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To Spay or Not To Spay? Know the risks and benefits before you decide.

This is a guest post from contributor Trisha Miller.

To spay or not to spay, that is the question.

When you have a small dog, there is just so much to consider. However, it is imperative that you weigh out all of the options before completely deciding one way or the other. Will my dog safely make it through a birth? What will happen if we choose to have puppies? Does my dog have any sensitivity to medications? These are all questions to ask yourself before you finalize any plans to spay or not to spay.

Making the Decision

Deciding whether or not to spay your dog is not easy. Especially if you’re thinking you might want some puppies running around in the future, it’s very tempting to want to keep your dog intact. However, the fact of the matter is, if you’re planning on selling the puppies or giving them away, it’s hard to know exactly where those puppies will end up.

This isn’t meant to discourage folks from breeding their puppies at all. Having puppies in your home and bringing that joy into other’s lives is something beautiful that is absolutely your choice. However, it’s very important to be an informed dog owner. You should know exactly what that process looks like for you, your dog, and the puppies.

For example, we chose to spay our dog because we felt it was not guaranteed that we could find a happy forever home for each of the puppies. It’s just simply impossible to know that the dogs will always be treated with love and kindness. Having a puppy end up as a stray or be put down because of neglect or homelessness was just not something that we could deal with.

In addition, we own a Boston Terrier. Although many Bostons are able to give birth naturally, they are a small breed. There are often complications associated with giving birth and many times the dog is forced into a cesarean section (c-section) in order to deliver the pups. This is something we knew wasn’t right for us or our dog. So, we decided to get her spayed.

On the other hand, you’ll want to consider the possible effects of a major surgery on your pet. Spaying isn’t something to be taken lightly. Think long and hard about when might be a good time to think about spaying your dog. Some professionals say that spaying too early deprives the animal of hormones that are essential to growth. Most female dogs will start their first heat at around one year of age. This is a good sign of sexual maturity and is a good time to consider whether or not you want to spay. Earlier than this time is possible, but I’d suggest talking to a vet to get their opinion about your animal’s health and overall development first.

However, waiting a bit too long can also have its complications. Studies show that female dogs who are spayed before 2.5 years of age have a decreased risk for mammary tumors. It also reduces the risk for uterine, cervical, and ovarial tumors. Keep in mind though, that the initial risk for each of these is relatively low. So, it really all depends on your breed. Every dog breed has a risk for reproductive health problems and spaying will lower that risk.

The health risks associated with the actual surgery are relatively low, but you should also consider that this is a major surgery. Complications with medication, anesthetic, bleeding, and infection are all possible and you should discuss what to do should these problems arise with your vet. It’s estimated that less than one in 500 pets experience complications to their spay surgery.

It’s a good idea to think about each of these points and weigh out the pros and cons for your dog before goes in for their spay surgery. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with deciding either way. The chances of health problems arising as a result of either choice, is quite low. The bottom line is, you’ll want to have your pet checked by a vet and decide what is medically the best option for your pets overall health and happiness.

After the Procedure

Small dogs are always a bit trickier when it comes to surgeries. Their incision is bigger compared to their body, medications act faster, and the anesthesia tends to hit them harder. So, be prepared to have a scared, drugged up pup when they come out of the surgery. Often times, your doctor will hold your dog at the clinic until they have come out of the anesthesia a bit, but the effects can still last for hours.

In my dog’s case, she felt the effects of anesthesia for hours after her surgery. She did not feel good and wasn’t shy about letting us know. It’s a very frightening experience for a pup. They are disoriented, their motor functions aren’t working very well, and sometimes the dizziness can make them a bit sick. Just make sure that you’re ready to be with your pup for at least a few hours right after they get done with the surgery. The comfort of having you there will strongly ease their displeasure. In fact, I suggest staying home with your dog at least one full day until they are feeling less scared and disoriented. If you dog is particularly active, like my little dog, I suggest staying home a few days to make sure they aren’t over-exerting themselves.

Next, your vet will most likely send you home with a “cone” or “e-collar.” This is a plastic device that sits around your dog’s head to ensure that they don’t like, bite, or scratch at the incision site. My doctor asked us to use the collar for about 14 days, which is about how long it takes for your dog to heal up. If you have a dog that likes to lick constantly, they may need to wear it all the time. Other dogs, like mine, were okay while they were under supervision. We always made sure she had it on when she went to sleep or was out of our sight for even a moment.

I also mentioned medication. Most doctors these days will send your pup home with some medication for the pain. For small dogs, this medication can be rather intense. I suggest monitoring your dog’s pain level before giving them too much medication. Of course, follow your vet’s suggestions, but also pay attention to what your dog is saying. Are they whining, wincing, or unable to get comfortable? They’re probably in pain. If your dog is unable to walk, sleeping constantly, and disoriented, then they probably don’t need any more medication for a while.

I mention this because in my case, we followed the vet’s instructions exactly. “One pill every 8 hours” is what we were told, but our dog felt the effects of the medication in a big way. We were giving to her so often that she didn’t have time to assess how her body was feeling and let us know. She became nauseous from too much medication. If I had to do it over again, I might have waited even a couple hours longer before giving her the pills. She was doing quite well even after just a few days of healing.

Remember, each dog is different and it’s important to listen to both your vet and what your dog is telling you. If you have any concerns whatsoever, just give your doctor a call and they’ll tell you if what your dog is experiencing is normal. Responsible pet ownership includes deciding whether or not to spay. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one that you’ll be happy that you thought over completely.

Trisha Miller
Trisha is a writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan and a new puppy mommy. You can find her on twitter @thatdangvegan or check out her blog thatdangvegan.com.