Is spaying risky for a two-and-half-year-old dog?
My Brussels Griffon girl (Paris) is two and a half, and
I am getting her spayed. Is it risky at this age
to get it done? Can she have any problems from it?
Should I even get it done for her?
Long Island, NY
For some time, there has been a movement in veterinary medicine to advocate spaying or neutering every possible dog and cat. The reason for this is simple. There are far more puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats than there are people who can adopt them. Because of this, millions of unwanted animals are euthanized in the United States every year.
So, the thinking goes, if we neuter and spay as many animals as possible, fewer will be euthanized. It makes sense, and I certainly support spaying and neutering as a means to reduce animal suffering and euthanasia. But that does nothing to address your question.
Because what you are asking is not whether it is best, in philosophical terms, to spay a random dog. You are asking if spaying your dog Paris is the best thing for her. To decide that, we need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of surgical sterilization (spaying) for the dog involved in the procedure.
Let's start with the advantages. First, the risk of pregnancy is eliminated. Pregnancy, in addition to creating more puppies for the world to deal with, puts tremendous strain on the body. I have seen many dogs suffer complications and adverse health effects during pregnancy.
There are other advantages as well. Spaying Paris will eliminate her risk of ovarian cancer and drastically reduce the likelihood of cancer of the uterus. Spaying will eliminate heat cycles and the sometimes annoying behaviors that can accompany them.
Another very serious advantage of spaying her now is that you will protect her from an extremely dangerous syndrome called pyometra. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus that is alarmingly common (in my experience) among older, unspayed female dogs. It is life-threatening and typically requires emergency surgery to treat. The surgery is very expensive, and some dogs do not survive no matter what level of care they receive.
Of course, like any medical procedure, spaying also carries risks and disadvantages. First, it is a complex surgery that must be performed under general anesthesia. Surgery and anesthesia both have risks. However, if you select an experienced veterinarian who uses modern anesthesia techniques, the likelihood of complications is extremely low.
Surgery is painful. Fortunately, we have good techniques for controlling pain, so this disadvantage can be controlled as well. Never hesitate to discuss pain control with your vet.
Once a dog is spayed, the procedure is irreversible. So, if you might want to breed Paris, then you shouldn't have her spayed.
A dog's age does impact the safety of the surgery involved in spaying her. Extremely elderly dogs have higher rates of complications from the procedure. However, Paris is young, and she is definitely not too old to be spayed.
Here is my opinion: for Paris (and for almost any healthy female dog, unless she is very old), the advantages of spaying her far outweigh the disadvantages. The medical advantages are pronounced, and the medical disadvantages can be controlled by selecting a good vet. I recommend that you go through with the procedure.