Spaying a female dog can prolong her life and reduce the dog overpopulation problem. But the traditional spay surgery itself is a major operation. Technically called an ovariohysterectomy or OVH, the uterus and the ovaries are removed. Some veterinarians like Nancy Kay, DVM, notes that the traditional spay can be a difficult operation. The uterus needs to be cut and pried out of the body.
Some veterinarians are now ditching the traditional spays for a new spay technique where only the ovaries are removed and the uterus is left intact. This procedure is called an ovariectomy or OVE. They are sometimes called laparoscopic spays, but the use of a laparoscope is not necessary to perform an OVE.
What Are the Advantages?
OVE proponents claim that female dogs recover faster from less intense surgeries and do not suffer from the incontinence that some spayed dogs develop. The surgical procedure is much faster. The uterus is so near the bladder that a veterinarian could make a mistake and make the dog at best incontinent and at worst have a malfunctioning kidney that could take a second surgery to fix.
European veterinarians perform OVEs more than OVHs since 2005, argues Kay, and so North Americans need to catch up. Dogs spayed in this time have reportedly not been subject to incontinence, pyometra or even uterine cancer. Kay argues that estrogen plays a major role in both pyometra and uterine cancer and so only removing the ovaries is necessary to reduce these common health risks.
What Are the Disadvantages?
North American dog owners will be hard pressed to find a vet that will perform an OVE rather than an OVH. If a vet knows how to do an OVH and has performed so many of them that he or she is proficient in that technique, they will be reluctant to suddenly switch to another technique. OVEs were not taught at vet school when many practicing vets were students.
Many veterinary practices are also not equipped with a laparoscope or are not skilled in the use of a laparoscope. These are incredibly expensive pieces of equipment. The veterinarian would be forced to raise his or her fees considerably in order to pay for it. Veterinarians also need to take time to train on this equipment. Veterinarian Chad Devitt of the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado recommends that vets need to take not one but two courses with the equipment before they can begin spaying patients.
Another disadvantage is that this is a relatively new surgical procedure. It has only been around for less than ten years. Any long-term complications have yet to be seen. Spay induced incontinence is easy to treat. Although so far the OVE procedure looks good, not many people are willing to risk their dogs’ future health on a new surgical procedure.
“A New Way to Spay.” Nancy Kay, DVM. “The Whole Dog Journal.” December 2010.
Coppell Veterinary Hospital. “Minimally Invasive Spaying for Cats and Dogs.” http://www.coppellvet.com/spaying.htm
Veterinary Practice News. “Laparoscopic Spays are Not Just for Specialists.” Lori. Luechtefeld. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-cover-stories/laparoscopic-spays-are-not-just-for-specialists.aspx