I discovered one important reason to spay your dog early that I have never found in the literature anywhere. My Daughter adopted a long-haired chihuahua late last summer. She has grown to be a big part of our family. At 6 months of age she was ready to be spayed, but first I ran preanesthetic blood work. The blood work showed some abnormalities so we postponed the procedure until we could look into these closer. Preanesthetic blood work can find potential abnormalities that cannot be seen on physical inspection. Delaying her spay was best for her health concerns and safety.
Well, once we deemed Scarlette (that’s her name by the way) was safe for anesthesia and spay, she decided to proceed in maturation. Yup, she became a “woman” dog. Going into “heat” or estrus would mean postponing the spay procedure for another 6-8 weeks (for her safety). A side note here is that when a dog goes into “heat” the uterus becomes engorged and far more vascular, which would increase the risks of problems during the spay procedure ( removal of the ovaries and uterus). Thus, for our pet’s safety, we avoid doing spays in this period until the vascularity has time to resolve.
My daughter came to me with her youthful internet savvy (as people do these days). She was concerned with this delay as she has read that with every heat a dog has, it increases their risks of mammary tumours in their lifetime. This is quite true, but unfortunately, the blood work and the “heat” that Scarlette was in now was also a real risk for her as an individual. So in this case the risk of mammary tumours, well, as my father use to say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there”.
Truly there are many risks to not spaying your pet. There is an increased risk of mammary tumours, behavioural concerns like territorial aggression, inter-dog aggression, and roaming, life-threatening uterine infections, and of course, unwanted pregnancies.
Now you would think a chihuahua in heat would not pose a big concern. You would think…I will tell you differently. There is just enough menstrual blood to pose a problem to your carpets, couches, and clothing. You would think a heat cycle would be a brief five-day period…You would think… Canine heat cycles can last far longer than a human’s, so don’t compare. And in Scarlette’s case, this was the truth. So now we are buying doggy sanitary diapers….and they can be a bit pricey…and don’t try to cheap out … the cheap one’s aren’t very comfortable for your pet and the tabs do not reattach when you are needing to remove them for bathroom duties etc .
Now I would compare trying to put a diaper on a nice chihuahua to putting a diaper on baby…with a tail…and that can run like a track star. No red-blooded dog wants to have a diaper put on them over and over again. Now I will admit I love Scarlette dearly, and she is a pretty good girl about the diaper ordeal. However, I have to also admit it is a mild frustration that I personally would try to avoid. So when you’re discussing with your Veterinarian (or friends in the know) the usual good reasons why you should spay prior to the first heat, remember that although your dog is cute, their “heat” can be a pain.
Scarlette showing off her diaper
Dr. David Costello DVM