Dr. Dolittler

European, U.S. vets spay differently



Q. I just learned that my spayed dog isn’t really spayed. She was spayed in Germany, where they only take out the ovaries. My vet here says she might get a serious infection or even cancer and wants to operate again. I don’t know what to do.

Your dog is spayed. Whether we take out the ovaries alone or the uterus and the ovaries, as it’s commonly done in the United States, the procedure is still colloquially known as a “spay.”

European vets can’t figure why their U.S. colleagues take out the whole shebang when removing two small bits of tissue is all that’s required to prevent pregnancy. Meanwhile, most vets on this side of the pond argue that getting rid of the uterus can help prevent serious issues down the road.

Uterine infections and cancer are still theoretically possible if the uterus is left behind. European studies, however, have not found infections to be a significant problem. That’s because removing the ovaries eliminates the hormones and hormonal fluctuations that give rise to infections. And uterine cancer? At a prevalence of 0.003 percent, it’s not a compelling reason to operate.

In fact, when you consider that excessive bleeding, anesthetic risk and incision infections top the surgical complication list for spay patients, it makes sense that we would remove as little as possible, as fast as possible, with as tiny an incision as possible. And that’s exactly why European vets prefer it.

So why do we still spay the way we do in this country? Because that’s how we learned to do it. Still, a “leftover” uterus is not a good reason for follow-up surgery.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

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