should your dog be desexed
Although this procedure can be performed at a great range of ages, it is
most commonly done between 4 - 6 months of age (i.e. before their first
heat) in New Zealand.
Under 3 months old their kidneys, liver and internal organ function is
not fully developed and hence elective anaesthesia is not recommended.
Elderly dogs of course have slowed down kidney, liver and internal organ
function and hence are an increased anaesthetic risk. The younger a
female dog is desexed, the less developed the reproductive tract is, and
the safer, more simple and less complicated, less risky and less lengthy
the surgical procedure is. Hence 4-6 months is ideal, it is also young
enough to prevent any of the problems below and avoids them coming into
their first oestrus unbeknownst to their owner and getting pregnant
before owner awareness. A
female dog can be spayed pregnant but there are safety and ethical
considerations associated with this.
your dog should be desexed
The benefits of this are firstly to prevent unwanted pregnancies,
and the associated risks of birth, (which include needing a caesarean
section) and of course contributing to the unwanted homeless stray dog
The next most common reason is the elimination of hormonal related
secondary sexually dependant behaviour, such as interfemale
aggression (aggression towards other female dogs), bleeding every six
months when in oestrus (i.e. on heat), having every stray male in the
neighbourhood hanging around your property and escape attempts in order
to get to the male dogs.
also prevents pseudopregnancies, i.e. false pregnancies, which
can be very deceptive, lengthy and difficult to manage and resolve.
In this situation they have the pregnancy hormones mimicking
pregnancy, so behave as if pregnant - nesting, treating objects as
puppies, become mopey, depressed, off food and often right to the point
of producing milk!!
more life threatening condition prevented by spaying is pyometra,
an infection of the uterus that can cause septicaemia and septic shock,
potentially leading to death or fatal irreversible kidney failure.
desexing eliminates the possibility of uterine cancer. If spayed
prior first oestrus it greatly reduces the possibility of mammary gland
(breast) cancer. This
benefit of breast cancer prevention is lost after 4 oestrus cycles.
Prior to surgery, assessment & preparation
The surgical procedure itself does not routinely require over night
hospitalisation, instead they usually just stay for the day - in the
clinic early in the morning and home that same evening.
It is important that dogs undergoing and anaesthetic have not had
food or water for 12 hrs first to ensure and empty stomach (as with
humans) to minimise the risk of vomiting under anaesthesia and inhaling
the vomits (causing anything from mild to life threatening pneumonia to
here your veterinarian will perform a pre anaesthetic exam – full
clinical examination, to ensure they are well and fit for the
anaesthetic and surgery, sometimes during and sometimes after admission.
Ideally then blood will be taken to run pre anaesthetic blood tests.
Many leading veterinary clinics will have the facility to run the
blood tests in the clinic there and then for quick results, rather than
sending them to an outside pathology laboratory and waiting up to a day
pre anaesthetic bloods test assess kidney function, liver function,
hydration, proteins, the immune system, red blood cell levels (i.e.
check for anemia) protein levels needed for healing and a clotting
factor, amongst other things. This ensures that a dog is in an optimum
(at the very least adequate) physiological condition to cope with the
anaesthetic and surgery. It can also pick up underlying conditions that
influence the anaesthetic and surgery, enabling your vet to manage and
Routinely a vet will then administer a pre anaesthetic sedative and pain
relief combination to reduce stress levels and reduce the amount of
anaesthetic used to induce anaesthesia (i.e. to put under anaesthesia).
High stress levels and high induction anaesthetic doses make for a less
safe anaesthetic. Pain relief given in advance calms a dog and gives
better results than pain relief given once the surgery in underway.
the pre anaesthetic medications have taken effect your vet will then
routinely use an injectable induction agent (i.e. anaesthetic that puts
your dog asleep) through the cephalic vein i.e. main vein of your arm
that is used in humans for blood testing etc.
Now under anaesthesia, i.e. asleep, a tube is placed into the trachea
(windpipe) to protect the airways and allow administration of the gas
maintenance anaesthetic agent. The injectable induction agent lasts from
2-15 minutes, depending on which one is used, so a gas anaesthetic that
is breathed in is needed to keep your dog asleep under anaesthesia
- i.e. maintenance anaesthetic agent, as with humans also.
At this point careful and complete anaesthetic monitoring should be
instigated. This involves the use of pulse oximetry, a machine that is
clipped gently on to the tongue and gives information of the heart rate
and rhythm and level of oxygen saturation
- i.e. how well and how much oxygen is getting into the body via
the lungs and circulating through the body, as well as reassuring us
that the heart is coping well with the anaesthetic.
An apalert is routinely used also at most practices, this is an
apparatus attached to the anaesthetic machine that monitors respiration
(breathing), informing the anaesthetist of respiration rate. At the same
time a fully qualified experienced surgical nurse is monitoring the
depth of anaesthesia and the patient by assessing varying reflexes and
the patient as a whole, relaying this information back to the veterinary
surgeon. This anaesthetic monitoring is performed for the full duration
of the anaesthetic. One may even monitor blood pressure throughout the
anaesthetic, but this requires equipment seldom found in general
Now your dog is ready for surgical preparation. This involves clipping
the hair off over most of the ventral abdomen –i.e. underside of the
belly and the skin cleansed very thoroughly with specific surgical
preparation scrubs. They lie in dorsal recumbency (i.e. on their backs,
belly and face up) on comfy padding for this surgical procedure.
this point your veterinary surgeon may administer an antibiotic
injection. Some special care/unwell or compromised dogs may also receive
intravenous fluids by intravenous drip while under anaesthetic during
veterinary surgeon will scrub clean his/her hands and arms as thoroughly
with similar surgical preparations until the skin is sterile and will
then carefully put on fully sterilised full length surgical gown and
sterile surgical gloves.
once in theatre sterile drapes will be placed over the entire ventrum
(belly and probably chest as well), with only the surgical site (place
where surgery will be performed) exposed and a kit of fully sterilised
surgical instruments provided to your vet. Surgery is now ready to
The abdomen is opened up
carefully along the midline, usually starting to the umbilicus, the
ovaries and uterus carefully identified, correctly tied off and all
blood vessels well ligated (tied off) to prevent bleeding, The abdominal
muscle layer, then the subcutaneous layers are individually sutured
(stitched) closed again with dissolving sutures (thread).
The third layer to close up of course being the skin - the
sutures you as owners will be able to see, usually sutured using non
dissolving suture so that removal will be necessary 10-14 days later
once all has healed.
up from surgery and monitoring after surgery.
The surgery is now complete, and your dog will now be taken off gas
anaesthetic and allowed to awaken, come round out of the anaesthetic in
her own time. The endotracheal tube – i.e. tube in protecting the
trachea (windpipe) is removed once she is swallowing and starting to
chew, in full control of her own airways. She may also receive and
additional pain relief injection at this point.
is of course kept very warm and carefully monitored throughout her
recovery and for the rest of they day, keeping a special eye on her
colour to confirm there is no internal bleeding.
Once fully awake and had time to recover your dog will be customarily
ready to go home that afternoon or evening.
Sometimes, although not routinely, she may go home with a course of
antibiotic and /or pain relief tablets.
Usually a dog will be seen back 10-14 days later for sutures to be
removed and post operative healing assessed a final all-well check up,
so to speak.
your veterinarian about spaying your dog now - It may be one of the best
things you will do for her!!!
B.V. Sc (Distinction)
you know... ($$$ and desexing your cat or dog)
> That in cases of Genuine
Financial Hardship, you can apply for financial
assistance from the Humane Society to desex your pet?
> Ellenco Pet Medical Plans will cover part of the
cost of desexing on two of their five plans, see Ellenco
for details and conditions.
> SPCA's, Humane
Society and many shelter pets for adoption are usually already
desexed, or come with a voucher to assist with desexing
There is a set donation to pay the shelter. For example
Auckland SPCA charges only $75 to adopt a desexed, deflead,
wormed and vaccinated kitten - and you're supporting a good
cause! For pups, Auckland SPCA charge up to $175, (it is
more expensive again to desex a dog as opposed to a cat) but
that includes all of the above, plus the first years
registration...and that is regardless of sex, breed and size
So before you buy a moggie or doggie (see a registered
breeder for a pure breed), look to your local
SPCA or animal welfare shelter for savings on desexing
and adoption costs. And you'll be saving a life!
Pets on the Net
(PS Shelters reserve the right as to who they will adopt a
pet to, you'll need to meet their specified requirements,
prior to adoption. Just paying the adoption fee does not
mean everyone is a good, or breed appropriate, owner. Each
shelter will discuss it's own policy, specifications and
applications with you, prior to adoption)