Talking About Pets: A great reason to spay your pet
Most recently, I was called by our vet services team to come to the surgery area and to bring my camera. A female dog, named Apple Blossom by the on-site veterinarian, was brought to the shelter by some people who found the dog in a parking lot. The dog was bleeding from a large mass hanging from her belly. They wrapped a make-shift sling around the dogs’ belly to hold the mass while they lifted the dog into the bed of their pick-up truck and transported the dog to the shelter.
The dog was rushed into surgery to remove the mass which was diagnosed as a mammary tumor that weighed an estimated 7 pounds and was the size of a football. The vet services team began prepping the dog for surgery as I videoed the procedure. The veterinarian noted that the mammary tumor could have been avoided if the owners would have had their dog spayed prior to her first time going into heat.
According to Laura J. Sanborn, M.S., female dogs can get much more life-threatening conditions if they are not spayed, including mammary tumors and a uterine infection called pyometra.
If spaying is done before 2.5 years of age, the procedure greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors, the most common malignant tumors in female dogs. As well, spaying nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra, which otherwise would affect about 23% of intact female dogs; pyometra kills about 1% of intact female dogs. Pyometra requires emergency surgery. If this condition is untreated or surgery is not done as soon as possible, the infection gets into the bloodstream and becomes fatal.
Mammary tumors are by far the most common tumors in intact female dogs, constituting some 53% of all malignant tumors in female dogs in a study of dogs in Norway where spaying is much less common than in the USA.
Fifty to 60% of mammary tumors are malignant, for which there is a significant risk of metastasis. Mammary tumors in dogs have been found to have estrogen receptors, and the published research shows that the relative risk (odds ratio) that a female will develop mammary cancer compared to the risk in intact females depends on how many estrus cycles (going into heat) she experiences. If spaying is performed prior to the first estrus cycle, the odds of mammary gland tumors are 0.005 and extremely rare versus if spaying is done after the female has had several estrus cycles and is a full adult, whereas the odds are 1.0 or much higher.
Apple Blossom was in surgery for over two hours. The tumor was connected to her belly with many blood vessels, each of which needed to be clamped and cauterized. The poor dog struggled to survive and coded (stopped breathing with no heartbeat) twice. She was revived both times; unfortunately, the third time, she did not respond to CPR efforts and she died. Our vet services team did everything they could for Apple Blossom, but the she was past saving. Vet services performs many surgeries to save animals’ lives, and majority of the time they are very successful. Unfortunately, we cannot save them all, but pet owners can help us save more by having their pets spay/neutered, vaccinated and microchipped.
We spay/neuter all animals that come into the shelter prior to them being adopted. Many people think we do this to reduce the population of abandoned animals, which is true, but we also spay/neuter to reduce the health risks to the animals, like mammary tumors and pyometra. If pet owners have their pets spay/neutered, they will be giving their pet a better chance at a long and healthy life.
Please spay/neuter your pets and, if in search of a new pet, adopt, don’t shop and your pet will already be spay/neutered.
Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director at the Halifax Humane Society. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.