Most owners are not aware of the chain of events in a surgical procedure. The most common procedures, an ova rio-hysterectomy, known also as a spaying (not spading) operation. Having found the dog to be in satisfactory health for surgery, the veterinarian may administer drugs to sedate, prevent excess salivation, and empty the stomach to prevent vomiting during the operation but this is not always advisable. The dog is placed on a prep table where at rained assistant holds and cajoles it while the veterinarian administers short-acting anesthetic intravenously. An enforceable tube is inserted in the trachea (windpipe) and anesthesia is continued with gas and oxygen provided by a gas anesthesia machine. When the correct level of anesthesia is reached, the patient’s fur is clipped on and around the surgical site. The area is scrubbed and the pet is taken into surgical theater. The surgeon, who is dressed in cap, mask, and clean garments (often called greens), scrubs his or her hands with a medicated soap, dries them, and dons a sterile surgical gown and sterile gloves.
Sterile instruments, suturing material, drape, and gauze have been laid out by an assistant. After draping the site, the surgeon proceeds to make an incision through which one fork or horn of the uterus is delivered. It is traced to the end and the ovary attached is removed by first legating the blood supply to it. The uterus is traced back to its bifurcation and this is legated and severed. The second horn is traced to its end, where the second ovary is legated and removed. If one of the three ligatures slips off, the patient may bleed to death, but this virtually never happens. The incision is closed by suturing the deep layer sand finally the skin after which the patient is disconnected from the gas anesthetic machine and moved to a recovery area. Usually in five or ten minutes reflexes the blinking of the eyelids and jaw movements are observed. When she can swallow, the enforceable tube is removed but the patient is closely observed until she is enough to awake to be placed back in her compartment.
The same operation performed in 1916 was described to us by an onlooker. Each end of a three-foot cord was attached to the forelegs of the patient and another to the rear legs. The dog was raised by the rear cord, which was then hooked over a fence post. The doctor placed his foot on the loop of cord attached to the forelegs. This stretched the dog effectively, exposing the abdomen. The doctor reached in his pocket, produced a small pocketknife, and made a three-inch incision in the abdomen. He reached in and extracted the uterus. He severed the attachments and discarded the uterus and ovaries. Next came the suturing. He removed a rethreaded needle from the lapel of his coat and with it sutured the incision. He removed the binding cords, and the dog ran off. Since no anesthesia was used, the poor dog screamed all through the surgery. His charge for this service was fifty cents. The veterinary profession has come a long way.
Spaying has little effect on the general characteristics of the dog. Spayed Greyhounds race as well as and have very little tendency to be fatter than unsprayed sisters. Their species are not spoiled, except for reproduction purposes, by the operation.
It has been assumed spaying should be done when the female is approaching maturity, at which time glandular development has had a normal effect. If it is desirable to produce a chicken that will he large, awkward, lazy, and fat a capon you don’t put the operation off until the bird is full grown. For then you would have merely a sterile rooster. The operation should be done in the early life of the bird because at that time it accomplishes precisely the changes which we want to avoiding spayed pet dogs.
The same example may be found in bovines where, when spayed as ac alf the steer is quite different from the ox that is castrated as an adult. More research is needed to be done in neutering both male and female dogs at young ages to he able to compare them with unaltered littermates. Many scientists believe early neutering may not he a disadvantage in the canine.
The fact that some spayed bitches get fat is not in itself a valid argument against spaying. Unspayed bitches, too, get fat. Some of the most grossly overweight dogs we know are whole dog. They are overfed. If they had been spayed and placed in the hands of the same owner, his or her explanation for the overweight condition would have been that the bitch had been spayed.
Spaying has little effect upon a mature dog. The dog does not have mating cycles and the urges that they bring. This may have a very slight effect on weight and personality. The reason for spaying some bitches young is to prevent the bitches of vicious breeds from becoming dangerous as they get older. If they are spayed as puppies, they tend to remain gentle.
In some remote localities, female puppies have almost no sale because of the expense of the spaying operation. Dog dealers refuse to buy puppies for resale unless they have already been spayed. In such areas, there is some justification for the operation; it is better to operate on young puppies than simply to destroy them.
Spaying a bitch has a number of definite advantages.
- The dog is spared the risk attending birth.
- The owner is spared raising or having to destroy unwanted animals.
- The owner avoids the annoyance of males surrounding his or her house, killing shrubbery, breaking windows, and following members of the family.
- The spayed female does not wonder at certain seasons as hennaed one does.
- Spaying almost certainly prevents the formation of cancer in the breasts, which sometimes occurs in bitches three or four years of age and commonly in older dogs. It also prevents metritis, the inflammation of the uterus, which afflicts unsprayed bitches.
- The owner can be saved many dollars a year for boarding the pet twice a year.
- Money for food is saved, since a pregnant, or lactating, mother consumes more food than a spayed one.
- In many places the license fee for a spayed bitch is less than for an unsprayed bitch. Where this is so, the owner will save the cost of spaying many times in the course of a normal life span.
There are also disadvantages in spaying.
- An owner may someday regret that his or her female can’t reproduce.
- As spayed dog grow older they sometimes lose control of the bladder sphincter. But this can be corrected by giving medication occasionally.
Does spaying harm a hunting dog? Some of the greatest hunters ever known have been spayed bitches. In fact, it helps hunting dogs, be-caused unsprayed bitches so often come into heat in the all-too-short hunting season. Because of this they often miss the training and experience that makes better hunters of the spayed bitches which arc never incapacitated.
Months after a bitch has been spayed and returned home, dogs sometimes collect about the house as if she were in heat. The owner should first look to see if the bitch is bleeding and swollen. If she is not, she is not attracting the males. Occasionally a chip of ovary, or even aw hole ovary, may have been left. Human gynecologists often spay their own dog, using the technique of removing the uterus but not the ovaries. These bitches have not been spayed in the veterinary sense. If ovaries are not entirely removed, a bitch will come in heat, copulate, but fail, of course, to conceive.
Very often spayed dog that are thought to be attracting males actually are not. Another bitch in heat is probably the basic attraction. She may have urinated in many places about the neighborhood. Dogs smelling the urine detect nothing of the keep-away odor of normal urine and therefore conclude that the bitch in front of whose house they find it is in season. When she appears, the dogs attempt to cop u-late. She thinks they are playing, and if she has a mild disposition, she will not fight them as a bolder dog would. Not being repulsed, they hang about until the dog catcher comes in answer to a complaint and removes those he can catch to the pound. A bold spayed bitch will fight off any intruders and the dogs will stay away.