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How to Tell if a Dog is Spayed?

Updated on May 4, 2013
How to tell if a dog is spayed or not?
How to tell if a dog is spayed or not? | Source

Don't know if your dog is spayed or not? Rest assured, you're not alone! I fostered a dog once and went through this problem. According to the shelter, the owners who relinquished her claimed her to be spayed. Yet, can you trust this statement alone? What if the owners didn't know for sure? What if they were trying to hide the fact she wasn't spayed? I had many questions unanswered, yet it was important for me to know as our neighborhood was full of intact males and I just wanted to know if she was spayed or not.

So to better understand if your dog is spayed or not, it's a good idea to learn a little bit more about canine anatomy. What exactly is a spayed dog? A dog who has been spayed has basically gone through an --are you ready? an "ovariohysterectomy." Don't get too crazy on this term, as you may never have to pronounce it for the rest of your life, unless you're a DVM. You're perhaps better off just saying "spay surgery" since that's what this term ultimately means.

So a spayed dog is a dog who has gone though a surgery to have her reproductive tract completely removed. If you wish to go into details, spaying is the removal of the dog's ovaries, oviducts, uterine horns, and uterus. Without these reproductive pieces, the dog cannot get pregnant and can no longer get those twice-a-year heat cycles which are triggered by hormones.

So a spayed dog basically lacks her ovaries, oviducts, uterine horns and uterus. Unfortunately, there's no visible evidence of the lack of such parts so you cannot tell if a dog is spayed by looking at the dog alone; however, there are some other tell-tale signs that can help you out. Your best bet is to see your vet though as he is more experienced in detecting these signs.

How to tell if a dog is spayed. A spay incision may be a good clue, but read on to learn why you shouldn't take it for granted.
How to tell if a dog is spayed. A spay incision may be a good clue, but read on to learn why you shouldn't take it for granted. | Source

Signs a Dog is Spayed/ How to Tell a Dog is Spayed

So you're not sure if your dog is spayed or not and you wish to have an answer. How to proceed? Of course, your dog won't tell you and most likely, if your dog could talk, he won't even be able to remember as more and more dogs are being spayed very early these days. So what signs can tell you if your dog was spayed or not? Here are some clues.

Look for a Spay Incision

Surgery to get a dog spayed requires the dog's abdomen to be opened to remove the reproductive parts we talked about before. In most cases, dogs will have some form of stitches that may be taken out or that may be absorbed. Because of being opened up and stitched back up, most spayed dogs will have an incision. Hold your horses though, as this incision may not be easy to detect.

Indeed, you may need to shave your dog's belly to see this incision. And if you do happen to see or feel an incision, don't completely count on it, as a hernia surgery or a prior cesarean surgery may leave a similar scar. Better to see your vet to know for sure than end up with a litter of unexpected puppies!

Check for Secondary Sexual Traits

In this case, you may notice how the spayed dog's mammary glands, nipples and vulva are smaller compared to those of intact females.However, there is no evidence that there is any clinical significance to this size difference, according to the ASPCA.

Ask Your Vet for Testing

Your vet may provide some options should a spay incision be difficult to detect. In some cases, the vet may check for a specific hormone or may take a look at some cells collected from the vaginal wall. For instance, according to Pet Education, you can tell if a dog is spayed by measuring the amount of luteinizing hormone present in the dog's blood. A great percentage of spayed dogs almost always have high levels of this hormone in their blood; whereas intact animals have lower levels. However, keep in mind that about 22% of the intact dogs tested had also high levels of this hormone and this is because intact dogs undergo brief episodic surges in the luteinizing hormone concentrations.

Alternatively, the vet may inject a hormone and then take a few blood samples afterwards to check for ovarian activity. While these tests are not fool-proof, together they can help provide a clearer picture that can save a dog from undergoing an exploratory surgery, according to the Oklahoma State University Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Wait for a Heat

In some cases, you may just want to wait until your dog gives signs of a dog's heat. Of course, during this time, treat her responsibly as if she was intact. Dogs generally go into heat every 6 to 7 months, but there are many exceptions and variances depending on breed. For instance, if you own a female Basenji, you may be forced to wait a whole year if she recently went into heat before you got her, as these fellows tend to go into heat once a year, and generally in the fall. Of course, even in this case, there are exceptions. Sometimes, a dog who is spayed may still go into heat if during the spay surgery some ovarian tissue was left behind. In this case, the dog may produce hormones that cause symptoms of a heat cycle to kick in. This is quite rare, but worth being mentioned!

Investigate Medical Records

This may be a bit tough, but you may be rewarded if you can find some sort of medical records. For instance, if you know the name of the previous dog owner, you can call several vet offices in your town and see if they still have the dog's medical records. While client confidentiality must be maintained, sometimes you may have somebody willing to tell you if a dog was spayed or neutered once you tell them about your dilemma. Also, if your town requires dogs to be licensed, you may find get some help by calling animal control or the local city hall as this information is often recorded.

Check for Tattoo or Microchip

In some cases, dogs are tattooed for identification purposes. Often along with their identity is their reproductive status. And don't forget to check for a microchip; as this little chip can contain important information including being spayed. For this you'll need a universal reader, which your vet or local shelter may have. Although, a local shelter should have checked for microchips before dogs are adopted out.

As seen, there are several ways to determine id a dog has been spayed. Usually a combination of these factors is your best bet. Always consult with a veterinarian to determine your dog's reproductive status and never make assumptions as they can end up being costly.


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for stopping by Midget38! I went through this puzzle as well a few years ago with a dog I fostered.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Great tips especially for those who are thinking of adopting, but not sure how to go about it. Thanks for sharing!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the votes up Eiddwen. I dealt with this situation with a foster dog and wasn't sure if she was spayed or not as the rescue had no clue.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting and also so useful to all dog owners. Voting up.