What is Ovariohysterectomy?

Ovariohysterectomy, commonly called a spay, is the surgical removal of the female reproductive organs, specifically the uterus and ovaries. Canine ovariohysterectomy is a routine procedure used to prevent future health problems, avoid unwanted pregnancies, and reduce inappropriate behavior. A canine can be spayed as early as eight weeks of age, or as directed by a veterinarian. The veterinarian will perform a canine ovariohysterectomy in the clinic’s surgical room. Ovariohysterectomy procedures are recommended for all dogs that are not entered into breeding programs, as the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

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Ovariohysterectomy Procedure in Dogs

The dog will need to be fasting (no food or water) the night before surgery and the day of surgery. Prior to anesthesia, the dog’s blood will be tested to ensure her organs are functioning properly and undiagnosed diseases are absent from the blood work. 

  • A pre-anesthetic, pain medication, and antibiotic are administered by injection to the dog. 
  • The dog will be feeling drowsy from the pre-anesthetic/sedative, but mask gas anesthesia will likely follow to allow the dog to rest comfortably. 
  • The anesthetized patient is placed on the surgical table in dorsal recumbency (on the back). The hind legs are tied cranially for stabilization purposes. 
  • The patient will have the hair clipped close to the skin in a section from the xyphoid to the pubis, an inch past the nipples. The freshly clipped area will then be scrubbed for surgery.  
  • A drape is placed on top of the dog, creating a sterile field. The drape is clamped in place and an opening is made in the drape, just above the focus point of the surgery.
  • An incision is made using a scalpel blade, typically created over the midline just caudal to the umbilicus. The incision will pass through the subcutaneous tissues, fat and eventually, the peritoneal cavity. 
  • The uterus is located using a hook, similar to a crochet hook. The uterine horn will be gently pulled through the incision opening and a Kelly forceps will be used to grasp the reproductive organ. 
  • The uterus is dissected and tied off with 0 or 2-0 monofilament absorbent sutures, which won’t require removal. Several sutures will be placed to ensure closure. 
  • The excess tissues from the pedicle are removed and inspected for bleeding. If no bleeding is present the uterine pedicle is placed back into the peritoneal cavity. 
  • The surgical opening, including all layers of the abdominal wall, will be sutured with monofilament absorbent sutures. Surgical glue may be placed on top of the stitches as a preventative method. 

Efficacy of Ovariohysterectomy in Dogs

Ovariohysterectomy surgery is highly effective for preventing reproduction, overpopulation and a variety of life-threatening health problems. Behavioral problems, such as aggression, can also be corrected with an ovariohysterectomy as the readily supply of hormones have now depleted.

Ovariohysterectomy Recovery in Dogs

Dogs which have undergone a spay procedure will be released from the hospital the day of the surgery. Some canines appear drowsy and inactive, whereas other dogs return to normal behavior. In either case, the dog must be confined and restricted of physical activity to prevent the sutures from coming loose. An Elizabethan collar may be sent home with the dog to prevent manipulation of the incision site. Pain medications, paired with a broad spectrum antibiotic will be administered as directed by the veterinarian. 

Cost of Ovariohysterectomy in Dogs

The cost of an ovariohysterectomy can cost roughly $150-$350 for a canine. If the female is pregnant at the time of spay, if her uterus is infected with bacteria (pyometra) and if the female is an adult, the cost of the procedure will be greater. The total cost of a canine ovariohysterectomy will include: 

  • Pre-anesthetic blood work ($60-$100)
  • IV Catheter and Perioperative Fluids ($40-$70)
  • Induction for Gas anesthesia ($30-$40)
  • Isolflurane Gas Anesthesia ($40 -$50)
  • Spay ($40)
  • Antibiotics ($30)
  • Surgical monitoring ($10) 

Dog Ovariohysterectomy Considerations

The use of anesthesia is always a concern for dog owners, but due to the fact that the dog is under constant monitoring, anesthetic risks are minimal. Your veterinarian will take special considerations when placing an older dog or infant under anesthetic as these dogs are at risk for anesthetic fatality. It is for this reason that ovariohysterectomy procedures are only recommended for dogs eight weeks of age and older, but not older than 9 years of age. Infection, swelling and bleeding at the site of incision can occur, but can be avoided if veterinary instructions are followed.

Ovariohysterectomy Prevention in Dogs

An ovariohysterectomy is a prevention method within itself, not only to prevent reproduction, but to also prevent life-threatening health conditions. Intact females are at high risk for developing dystocia, vaginal prolapse, uterine prolapse, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and pyometra. Additionally, intact female dogs have an 85% higher rate of developing breast cancer than spayed females.