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.