Spaying your pets

in Features

I am regularly asked whether clients should neuter their pets and when is the most opportune time to do so. The primary reasons for neutering are essentially the same for felines and canines but there are some differences. In this week’s article I shall concentrate on the female, what the operation entails and reasons for neutering your pet.

In the female, ovariohysterectomy, commonly referred to as spaying, involves the removal of the ovaries and the uterus. The most common way to do this is by a laparotomy, a very safe procedure in the right hands, where an incision is made into the abdomen, the organ is exteriorised, ligatures are placed at the relevant places and the ovaries and uterus are removed completely.

The uteruses of our family pets are distinct to ours; primate’s uteruses consist of one body whereas those of most other animals consist of a body and two horns. The evolutionary reason for this being primarily that primates as a general rule are uniparous (one offspring at a time) whereas other mammals are usually multiparous and having a uterus and two horns allows for this.

The primary reason to spay your dog is for long term health reasons. If you neuter your pet before or after the first heat then the chances her developing mammary cancer later on in life are virtually none. The longer you leave your animal intact the more heat cycles it has with the body being exposed to oestrogens, progestogens and other hormones and therefore the increased possibility of mammary tumours later on in life.

Personally I prefer to neuter after the first heat, this allows the vagina to drop and therefore later on in life does not result in vaginal lip fold dermatitis where you get skin infections due to the vagina being tucked in too deeply in the perineal region. Secondly this is a common condition in young bitches where they have a vaginal discharge that is not responsive to antibiotics and only clears after the first heat cycle.

In Gibraltar there is an old wives tale that all bitches should have at least one litter, and this stops them getting mammary tumours later on in life. This is well wide of the mark, please ignore this advice. If you want to breed your dog because you want puppies and wish to continue her blood line for whatever reason then please do but not under the false pretence that this will stop her developing mammary cancer later on in her life. Also remember that you have an obligation to find good homes for these puppies.

People also worry that spaying will alter a dog’s character, this is not the case. The main problem that can be encountered is that they may put on weight, so you might have to monitor how much she eats.

With felines, neutering them young is even more important. Due to the queen’s conformation, there is no need to wait for their first sexual cycle. Cat’s mammary tumors are 90% of the time highly aggressive adenocarcinomas, thankfully as most people neuter their cats early I don’t see many of these, but when I do they have to be excised aggressively and even then it is often too late and cancer has already metastasised.

Neutering cats that have access to the outdoors is doubly important, mating is one of the most common routes that a cat gets infected with FIV and FELV, (two retroviruses that I will discuss in future articles), also not to mention the kittens that will follow in 9 weeks.

So, in summary, spaying your bitch or queen early is safe and will help some way to her leading a long and healthy life.

For more information please phone Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic on 200 77334

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