Benefits of delaying spay or neuter traditional surgery or
considering ovarian-sparing surgery (OSS) and vasectomy in dogs
• Delaying traditional spay/neuter surgery until your dog is fully grown, or considering OSS or vasectomy in dogs can prove beneficial to reducing risk of future hip dysplasia and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture. Estrogen and testosterone play a role in growth plate closure and development of the long bones of the leg.
• Preliminary research has shown potential benefits of estrogen and testosterone in reducing risk of certain cancers in large and giant breeds predisposed to them. These studies are specific to certain breeds and research is ongoing to determine if their results can be extrapolated to other breeds. These cancers include osteosarcoma (bone cancer), prostate cancer, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumors.
• OSS is a surgical procedure in which the uterus and cervix are entirely removed in females but the ovaries remain (hysterectomy). In a vasectomy, the spermatic cord is transected in males and the testicles remain.
• Females that have undergone an OSS would not produce vaginal discharge since there is no uterus, but they would show signs of heat such as mammary and vulva enlargement since the ovaries remain. These signs would occur 2 times per year for approximately 10-20 days per cycle. Females should be separated from intact males during these times since they could be receptive to breeding and potential injury, though they would be sterile and not able to reproduce. They would not be at risk of pyometra (life-threatening uterine infection) but would be at risk for mammary (breast) cancer later in life. The risk of mammary cancer is reduced by spaying or performing an OSS before their first heat cycle. Heat cycles typically start between 6-12 months of age.
• Males undergoing a vasectomy could successfully breed a female for up to a month after surgery since viable sperm remain in the reproductive tract. Thereafter, they would be considered sterile, but could still attempt to breed a female in heat. They could also potentially show typical male behaviors of aggression or urine marking, which could be corrected if needed by undergoing a traditional neuter.
• Since there are advantages and disadvantages to traditional spay, neuters as well as alternative sterilization surgeries, the best advice is to discuss this with your veterinarian at Kirkwood Animal Hospital. Each client can then make the best decision on what type of procedure AND at what age to perform it for their dog.