Whoohoo! We’ve made it to the fourth and final installment of the #VeterinaryMythBusters mini-series.
If you’ve been with me since the first post, thanks for following along! But, if you’re new here, I encourage you to check out posts one, two, and three of this blog series before moving on to this conclusion.
Today, we will be debunking the myth that spaying a female dog will make her more likely to get sick. In fact, the opposite is quite true. Spaying of female dogs can prevent serious and life-threatening health conditions for her. It also helps keep down the pet population and may help her have more birthdays to celebrate.
Here are four BIG reasons why you need to spay your dog:
Spaying and neutering dogs has been associated with longer lifespans
Most animal lovers agree- the greatest issue with owning pets is that they are never able to be with us long enough. We all want more time with our pets, don’t we? A study by the University of Georgia published in 2013 found a strong correlation between sterilization (spaying and neutering) of dogs and longer lifespans. Dogs that were sterilized were less likely to die from trauma and infectious disease.
Female dogs have a reduced rate of mammary cancer if they are spayed before their second heat cycle
Mammary cancer is the most common type of cancer in female dogs, and is virtually eliminated if the dog is spayed before her first heat cycle. One in four (25%) of un-spayed female dogs will develop mammary cancer in their life, of which 50-60% will have metastatic cancer that could potentially spread to other organs and be fatal. Only one in 2,000 (0.05%) dogs that were spayed before their first heat cycle will develop mammary cancer. There is also a significantly decreased risk (1 in about 12, or 8%) if the female is spayed before her second heat cycle. But, after the third heat cycle this health benefit diminishes.
Pyometra is a deadly infection
One of the most common emergencies that I see in practice is a condition called pyometra. The term “pyometra” means “puss-filled-uterus,” and is about as pleasant as it sounds. Dog with pyometra are often very sick and may have vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, listlessness, increased urination and thirst, and vaginal discharge. However, some dogs with pyometra may have very mild symptoms and still have a raging infection inside their body. The statistical risk of pyometra has not been significantly studied in the USA, but is believed to be 15% at 4 years of age, and 24% at ten years of age for un-spayed females. If your dog gets a pyometra, they will require costly and emergent life-saving surgery to remove the infected organ before it can burst or before your pet goes septic.
Spaying your dog helps reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies
This one is a no-brainer, and it has been the big reason why spaying and neutering is (thankfully) so widely accepted in the USA compared to other countries. 5 to 8 million animals are euthanized each year in shelters in the US. I realize that most pet parents won’t let their female dogs run loose or have access to an adult male, but accidents happen! I’ve seen my fair share of “oops” pregnancies in dogs and cats alike, and it has proven to me that “life always finds a way.” If you’re not thinking about breeding your dog (and I would strongly urge you to consider the ethical points of breeding animals in an overpopulated society before doing so), please spay her so that one day we won’t live in a world where shelter euthanasia is the leading cause of death in companion animals.
Before we close, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that there are some negatives to spaying your dog. However, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The chart below, taken from this article, shows the benefits and negatives of a spay (ovariohysterectomy) in female dogs. From that, we can see that we prevent more clinically and statistically significant problems if we spay female dogs.
Still have questions? I encourage you to discuss this article with your pet’s veterinarian to determine which course of action is best for her. Resources and additional references can be found below. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this last installment of the Veterinary Myth Busters mini-series!
Question for readers: Has your pet had a health crisis that could have been prevented by a spay?
Resources and References
Photo by Dhyamis Kleber from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-gray-long-sleeve-top-and-red-pants-sitting-beside-tree-and-white-medium-coated-dog-681833/