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Is OSS right for your dog?


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So many decisions to make on just what is right for your dog. Now we have added another.... Is ovary sparing spay right for your dog? We went this route because of our experience with Greta, a spayed way too young girl we had before Rumor. We rescued her at about 9 months and she had been spayed long before that. She developed incontinence by 2 and it became a nightmare as she aged. I swore I would never do that again.
We wanted to leave Rumor intact well past maturity and perhaps always. Unfortunately she was a pretty heavy bleeder so we looked into OSS. The info available to us at the time made it sound like a GREAT solution. As OSS is done on more dogs, we are learning more and more. The biggest is it may not be for everyone. Anyone considering it should read this.

Information And Services For The Spay Or Ovary Sparing Spay Of Dogs​

Since 1982, the dedicated and compassionate veterinary team at Veterinary Village have successfully performed spay procedures on many female dogs of all breeds and ages. We have also helped educate dog owners throughout WI about spay procedures. These include when to spay a dog, what to expect during and after surgery, and what other options are available.
If you have owned a dog, or if you know anyone who has, chances are you have heard of the terms spay and neuter. Spaying is a term that describes the ovariohysterectomy, or the removal of portions of the reproductive system of a female dog. We also offer ovary sparing spays (or OSS) that still remove most of the reproductive organs, but leaves the ovaries. Veterinarians perform these surgical procedures, which render dogs incapable of reproducing.
We believe in compassionate dog care and therefore are adamant about educating people on the different spay procedures available and when we recommend doing them. We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions here to help you learn more about this very important service.

A Responsible And Caring Spay Clinic​

For most people, the thought of their puppy undergoing a surgical procedure under sedation can be frightening. We understand that this can be scary for caring dog owners and want to assure you that your dog will be cared for by the most capable and caring medical professionals.
From the time your dog enters our doors, it will be treated with compassion and concern for its comfort. Our technicians will treat your dog as their own. All dogs will receive pain medications before the procedure begins. Our anesthesia and patient care protocols will be tailored to your dog's breed and size. While your dog is under anesthesia, our certified vet tech will monitor a number of vital signs including body temperature, blood pressure, oxygenation, and anesthesia depth. The surgery will be performed by our veterinarians who have many years of surgical experience.
Post-operative nursing care and pain management medications will be administered to your dog to ensure that their recovery is painless and they remain closely monitored until we feel it is safe to send them home. Our veterinary staff will review post-operative instructions with you at that time so you can feel comfortable bringing your dog home to complete its recovery.

Why Should You Spay Your Dog?​

There are many valid reasons to spay your dog, according to AmericanHumane.org, approximately 3.7 million animals are euthanized at shelters annually because there just are not enough willing and able adopters for them. Spay procedures ensure that you are not adding to this number and that no offspring your dog has ends up a fatal statistic.
At this time, there are no states with compulsory spay and neuter laws. However, spay procedures will ensure that no unwanted puppies are produced and will make it easier to take your dog out among other dogs without the risk of unwanted behaviors.

Is An Ovary Sparing Spay Right For My Dog?​

Your decision to spay your pet must be made on a case-by-case basis. This decision should be made between you and your veterinarian, taking into consideration your pet’s age, breed, sex, health status, intended use, household environment, and temperament. While there are health benefits to spaying, the benefits must be weighed against the health benefits of retaining the sex hormones achieved by leaving your pet intact (not spayed). These advantages and disadvantages pertain not only to the canine athlete or performance dog but to all dogs regardless of lifestyle. Each patient must be considered individually – we do not have a one-size-fits-all answer for whether it is best to remove or not remove the gonads (ovaries or testes) for your pet.
If you have determined you do not plan to breed your dog, you are now faced with other decisions. What is the difference between a spay and an ovary sparing spay? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? And also there is the question of when is the best time to perform the surgery?

What Spay Options Are Available?​

Both a spay (ovariohysterectomy) and an ovary sparing spay render the dog incapable of breeding. The ovariohysterectomy removes the uterus, cervix and both ovaries. An ovary sparing spay is where one or both ovaries are left in the abdomen, near the kidneys, but the uterus and cervix are removed. Because the uterus is removed, the female will not be able to become pregnant, even if a mating occurs. The female will still have heat cycles and be attractive to male dogs. She will have little to no bloody vaginal discharge during her heat cycles.

Female Procedure Options​

At Veterinary Village we offer the ovariohysterectomy (Traditional Spay) and the ovary sparing spay since we consider these two options to be the best choices. The other options listed below are for informational purposes only.
Ovary Sparing Spay (OSS)
  • Removes the Uterus, Cervix and possibly 1 Ovary
  • Leaves at least 1 Ovary if not both Ovaries
  • Hormones are maintained
  • Has a heat cycle and may have a very small amount of bloody discharge, will be attractive to male dogs
  • Not fertile
  • Not able to get a Pyometra, which is an infection of the Uterus
Tubal ligation not offered at Veterinary Village
  • Removes a portion of the oviducts
  • Leaves the Ovaries, Uterus and Cervix
  • Hormones are maintained
  • Has a heat cycle
  • Not fertile
  • Able to get a Pyometra
Ovariectomy not offered at Veterinary Village
  • Removes the Ovaries only
  • Leaves the Uterus and Cervix
  • Hormones are NOT maintained
  • Has a heat cycle
  • Not fertile
  • Not able to get a Pyometra
Ovariohysterectomy (Traditional Spay)
  • Removes Ovaries and some of the Uterus
  • Leaves Part of the Uterus and Cervix
  • Hormones are NOT maintained
  • Does not have a heat cycle
  • Not fertile
  • Not able to get a Pyometra

What Are The Advantages Of Retaining The Ovaries?​

Health Advantages
  • Lower incidence of hemangiosarcoma (cancer usually found in the spleen or heart)
  • Lower incidence of osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
  • Lower risk of transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer)
  • Lower incidence of obesity, which may be due at least partly to increased metabolic rate
  • Lower incidence of urinary incontinence (equivocal if females are spayed after 5 months but before their first heat)
  • Lower incidence of urinary tract infection
  • Lower incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis and hypothyroidism
  • A reduced incidence of cranial cruciate rupture
  • A reduced incidence of hip dysplasia in female dogs that are not spayed before 5 months of age
  • Anesthesia and surgery are not appropriate for some patients with high-risk medical conditions
  • Lower incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines
  • Evidence of increased lifespan in females left intact past puberty. David J. Waters, associate director of Purdue University's Center on Aging and the Life Course and a professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences says: "Taking away ovaries during the first 4 years of life completely erased the female survival advantage. We found that female Rottweilers that kept their ovaries for at least 6 years were 4 times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure."
Behavioral Advantages
  • Less aggression towards people and animals
  • A decreased incidence of cognitive dysfunction
  • Less fearfulness, noise phobias, and undesirable sexual behaviors
The sex hormones, by communicating with a number of other growth-related hormones, promote the closure of the growth plates at puberty, so the bones of those dogs spayed before puberty continue to grow. Dogs that have been spayed well before puberty can frequently be identified by their longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrow chests, and narrow skulls. This abnormal growth frequently results in significant alterations in body proportions and particularly the lengths (and therefore weights) of certain bones relative to others. This is related to increased orthopedic conditions in dogs spayed prior to puberty. In addition, sex hormones are critical for achieving peak bone density.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Retaining The Ovaries?​

Health Disadvantages
  • Increased risk of mammary (breast) cancer. This increased risk of mammary (breast) cancer occurs with each subsequent cycle and the benefit of spaying does not disappear until the animal reaches old age. Mammary cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in small animals. Mammary neoplasia is malignant under 50% of the time in dogs, but few dogs die from breast cancer due to low metastatic rates and early detection and treatment.
  • Increased risk of ovarian cancer. The incidence and mortality risk for ovarian cancer is very low
  • An increased risk of pyometra and this risk increases with increasing age. Varies by breed – review this with your veterinarian
  • Risk of unwanted pregnancies if a spay is not performed
Behavioral Disadvantages
  • Inter-dog aggression may be due to competition for available territory or availability of cycling animals
  • Ongoing sexual behaviors, including heat cycles in females who have had an ovary sparing spay
Dr. Villalobos, a well-respected veterinary oncologist states, "It is earth-shattering to consider that some of the cancers we have been battling may have been enhanced by early neutering instead of the reverse." Based on the research available, it is clear there are a number of health benefits of the sex steroid hormones. This benefit varies with age, sex, and breed. Therefore, although surgically altering your dog to be unable to breed is the responsible choice for most dogs, it is in the best interest of each individual patient for its veterinarian to assess the risks and benefits of removing the ovaries versus the options like a ovary sparing spay and to have your veterinarian advise you on what is appropriate for each individual pet at each stage of its life.

When Should You Spay A Dog?​

If you opt for a traditional spay, the age at which this is done is important. Removing the ovaries interrupt the hormonal axis of the sex hormones with the pituitary and other organs. There are age-related conditions to consider when making this decision. Since gonadectomy prior to puberty or sexual maturity may make the risks of some diseases higher in certain breeds or individuals, the option to leave your pet intact should be available to you. If you opt to leave the ovaries this can be done at any age. If you opt to remove the gonads, ovaries or testes, the age should be decided in a conversation with you and your veterinarian. We recommend waiting until at least 6 months of age, or older, usually, after they have gone through their first heat cycle, due to health and behavioral advantages.
If you opt for a non-traditional approach, the ovary sparing spay, when you leave the ovaries but interrupt the reproductive tract to prevent fertility, you may consider doing this at any age. Because the ovaries are left to function, your dog will still have her hormones. Research has shown that there can be positive effects of the sex steroid hormones. The sex steroids are hormones produced by the ovaries and are only present in intact females. For canine athletes, Dr. Christine Zink recommends waiting until after 14 months of age (the age at which the growth plates have closed) for females to be spayed.
For more information please go to our Spay and Neuter Controversy page and our blog Should I Consider Hormone-Sparing Sterilization for my Dog. If you are not sure when to spay your dog, please consult with the veterinarian at your next visit.

I will say opting to do the OSS has worked for us. I still believe keeping the hormones out weighs any aggravation we have dealt with. The worst being having to cancel a Holter because she was dealing with a hormonal issue that could have affected the results.



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This is good info. I'm going to have to check with our vet to see if he offers OSS for when or "if" we have Phoebe spayed. Right not we don't have any plans to spay her (nor do we have plans to breed her) but it's good to weigh options in advance.