Dog Manual

Altering and Spaying

A dog is altered or spayed to eliminate the breeding function and its accompanying inconveniences, thereby making the animal a more amenable household pet. Altering is the term generally applied to the process performed on male animals, while spaying is applied to the female operation. Spaying and altering are performed for the convenience of the owner. These operations have no bearing on the well-being of the normal animal, and generally do not drastically affect its basic personality traits, though altered animals are inclined to become heavier and more sluggish than unaltered ones. Females also occasionally get heavier following the operation. Altering and spaying are the commonest surgical operations that the small-animal veterinary specialist is called upon to perform. They have a wide margin of safety and few veterinarians report higher than two percent of fatalities.

Spaying the female is a major surgical operation, in which the reproductive organs are removed through an incision in the abdominal wall. It is best to have the animal hospitalized for about a week, or at least until the stitches are removed. Altering male dogs is also a major surgical operation, in which the testicles are removed through an incision in the scrotum. These operations are performed under general anaesthesia, so there is no pain associated with them. In spaying, after the anaesthetic wears off, there is naturally some discomfort caused by the sutures and bandages. But dogs have remarkable recuperative powers. After a day or two, the inconveniences of the surgery appear to give them only casual concern, and they remain as active as the normal animal until sutures and bandages are removed.

The advisability of these operations depends entirely on the disposition of the owner. The function of the pet is to give the master pleasure. If the heat periods of the female dog cause the owner displeasure and consternation, then the decision is obvious. With male dogs, the operation is sometimes not recommended because occasionally it seems to render the animal prone to certain tumorous conditions, especially in old age. Sometimes the operation is performed on older male dogs to alleviate certain disease conditions, but since the possibility of complications might be invited, the operation is advised only as a last resort.

Altering is best performed at the earliest possible age, that is, as soon as the testicles descend. This occurs within the first few weeks of life. The best age for spaying is when the animal is from three to five months old. However, these operations can be performed at any time during the animal's life.