Reproductive System
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NJ Veterinary Medical Association
390 Amwell Road, Suite 402
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone:  908-281-0918
Fax:  908-450-1286

Health Concerns: Reproductive System

Dear Veterinarian:
Our family has a four- month-old female golden retriever named Tillie. Our veterinarian, whom we like and trust, suggests that we have her spayed. Why is this a good idea?

Dear Pet Owner:
Yes, it is a very good idea to have Tillie spayed. In fact, it is a good idea and appropriate to spay all female dogs that are not intended for breeding. Spay is the term for the veterinary surgical procedure called ovariohysterectomy. It is performed in female dogs and cats and means to surgically remove the uterus and both ovaries. After a female is spayed, she can no longer come into heat and she can no longer have offspring.

There are a number of medical conditions commonly seen in unspayed older females which are prevented by spaying. One problem that you will avoid is pyometra, a life threatening infection where the uterus fills with pus and the kidneys can fail due to toxemia. Those dogs need an emergency spay because they are seriously ill. Also, spaying before the first heat reduces the chances of breast tumors by more than 90%!

Other preventable problems are uterine torsion (the uterus twists on itself), uterine prolapse (the uterus protrudes out of the vagina), uterine tumors, and vaginal hyperplasia (a large mass of obstructive tissue develops at the vagina).

Spaying your dog makes life easier for you: When your dog is in heat, she will bleed from 9-17 days and she will attract many male "admirers". This happens every six months.

Lastly, spaying is elective sterilization. A spayed female dog produces no unwanted puppies. Our nation already endures an overwhelming problem with unwanted and abandoned dogs, many of whom resulted from unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.

So please spay Tillie and please do so early – by six months of age, before her first heat cycle. There is no truth to the rumor that a dog or cat must have a litter prior to being spayed.


Dear Veterinarian:
My 8-year-old Beagle Holly had started drinking lots of water and had been vomiting. I took her to the veterinarian expected to hear that she had diabetes. Instead, my vet had to rush her into emergency surgery to be spayed. How could this have happened and why is a spay considered an emergency?

Dear Pet Owner:
In all likelihood, your dog Holly had a pyometra or infected uterus. This happens most commonly in unspayed female dogs about 4-10 weeks following a heat cycle and is related to hormone levels. Repeated heat cycles without a resulting pregnancy can increase the risk for a condition called cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH) due to increased levels of progesterone. CEH causes a thickening of the inner uterine lining which is then covered with a thick mucous. The result is a perfect setting for bacteria to grown. During a heat cycle, estrogen levels rise casing the cervix to open or dilate providing an entry route for bacteria. The combination of these events leads to pyometra, which literally means a pus-filled uterus, and that is exactly what your veterinarian found when he spayed Holly. In most cases the owner will notice a foul-smelling discharge but if the cervix is closed, drainage is impossible and the animal can become very sick with a toxic-shock-like syndrome. The build-up of toxins released from the pus-filled uterus can affect kidney function, which is why Holly was drinking a lot of water. The best way to correct this is by removing the infected uterus. Pyometra is one reason veterinarians recommend early spaying at 6 months of age for their female canine patients. An uncomplicated ovariohysterectomy is much easier on the canine patient and their owner's pocketbook.

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