What really happens during these procedures?

To spay a female dog or cat (or ferret, rabbit, etc.) means to do a complete ovariohysterectomy. Ovario- refers to the ovaries; hyster- refers to the uterus; and -ectomy means to remove. So ovariohysterectomy simple means the surgical removal of the ovaries and the uterus from the pet. We are familiar with the term hysterectomy from people, but in pets we remove the entire reproductive tract, which includes the ovaries. This is a critical point. If we were to leave the ovaries, the females would still have the ability to have breast cancer and exhibit signs of heat cycles, both undesirable events. Clients are often surprised to hear we have removed the ovaries because of their knowledge on the human side. I have even had clients request that I leave the ovaries (a request which I deny). Please be comfortable that this procedure is absolutely the best for your pet.

As an aside, I am always amazed at how quickly dogs recover from this procedure. Many of us know a person who has had a hysterectomy or complete ovariohysterectomy, and we remember how it took that person weeks to months to fully recover. Our pets seem to be themselves again in just a few days.

Many owners want to know if we should let their female pets go through an initial heat or even have one litter, as a way to make them better pets in the long run. The answer is unequivocally NO. Please spay them BEFORE their first heat cycle. With every menstrual cycle they have, including the first one, their incidence of breast cancer in the future rises dramatically. SPAY THEM EARLY, BEFORE THEY EVER COME INTO HEAT.

To castrate a male dog means to actually remove the testicles. The testicles are the main source of testosterone production, and testosterone is the hormone that has to do with reproduction, aggressive or roaming behavior and prostate and hernia problems. The testicles reside in a sac called the scrotal sac. We open the sac, remove the two testicles and close the sac. So you still see the sac, and many people are concerned that right after surgery the pets still look the same, but the sac is now empty. We leave the sac so aesthetically they look nearly the same.

Similar to the situation with females, I have clients ask why we do not just do a vasectomy. And the reason is simple. A vasectomy will help prevent reproduction, but unless we actually remove the source of the testosterone, then we are not addressing all the behavioral and medical problems we wish to prevent.



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