Sterilisation is an important topic that all dog owners think about once they are 6 months of age or older. Besides preventing unwanted litters, sterilisation provides many other behavioural and health benefits.
Sterilisation reduces the possibility of certain undesirable behaviours such as spraying or marking of territories in male dogs, and having your dog leave the house looking for mates.
Sterilisation also prevents reduces certain medical conditions and diseases from arising. In female dogs, this includes reducing the risk of breast cancer and preventing ovarian cancer, and preventing pyometra – where pus build-ups in the uterus to cause a life-threatening infection.
In neutered males, benign prostate enlargement and prostate infections are rare, and the risk of testicular cancer is eliminated.
How is it done?
All dogs undergoing sterilisation will receive appropriate levels of pain relief medication before, during and after the procedure, ensuring that they recover from the procedure in a pain-free and comfortable manner. They usually return to normal behaviour within one to two days post- surgery, and wounds usually heal well within one to two weeks.
For male dogs, the procedure is also known as Neutering. A small incision is made above the scrotum, and the testicles are then surgically removed. The wound is then stitched with a suture that is usually absorbable and will not require removal.
For female dogs, the procedure is also known as Spaying – where an incision is made on the midline of the abdomen. This incision can range from 3cm to 20cm in length, depending on the size of the dog. The ovaries and uterus, are then surgically removed.
With advances in medical technology, veterinarians are adopting the minimally invasive surgical method known as laparoscopy. Laparoscopy, or Keyhole surgery, means performing surgery using tiny video camera and fine instruments. This allows for greater magnification and visualisation of organs and blood vessels, resulting in greater precision and surgical safety.
Comparing the two methods, laparoscopy involves making two to three small incisions of about one to two cm each, regardless of the size of the dog, while a standard spay involves making 3cm to 20cm incision, depending on the size of the dog. This means less pain, quicker return to normal activity and smaller risks of severe wound complications. Laparoscopy can be used for spays in female dogs, as well as in male dogs with testicles undescended in the abdomen. Most dogs undergoing laparoscopy can be allowed normal activity after 2 to 3 days post-surgery, compared to 2 to 3 weeks of restricted activity for standard open surgery.
As anaesthesia is required during the surgery, there is a small degree of risk involved. To minimise these risks, pre-anaesthetic blood test is recommended to ensure that your dog’s kidneys and liver are functioning normally and able to clear the anaesthetic agents from its body. Veterinarians and nurses should practise a high level of anaesthetic monitoring of the pet’s vital signs throughout surgery. If there is a change in vital signs during the surgery, appropriate actions will be taken to keep the pet safe from impending danger.
It is always recommended to sterilise a dog when it’s young as they will be able to swiftly clear the anaesthetic from their system, as compared to older dogs. Although older animals can undergo this surgery, more care must be taken prior, during and after the procedure to ensure its utmost safety.
Some sterilised dogs may experience a drop in their metabolic rate, which results in weight gain. However, as with all dogs, by closely monitoring food intake and allowing ample exercise, weight gain should be negligible.
A small percentage of sterilised dogs may develop urinary incontinence after sterilisation, more so in female dogs. This does not usually cause a medical problem to the pet, but if it severe and a problem for the pet owner, medication or acupuncture and be prescribed to control the condition.