered, and I am not sure if I should get her spayed. 

What would you recommend?

To me overpopulation and the risk of pregnancy are the least compelling reasons to spay a dog.  Surprising?  As a doctor I see far more problems with health and behavior than I do with unwanted pregnancies and a rampant unwanted pet population.  When I talk to clients about spaying the reproductive issues are the last things I discuss.

Let's take a quick look at several risks of not spaying a dog, some of them potentially fatal....
  • Significantly higher risk of mammary gland (breast) cancer.  About a 25% chance compared to less than 1% if spayed before her first heat cycle.
  • Risk of severe uterine infection, pyometra.  This results in a pus-filled uterus and usually requires immediate, risky, emergency surgery.  Caring for one of these cases is many times more expensive than a routine spay.
  • Potential risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Attracting unneutered male dogs from a surprisingly wide radius, potentially leading to aggressive interactions or the spread of diseases and parasites.
  • Unwanted pregnancies from dogs outside the home.  The dogs mostly around her may be neutered, but as I mentioned above male dogs can come from far away and are often extremely persistent in getting to an in-heat female.
In Heather's specific case her dog has many years left and spaying would reduce the risks of the above problems.  Additionally, a dog who doesn't have regular heat cycles would potentially have abnormalities with her reproductive system, including hormonal imbalances, ovarian cysts, and so on.  Infertility in dogs should never be blown off, and is a strong reason to remove the reproductive organs.

I have seen all of the above scenarios and diseases, and in each situation the client was faced with a problem that would have been completely preventable by spaying.  And each of those clients faced rather large veterinary bills and regretted not having spayed earlier.  

So Heather, I would definitely recommend spaying your dog.