2001-Thu Jun 22 16:41:02 EDT 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved. Powered by Brightspot.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Not long ago, a family member from out of town brought in her dog so I’d take a quick look at a lump. Because it’d be at least a month before she’d be back to her hometown, I agreed to remove the small mass ASAP. Once underway, however, she called to ask if I could spay the dog, too, “as long as you’re already there." Now, strictly speaking, I wasn’t even in the neighborhood. The lump was in the skin over the right side of her belly. Meanwhile, a “spay” is a sterilization procedure that typically denotes the removal of the uterus and ovaries — all of which live inside the belly. Yet, like most veterinarians, I’m well-accustomed to the common misconception that anything roughly around the abdomen might as well be within the abdomen.
As widespread as this anatomical muddling might be, more common is the erroneous conviction her request implied: That a spay is a simple procedure… one that’s easily tacked on to most any other with a minimum of stress, discomfort, time, ability or expense.
Now, from the veterinarian’s point of view, little could be further from the truth. The everyday ovariohysterectomy is a procedure that’s both hard to master and easy to underestimate. In fact, there’s no routine procedure I can think of that compares to the spay for its high degree of difficulty and unpredictability.
Which is probably why most veterinarians I know (especially the newly minted ones who are still on the steep part of its learning curve) tend to count the humble spay among the most stressful procedures we perform — at least when it comes to doing them in dogs.
The high variability within the canine species can make for an especially challenging surgical experience (two to 200 pounds is an extreme range for surgical patients) — more so when you consider the variations that accompany any given canine patient’s life stage and reproductive cycle.
What’s worse is that we often have no idea what we’re getting into until we get in there! So what seems like a “simple” spay worthy of a 20-minute stint (as most young dog spays are for me) might just end up as an hourlong slog in a sea of friable fat and leaky vessels. Or worse… in an overnight stay at the ER for close observation in case additional internal bleeding transpires.
Speaking of fat… When you add in the soaring rates of canine obesity and the increased incidence of later-in-life sterilization (where I live, anyway), it’s a wonder I haven’t had more ER-worthy spay complications in my career (I’ve had two in 18 years).
Which is probably why I included the fat-dog version of this procedure and one of its permutations, the pyometra surgery, on a recent list of “dreaded jobs” in veterinary medicine.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Bartonella is a type bacteria that can be transmitted to cats, dogs and humans from exposure to infected fleas and…
Want to give your pup yummy, low-calorie treats? We’ve got the skinny on which foods are OK to feed him.
Not sure about food puzzles? Our veterinarian reveals why the payoff for your pet is well worth any extra work.
With these simple dental care tips, you can help keep your canine’s adorable smile shiny and healthy for life.
The friendly and inquisitive LaPerm has an easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.