Today is World Spay Day!
This awareness day was created to recognise the benefits of spaying for our pets and also the risks of not doing so. Our rabbit savvy vet, Ellie Phipps, has done a great write up on the benefits and risks of spaying and also has some photos of what happens when your rabbit goes to the vets to be spayed. Here’s what she had to say:
To spay an animal is to remove the reproductive organs from a female, meaning they can no longer breed. This may involve removal of the ovaries and uterus (ovariohysterectomy) or just the ovaries (ovariectomy) depending on the species and individual patient.
So which species do we routinely spay?
- Guinea Pigs
This is a routine procedure in most vet practices, some do less work with small animals than others so it’s always worth checking where their experience lies.
There’s a number of benefits to spaying your pets, these include:
- Stops unwanted pregnancy – often accidental pregnancies occur in pets that haven’t been spayed. This not only increases the population of animals (when there are already a huge number of unwanted pets in rescue centres) but also can present a huge risk to the mother. It is quite common for cats and dogs to require caesareans when giving birth, these can cost £1500 - £3000 depending on the circumstances. Regardless, giving birth still carries potential health risks to some females.
- Prevention of mammary tumours – spaying females and reducing the hormonal drive has been proven to reduce the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer). In dogs studies showed that if spayed before 2 years old it significantly reduced the risk. Mammary tumours are often malignant cancers, meaning they quickly spread throughout the body if left untreated.
- Stops ovarian and uterine tumours – removal of these organs eradicates the risk of these tumours forming and subsequently spreading elsewhere.
- Stops the risk of uterus infection – dogs and cats especially are at risk of an infection in their uterus (pyometra), each time they have a season this risk is increased due to their cervix being open and the risk of infection working its way in. This can be a fatal condition, some dogs become very poorly very quickly and some show very subtle symptoms until it is too late. It is always important to be vigilant after each season to make sure your pet is healthy and well in themselves.
- Reduces the risk of theft – unfortunately, unneutered dogs especially have been targeted recently for breeding purposes. Neutering (spaying females and castrating males) makes them less desirable to thieves. Dog tags can be bought stating the pet is neutered to help deter thieves.
What are the risks of spaying?
- General anaesthetic – every neuter has to be done under general anaesthetic. An anaesthetic always carries a risk. In most routine neuters, this risk is minimal as the pet is usually young and healthy. Bloods can be taken before the procedure to check for any potential problems and fluids (a drip) can be given during the procedure to help support their blood pressure throughout – in turn reducing the risk.
- Bleeding – removal of the reproductive organs (especially in females) carries the risk of bleeding during or after surgery. During surgery the vet is always vigilant and will double check everything, if any blood vessels need closing off again this will be done. After surgery it is important to keep the patient calm where possible and avoid too much exercise/play.
*It can be useful to give calming products shortly before and in the recovery period after surgery to help keep dogs calm. We have a range of products, our favourite being Wendals Dog Calmer, available in two different sizes, handy for short recovery periods or longer term use: https://dukeandcopetsupplies.com/products/wendals-dog-calmer?_pos=2&_sid=206e6e3dd&_ss=r
- Infection – there is always a risk of infection, however the procedure is performed in a sterile manner. It is no longer routine to give antibiotics after a spay procedure unless the vet is concerned that there has been contamination during the surgery.
- Hernia – if a patient exercises too soon or experiences some complications after surgery the muscle wound may break down causing a hernia. This will need surgically closing in most cases.
It is important to speak to your vet or veterinary nurse about spaying for your pet and also the correct timing, as this varies between species and individuals. Dogs must be done either before or between seasons (roughly every 6 months) to prevent further risks during and after surgery.
What happens on ‘spay day’?
The photos below show Rolo the rabbit being spayed, the procedure itself is relatively similar in all species!
Rolo, at home on the morning of her spay procedure. With rabbits (unlike dogs and cats) it’s important to not starve them. You can continue offering them their normal food right up until their admit and it’s important to take a little packed lunch of all their normal and favourite food too. This helps to reduce the risk of gut stasis (rabbits only).
Rolo has had her anaesthetic injections and a treatment of gut stimulant. An intravenous cannula has been placed into an ear vein and she is ready to be prepared for surgery.
An airway device is uses to provide additional oxygen and keep her airways open during the procedure. Monitoring equipment is attached to monitor her breathing and heart.
Her belly is clipped to prevent hair from contaminating the surgical site.
Surgical scrub is used to sterilise her belly. Monitoring equipment can be seen in the background.
An incision is made into the skin, connective tissue and the muscle to reach her ovaries and uterus, which are then removed.
With ovaries and uterus removed, the muscle, connective tissue and skin are stitched up. Absorbable sutures are used meaning all of the stitches are internal and they break down by themselves.
A reversal injection is given allowing Rolo to wake up. The airway device is removed once she begins to wake up.
More gut stimulant is given (rabbits only) before going home and Rolo goes home with pain relief. She will come back in for a recheck in a few days unless her owner has any concerns before then.
Rolo, reunited with her friend Flump after her spay surgery!
Ellie Phipps BVSc MRCVS