Should You Spay An Older Dog?

By: Pam Wiese Email
By: Pam Wiese Email

Should you spay an older dog? It's a question some pet owners may be asking.

One wondered if he should spay his 11-year-old female dog. Does she really need to be fixed this late in life and would the benefits outweigh the risks?

Older dogs don't recover as quickly from surgery and they can be at some risk from anesthesia, but the risk of pyometra was the number one reason for spaying an older dog. Having already had puppies is one of the biggest risk factors in developing pyometra, which is a potentially fatal condition where the uterus becomes infected and gradually fills with pus.

Many dog owners haven't heard of this. It can occur at any age, but your dog may be especially susceptible if she has not been spayed, is middle aged or older, has produced puppies or has had hormonal treatments. Why? Pyometra develops after bacteria infiltrates the uterus. That can happen more easily when the cervix opens during heat cycles or following a dog's pregnancy.

Symptoms include lethargy, increased thirst, increased urination and loss of appetite. Then as the infection festers, abdominal bloating and discharge may appear. Without prompt veterinary attention your pet could die from infection or a rupture of the uterine walls. Other complications like kidney or renal failure can occur.

The good news is this awful disease is preventable. Simply spay your female pets young, before they ever go into heat. You should always check with your veterinarian to see what they recommend for your pet, especially with older pets. They'll know if your animal is healthy enough to handle certain procedures.

If you don't have a vet, the Nebraska Humane Society has a spay/neuter center that can help with altering your pets. You can find information at nhsspayneuter.org.


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