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A Spay Is A Major Abdominal Surgery…Please Consider It As Such

Dog "spay" is a major surgical procedure technically known as an ovariohysterectomy.I think the veterinary medical field has to do away with the simple term “spay” and call the procedure by its actual name, ovariohysterectomy.  Ovariohysterectomy more effectively gets across that what we commonly refer to as a spay, which is the surgical removal of the female reproductive tract thatt requires an incision and closure of the abdominal cavity and the tying off and transection of major blood vessels.

Perhaps if we called the procedure by its technical name and not its lay-term, pet owners may take it more seriously.  Perhaps they will not call around to obtain the best bargain basement pricing for such a major surgery.  Perhaps they will take the time to look into why there are such differences and disparities in the pricing of the procedure.

Perhaps during the recovery, they would be more likely to keep collars on to prevent the pet from licking an incisional closure that stands between intestines staying inside the abdomen where they belong instead of popping out and dragging on the floor.  Perhaps they would reasonably reign in activity and confine the patient to prevent internal bleeding and incision dehiscence.

To many of you, these aspirations that I yearn to achieve through calling the procedure by its true name may seem like common sense, yet my clinic takes at least 10 calls a day with people asking the price of a spay then the hang up never to call back (presumably because they found some place that does it cheaper).  Time and again, owners remove the pets’ e-collar or let them play Frisbee or swim way too soon post-operatively and are surprised when bad things happen.

I remember like it was yesterday when on the soft tissue surgery rotation in my 4th year of veterinary school at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine teaching hospital when our head surgeon, Dr. Cathy Greenfield, gave my student surgical group a pep talk as we were about to spend the day performing spays on dogs from the local shelter.  She stated that spays were major abdominal surgeries and complications happen.  As a board certified surgeon who performs only the most complicated surgical procedures on a referral basis, she shared with us that some of the most difficult surgeries she had performed in her career were complicated spays.

She parted by saying, “While we routinely do spays, there is nothing routine about them.”

Those words are as profoundly wise today as they were when I was a student 16 years ago.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.

3 thoughts on “A Spay Is A Major Abdominal Surgery…Please Consider It As Such

  1. Michele says:

    Dr. Roger, I have been listening to your podcast for ages now and I love it. (This blog article is fantastic by the way 😉 )

    I have been trying to find a way to message you or Dr. Karen with an idea for a future show. I have not been able to message you guys via blog talk radio-and it doesn’t seem to matter what computer I’m using. Would you all mind advising in the podcast how/where to submit ideas and questions?

    I would really like a podcast on IVDD. I have a 4 year old little maltese who suffers it. He has not lost any motor function, but it bothers him off and on and he is in a great deal of pain when it strikes.

    We are fortunate to have an integrative veterinarian who helps us through his episodes and we also do things like laser and acupuncture treatments-but I was hoping to learn even more.

    It’s heartbreaking when he has an episode of it-with our last one which was just over a month ago, he was screaming when it first hit.

    He is better now after about 6 weeks of crate rest and I am slowly getting him back into routine-but I’m so afraid to let him do too much.

    I would appreciate hearing any input you and Dr. Karen can give on this disease and living with it. Thank you!

  2. Flora says:


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