What is an Ovary-Sparing Spay?
If you are not planning to breed your female dog, it is generally recommended that you have her spayed – that is, to remove her ovaries and thus render her incapable of breeding. In addition to preventing unwanted litters, having your female dog spays can also reduce her risk for ovarian cancer and other health problems. Unfortunately, removal of the ovaries may contribute to an entirely different set of health risks – some that can be quite severe. If you want to prevent unwanted litters but do not want to put your female dog at risk for health problems, consider a partial spay or an ovary-sparing spay.
Basics of Spay Surgery
The surgical process involved in spaying a female dog is called an ovariohysterectomy. This procedure involves completely removing the female reproductive tract – this includes the ovaries, oviducts, uterine horns and uterus. In addition to preventing pregnancy in the female dog, this procedure also prevents her from ever having heat cycles again because it removes the source of pregnancy hormone (estrogen and progesterone) production. The surgical procedure referred to as a partial spay or ovary-sparing spay is simply called a hysterectomy because it only involves the removal of the uterus – the ovaries are left intact. After a partial spay, the female dog may still exhibit signs of heat such as changes in behavior, but she will not bleed or be capable of conceiving.
Related: Spay And Neuter Options
Health Risks Associated with Spaying
While there are risks involved with any type of surgery, ovariohysterectomy surgery is particularly risky for large-breed dogs. In female Rottweilers, for example, having this surgery done may quadruple the dog’s risk for bone cancer (osteosarcoma). The risk for hemangiosarcoma may also increase by 10 to 20 percent. Other health complications may arise due to the loss of ovarian hormones – these complications may include incontinence, increase in appetite, weight gain and CCL tears. An ovariohysterectomy also requires the surgeon to create a fairly large incision which puts the dog at risk for surgical complications.
Benefits of Ovary-Sparing Spay
Aside from rendering the dog sterile, an ovary-sparing spay eliminates the problem of bleeding during heat. This surgery also reduces a female dog’s risk for pyometra, or infection of the uterus. One thing the surgeon needs to be careful about during an ovary-spaying spay, however, is that the uterus is completely removed. During a traditional spay, it is not necessary to remove all of the uterus because once the ovaries are removed it will no longer be stimulated. If part of the uterus is left behind during a partial-spay, it could increase the dog’s risk for pyometra.
Related: What Is Ovariectomy?
The only significant risk involved in a partial spay is the risk for mammary tumors. Ovarian cancer is fairly rare in dogs – just rare enough that the ovaries need not be removed simply to prevent the disease. Having your dog spayed before her first heat, however, will significantly reduce her risk of developing mammary tumors. In fact, the risk of mammary tumors in a female dog who is spayed before her first heat is only 0.05 percent compared to 8 percent in dogs spayed after one heat and 26 percent in dogs spayed after a second heat.
Owning a dog is a great responsibility – not only do you have to care for the dog but you also have to take care to be responsible about controlling the pet population. If you are concerned about the health risks associated with ovariohysterectomy surgery (particularly if you own a large-breed dog), an ovary-sparing or partial spay is an option that you may want to consider.
Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.
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