To Spay Or Not To Spay Your Pup?

The topic of when to spay a female dog comes up almost daily in our office. The American Veterinary Medical Association approves the procedure as early as eight weeks of age, and at many shelters this is a common practice to help with pet over-population.

But is it in the best interest of a dog to do it at this early an age?

When we spay a dog, otherwise known as an ovariohysterectomy, it involves removing the uterus and ovaries. This ultimately leaves the dog bereft of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones play a vital role in bone density, immunity and overall health.

So is it important to spay, and if so when should it be done? The following incident occurred some years ago, but left a lasting impression. As usual the names and furry faces have been changed to protect the innocent.

Mimi, a friendly energetic Chihuahua, waddled into our hospital with her owner Mrs. Ching. The reason for the visit was an unplanned pregnancy.

“Dr. Kaya, I think Mimi’s pregnant and I don’t know what to do,” said Mrs. Ching while wringing her hands nervously. “About two months ago I came home from a party and noticed a stray dog in our yard. We chased him off our property, but we think the romantic interlude already took place, if you know what I mean.”

I had a feeling I knew what she meant. “Mrs. Ching,” I replied, “has Mimi ever been pregnant before?”

“Well, we originally intended to breed her at least once because we thought she would have very cute puppies. We never got around to finding her a mate and soon forgot about the whole thing,” Mrs. Ching added. “We’ve been meaning to spay her, but life got busy and before we knew it she turned 11. That’s pretty old, huh, Doc?”

With raised brow I answered, “I guess if I had to estimate her age in dog years, Mimi would be approximately 60 years old. So yeah, she’s up there in years.”

I started my physical exam and noted a distended abdomen, developed mammary glands and milk expressing from her nipples.

“Mrs. Ching, Mimi does appear to be pregnant, but some dogs go through a false pregnancy and their body thinks it’s pregnant. These dogs that go through false pregnancy gain weight and even produce milk from their mammary glands. I’d like to take X-rays to verify the pregnancy, determine the amount of puppies, their size relative to mom, and to estimate a due date.”

“Do whatever it takes,” replied Mrs. Ching. After completing the X-rays, I had good news for the Ching family. “Congratulations, Mrs. Ching, Mimi is expecting two puppies,” I announced. “They’re not very big in relation to Mimi’s pelvic canal. This should indicate an uneventful delivery, but due to her age she’ll probably still have problems … There’s more. I think Mimi is due any day now and we need to be prepared for a possible C-section.”

After digesting all of this information and then some, Mrs. Ching went home to inform the family and make preparations. Three days later, Mimi was rushed into our hospital for a C-section. The two puppies, one male and one female, were healthy and Mimi turned out to be a great mom.

So when do you spay a dog? If you have no intentions of breeding your furry family member, then definitely do so before age 11. The pet population is escalating daily, and many shelters don’t have enough room to accommodate all the unwanted animals. Mimi’s puppies were lucky. They stayed with the Ching family and lived with their “very mature” mother.

Getting pregnant at “60” is some feat, but it shows anything is possible on The Wild Side.

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