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With the high number of unwanted dogs in need of homes, more people are willing to do their part to help keep the population down and prevent the euthanizing of unwanted puppies and adult dogs. Many are doing this by having their dog go through an ovariohysterectomy or spay surgery.

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What is Ovariohysterectomy?

An ovariohysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs. Most dog owners refer to this procedure as spaying the dog or having the dog spayed. The surgery removes the dog’s two ovaries, the body of the uterus and the uterine horns.

Many dog owners fear this procedure because it does involve surgery, but an ovariohysterectomy is a relatively safe procedure when performed by a qualified surgeon and at an appropriate time in the dog’s life. Ovariohysterectomies are generally performed under general anesthesia. With the technological advances in veterinary medicine, the ovariohysterectomy can also be done be using laparoscopy, a minimally invasive process that poses much less danger to the dog.

Like most surgical procedures, there is some risk involved, such as infection, excessive bleeding, anesthesia reaction, bruising and hormone-related incontinence. However, complications from an ovariohysterectomy are very uncommon. Ovariohysterectomies can be performed on a dog of any age, but most veterinarians recommend the procedure be done when the dog is about six months old.

Although the entire procedure may take about two hours, the actual ovariohysterectomy only takes about 30 minutes. Your dog will be put to sleep with general anesthesia through an IV catheter. The vet may also inject pain medication into the IV at this time as well. Once the dog is asleep, the vet will place a breathing tube in the dog’s trachea to keep the airway open so that he or she may deliver gas anesthesia.

The vet or veterinary technician will monitor your dog’s body temperature and vital signs during the surgery. Your dog may also receive IV fluids during the surgery to prevent dehydration, maintain blood pressure and offset surgical blood loss. The dog is placed on her back for the procedure and will have her surgical site washed and shaved. When the procedure is finished, the anesthesia will be gradually reduced, and your dog will pub moved to recovery. Your dog may wake up within an hour of the procedure.

What Dogs Need an Ovariohysterectomy?

Eliminating unwanted pregnancies is usually the main reason why dog owners choose to spay their dog. However, there are other reasons why a dog may need an ovariohysterectomy.

  • Ovariohysterectomies greatly decrease the chance of a female dog developing breast (mammary) cancer. Veterinarians claim that if the procedure is performed before the dog’s first heat cycle, the dog is 200 times less likely to develop mammary cancer.
  • Eliminates the risks of pregnancy and birth-related complications as well as dystocia.
  • Eliminates unwanted bleeding and estrous or hormone-related behavior.
  • Eliminates the dog’s chance of developing pyometra, a serious and life-threatening disease of the uterus

The ovariohysterectomy is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which often result in hundreds of dogs being left in shelters, dumped on the side of the road or just put to sleep. Unless the owner is a professional breeder, ovariohysterectomies are highly recommended today by veterinarians.

How to Prepare Your Dog for an Ovariohysterectomy

How your dog handles the ovariohysterectomy can depend a lot on how prepared you are and how you prepare your dog. Some vets recommend you bring the dog in a dog crate because this may be where the dog will be doing some of its recuperating. Even if the vet doesn’t recommend a dog crate or carrier, it’s still a good idea because you want your dog traveling safely in a confined location to prevent her from moving around too much.

If your dog isn’t used to using a crate, start getting her used to it at least a week or two before the surgery. For a few days after the surgery, your dog will need to spend a lot of time quiet and resting. It’s best if she has her own “safe zone” in which to rest.

Your vet will also want to make sure your dog is in good physical condition before the surgery is performed. This typically includes a complete physical exam and a medical workup. The medical workup may include abdominal x-rays, urinalysis, serum chemistry, complete blood count and possibly an ultrasound if the dog has health issues like dystocia or pyometra.

How to Care for Your Dog After an Ovariohysterectomy

Depending on the vet and the situation, your dog may be able to come home after the ovariohysterectomy or may be required to spend the night at the clinic or animal hospital. Your vet will give your dog postoperative medication to help with the pain, but you may be able to replace this with milder medication once the dog is home.

The younger the dog, the faster they snap back to normal after the surgery. Some dogs are acting back to normal within 24 and 48 hours after the surgery. In some cases, you wouldn’t even believe they’d just gone through a surgical procedure. However, they should still be made to rest as much as possible and avoid running, jumping or going up and down steps.

If steps can’t be avoided, try to walk with the dog to make sure she moves slowly or carry her if possible. The dog has stitches, so you must take care to ensure the stitched aren’t ripped out. Vets often send the dog home with a cone to wear over their heads to prevent them from licking or chewing on the surgical site.

The incision site should be inspected every day for signs of swelling, discharge, redness or pain. The stitches will need to be removed in 10 to 14 days unless the vet uses stitches that fall out on their own.