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Spaying Your Female Dog

Updated on August 9, 2010
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Female Dog Health

I love all dogs- male and female alike- but that doesn't mean that I want puppies. Now, generally when you adopt a dog from a shelter, the dog is already spayed or will be shortly after adoption. But you may still be iffy about the whole process.

The best thing that you can do to ease your insecurities is to make sure that you know everything you can about the full process of having a dog spayed.

It is actually one of the most important surgeries that you need to make sure that your female dog has because it will truly reduce the risk of breast cancer and it will 100% reduce the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

Spaying your female dog is a routine procedure that your vet could probably do in his/her sleep, but to the average pet parent, it can be scary having their dog put under anesthesia. Below is the basic information that should hopefully help you ease any worries about having your precious pup spayed.

Prevent an unwanted pregnancy  Flickr Image by Somerslea
Prevent an unwanted pregnancy Flickr Image by Somerslea

When to Spay a Female Dog

There are a lot of breeders who recommend that you wait until after the dog's first heat to get the dog spayed. This is because many people believe that a female dog is not fully done growing until she has her first heat, when she becomes an adult, so to speak, and by spaying too early, you prevent growth. Well, I'm not 100% on the accuracy of this; I believe that a dog will grow to its full potential no matter when you spay, but it's up to you whether you believe it or not.

Otherwise, the main concern is spaying the dog before the first heat. Some vets will spay females as early as 6 weeks old given that the puppy weighs more than 5 pounds, but most vets wait until the puppy is at least 6 months old.

By spaying before the dog's first heat, you prevent an unwanted litter and you give your pet more protection against developing breast cancer in the future.

The actual stats on preventing breast cancer are as follows:

  • A dog spayed before her first heat has a mere 0.5% risk of developing breast tumors later in life.
  • A dog spayed between her first and second heat has an 8% risk of developing breasts tumors.
  • A dog spayed after her second heat has a 26% chance of developing breast tumors, which is the same as a dog who is not spayed.

The only time that you want to wait until after the first heat is if your female puppy has severe vaginitis, as it can be "cured," so to speak by letting her go through one heat cycle before spaying her.

If you wait too long, your dog's odds of developing a uterine infection greatly increase. If you do not have the dog spayed by the time she's 5 years old, her odds of a uterine infection are pretty high. The treatment is to surgically remove the uterus, but if you don't notice the signs of the infection early enough, then there may not be anything the doctor can do.

Sometimes, you can get your dog spayed during her heat, but very few vets will actually do it as it is more complicated during the heat, and saying this that means it's more expensive. I personally waited it out until my American Pit Bull Terrier was about 8 months old before I had her spayed, trying to get as close as I could to her first heat without actually having to experience it.

For more information about a females in heat, check out Tips for a Female Dog in Heat

Uterus, Fallopian Tubes, and Ovaries  Flicker Image by DonnitaMae
Uterus, Fallopian Tubes, and Ovaries Flicker Image by DonnitaMae
Spay sealed with surgical glue
Spay sealed with surgical glue

What's the process of spaying a dog?

Although it is a pretty routine and basic procedure for vets, for a pet owner it can be scary, knowing that your beloved pup is going under anesthetics and having major surgery. It will calm your nerves if you understand the process.

The basics involve your dog being put under a general anesthesia just like a human would be, using a breathing tube in the trachea that is connected to the anesthesia machine. Your dogs heartbeat, breathing, and sometimes blood pressure will be monitored throughout the procedure, as well.

Your dog will be positioned on her back on a heated surgical table. The hair on the abdomen is shaved and the skin is cleaned with a surgical scrub.

Using a scalpel, the vet will make an incision, and depending on the size of the dog the incision will vary between 1.5 and 4 inches long. The vet will locate the uterus underneath the bladder and follow each horn of the uterus up to each ovary. Then using clamps and sutures, the vet will tie off the blood vessels before he/she cuts the uterus and ovaries free and removing them.

The vet will then suture the abdominal muscles back together, and then sutures or glues the skin back together.

The anesthesia is turned off, and the vet techs will watch your dog as she slowly wakes up, where she will be moved to a recovery kennel.

Sick and laying on the covered couch after getting spayed
Sick and laying on the covered couch after getting spayed

What happens after the procedure?

Depending on your vet, they will either require that you leave your dog overnight or they will allow you to pick up your dog later in the evening.

Some dogs will show some signs of discomfort after the surgery, but not all will.

In most cases, your dog will act completely normal after the surgery, but you want to monitor what the dog eats due to the anesthesia. Sometimes dogs will react to the anesthesia just like humans do.

Many vets will recommend that you half the dog's normal diet for the first meal, and offer ice chips instead of water.

It took about 3 days for my APBT to fully recoup her surgery, as she got sick drinking water much less eating an ice chip.

It will typically take about 10 to 14 days for the incision to heal.

What are the risks of spaying your dog?

For the most part the biggest risk is death from unpredictable anesthetic reaction, excessive bleeding, or an abdominal infection. It is extremely rare for a healthy young dog to die as a result of being spayed.

Other complications can include fever, pain, skin irritation the sutures, or reaction to the anesthesia (typically throwing up).

Female Dog Spaying Myths

A few myths associated with spaying and neutering dogs include the following:

  • She will no longer want to protect her family or home. (Protection is a natural instinct that cannot be taken away by removing hormones. The actual extent of the protection trait, will depend on genetics, environment, and training.) 
  • She will get fat and lazy.
  • She will either stay a puppy or revert to puppyhood forever.
  • It's expensive. (Remember spaying your dog once prevents a full litter of puppies that you have to feed, care for, and find homes for.)
  • She'll be sad and upset with me because she can't have a littler of puppies. (She doesn't want the puppies. You do. Your female dog will not act or behave any differently if you breed her once or if you never breed her at all. It's all animal instinct, and if you remove the hormones for the most part the instinct is gone.) 

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.


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    • Lupe Mcmillon profile image

      Lupe Mcmillon 11 months ago

      I just had my 8 month old dog spayed 2 days ago on friday, and I noticed the next day that she now has a saggy/loose stomach, she has never had a litter , is this common afterwards, I'm a bit worried and I will be calling the vet Monday

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      concerned puppy mom 2 years ago

      i got my dog right before she came in heat but it has been 3 weeks and she is still spotting blood is there something wrong with her or I she almost done. I am take her to get spayed as soon as she is done just not sure how much longer it is going to be.

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      suzie 2 years ago

      I gotten my 5 pound maltese fixed before her first heat cycle at 6 months, and she's fine. The surgery went well, the only problem i had was she got a yearn attract affection from the surgery but the vet gave her a shot of antibiotic. She's the same dog, she's fine and healthy. I recommended it. But that my opinion.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Very useful. Our dog is 5 months and we're debating getting her spayed (well I'm debating - my husband doesn't want to) but I'm pretty sure she will be having the surgery. Thanks for the information here.

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      Olga 4 years ago

      i found coco took her to SPCA no one clamed her so I adopted her she was just doing fine they send her to a vet to get fix and now throwing up Dirhia and won't eat I took her back to the vet they gaved her fluids and a shot still not eating Dirhia and losing lot of weight please help coco

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      andrea 4 years ago

      Ally, I'm so sorry to hear about your dog passing. I was extremely terrified of leaving my Lily at the vet, for reasons such as that. I couldn't imagine what you are going thru. I hope everything works out.

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      judy chartrand 4 years ago

      Ally, wow, I am very sorry, I know you are torn to bits.

      I would be. This is a problem. Of course you were doing what is usually done with females, as I did, and now I am having problems with my female 3 years later.

      Sometimes we don't know if we are doing the right thing, and when we make a decision, something goes wrong. I know that my dogs trust me to protect them, so I have put off having my Mini Schnauzer neutered, because of the complications I had with my Vizsla's spaying. If something happened to him, I may not be responsible for lashing out at the vet, or worse.

      One of the things I have learned in all my years with my pets, is that you cannot completely trust a vets decision. You must educate yourself on all things, as much as is possible, and then make the choice, I have had to do this many times, going against the advice of a vet, to find out later the vet was not aware of certain dangers of vaccines, and treatments. I am not a vet, of course, but I was a nurse, and I know that sometimes certain procedures are just as risky for dogs, as they are for humans.

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      Ally 4 years ago

      I just got my year old yorkie spayed, on Monday I was told by my vet that she had done well and was recovering well. I picked her up at 4:30 pm brought her home and she slept til about 8:00pm. I tried giving her water and tried to feed her but she refused both. I gave her rimadyl for pain and she fell asleep til 11:30 and was moaning in pain. I called the vet and was told it was normal and that all dogs react different. She got up at 9:00 am and drank water and used the restroom and seemed Okay. At about 12:15 she started crying so I took her to the same vet they immediately took her to the back to be checked. The vet came out and told me that she thought that my dog wasn't responding well to the pain killers and they were going to give her a shot of morphine and send her home with painkillers. The vet recommended blood work, about half an hour later the vet came and told me that my dog had stopped breathing and they had to perform CPR and had machines breathing for her. She said my dogs body went into shock from the surgery and she devolved pancreatitis and her heart was going into shock and she didn't think she was going to make it. She then asked if I wanted to euthanize her or allow her to pass on her own. She walked out of the room and said she would give me a minute and walked back in saying that my dogs heart had stopped. I was in shock and was upset. I loved my Ally more than anything in this world and wanted some kind of closure of how she passed away. Nothing made sense to me in how it all happened right away and nothing could be done to save her.

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      Mae 5 years ago

      I have a Maltese puppy...she will be three in August,can I still spay her???I don't want anything bad to happen to her...I don't even want to spay her,cause I don't want any complications.But I know that she needs to. My lab had a uterus infection and needed an emergency spay surgery.She almost died.She was five.Will this happen to my Maltese?

    • Judychartrand profile image

      Judychartrand 5 years ago

      So there is no confusion to my comment, I meant to say she licks at her Vulva, not likes it.

    • Judychartrand profile image

      Judychartrand 5 years ago

      Whitney, it is true that a dog if spayed too early will not develop properly, I am spending a lot of money on vet bills now because a vet recommended we spay or Vizsla BEFORE her first heat. Her Vulva is so small compared to the rest of her body, that it is hardly visible, and she keeps infections. I have to clean her every day, and she likes at it. When I exam the Vulva, I notice irritation. Obviously this specific vet did not practice his surgeries well, I also think that he may have left behind parts of the reproductive organs, because she also has infections and discharges, so therefore, not only would I not ever spay a female again before here first heat, but I would make sure the vet actually knew what he was doing. My poor little Abbi will have to endure discomfort for the rest of her life because of human mistakes. This is a good Post Whitney, because everyone should know what to expect. No one who truly loves their dog, will want them to be in any discomfort.

      I also should mention as well, that larger dogs, seem to mature slower than the smaller breeds. So if a smaller dog was spayed before her first heat, she may not have these problems.

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      Tamara 5 years ago

      How can you tell if a dog has been spayed without going to the vet?

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      ann 5 years ago

      why my dog still bleeding after four days of spay. Thanks

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      Ashley 5 years ago

      So I have a chi-pom about a year old well she went into heat and I let her out to use bathroom and a random dog came into the yard and when I went outside toget her the two dogs were Tied up together! She has not been spayed yet bc of her being in heat! I called the vet yesterday I see if there was a morning after pill for dogs bc I don't want her to have puppies! They really didn't recommend the shots so they told me to go ahead and get her spayed! She got tied up on Sunday and I'm taking her toget spayed Tuesday next week. I'm wanting to know if that means that she will not be pregnant and what kid of complications if any will she have?

    • profile image

      sad82 5 years ago

      after getting my 6 year old lab spayed she sadly passed away that same evening. we were told by the vets that it may have been a fit of some sort. just be aware, as with humans these things can happen after or during surgery.

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      Graz 5 years ago

      About the right age to spay... I've had German Shepherd bitches I spayed at 6 months, and ones I've spayed after their first heat. The ones I waited on had more bone, looked more like their breed. The ones I didn't grew like string beans - super long legs, little mass, and lacked an air of femininity. I don't know as it affected longevity, but now if I have the choice, I do wait.

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      Angela 5 years ago

      I had my 6 month old puppy spayed friday, and I noticed a big dark spot around the scar but kinda under the skin. Is this just bruising or is it worse than that?

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      Jade 5 years ago

      We have two bitches that really got on well with each other but now will not stop fighting. Will spaying stop this? And also, one of them is 2 and a half years old. Is this going to be a problem, health wise?

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      Krissy 5 years ago

      My American bulldog is having her first cycle. I dont want to get her spayed until she's had one litter but I want her to be at least two years old. Should she have a litter sooner than two?

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      vickie 5 years ago

      Just rescued an APB. We thing she is under a year. She is just starting into a heat cycle. Thank you for all the information. Very helpful. We have another that we had spayed during her cycle and everything stayed swollen. She is almost 5 now. She is a great dog. She has put on a few pounds and we have nicknamed her tubsock.

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      kamechan 5 years ago

      Our dog is 5-6 years old, is it still okay if we spay her?

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      Dana 5 years ago

      Hey everyone does anyone know how old a puppy needs to be to get sprayed? i have a five week old rotty/smithfield and i just want to get everything done with...

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      Hailey 5 years ago

      Most of these comments ive read, seem like cases of anxiety, NOT complications from the surgery. Dogs will do this sometimes when we leave them overnight to get spayed/neutered. It is normal... If they make a huge fuss about it, then see if you can't put them on medication. It has helped my dogs and my friends' dogs that are too clingy. They whine and fuss about being alone. As long as you follow the medication directions your dog should be happy and healthy. There is less stress on your pet, and you don't have to feel guilty about leaving the house. Meds (given correctly) shouldn't have any negative bits. They calm the dog and soothe its anxiety.

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      linzee 5 years ago

      Iam thinking of getting my 5 year old pit fixed im just wondering if she is going to have any problems..I have a male pit too and she has had three litters any answers would be awesome

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      debra 5 years ago

      I have a female Shitzu that is 8 years old she just had pups in Feb 2011 now i want to get her fixed is there any reason why i can't or will a vet fix her cause she is getting old

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      krista 5 years ago

      I just had my 15 month old american pit bull spayed a week ago and im starting to get worried about her behavior. She has been wineing a lot and it seems to me like her anxiety got worse. she has also been panting while inside and laying down She will raise her head and just start panting like she just got done playing?? i saw in the comments that kevin had explained the same behavior from his dog, if anyone knows why this is happening please let me know?????? She seems to be gettin her energy back and shes starting to want to play again and the insicion looks grat like it is healing just fine but im not sure what's going on with the behavior>?

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      Lisa 6 years ago

      Sally: I'd have your friend take her dog back to the vet/hospital immediately! Those symptoms could be signs of a serious condition or complication.

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      Sally 6 years ago

      julia, can I ask, how is your dog doing now? is she okay? I'm asking because my friend got her papillon spayed, two days after surgery she was fine and the third day the agony started: she can't stand or walk, she is nervous and cries when she's alone. It seems like she wanted to walk and run, when she's laying she's moving her feet, but when they get her up she just falls back down, she can't even sit. The vets don't have a clue what's wrong, they said they never had a case like that before. If someone knows what to do, please help :(

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      Jeani 6 years ago

      I live in a country where the vets regularly come to the house to spay the animals, I had my cat spayed this way and she was fine, but I want to know if this is safe or if its too risky as far as infections go.? I have a bitch that needs to be spayed. And what do they cut to spAy a female animal?

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      julia 6 years ago chihuahua mix was spayed last tuesday..5/31/11. The incision is fine, but like you described your pet, my girl is also doing the same thing, like she has PTSD.she used to walk on leash, now its like shes never been on one before, she whines really loud and gets so nervous if i leave or when I return. I am taking her to vet tomorrow, she has problems now standing, her little legs give out. Its breaking my heart.

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      kevin 6 years ago

      My dog got spayed about 2 days ago, now is showing signs of separation syndrom and heavy panting (like it's hot in the house)

      She cries constantly if someone is NOT in the room with her and every time she is alone. (she obviously wanted attention and to be with people before, but it's very bad now). Help?

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      czeleance 6 years ago

      I've had two American pitbulls spayed, neither one of them turned aggressive, they're both still very sweet. One of them did definitely gain weight, the other one is still slender and fit. The slender one was spayed before she went into her first heat, the weight gainer had two heats before I spayed her. So maybe that has something to do with the weight gain...not sure. We've also had two chihuahuas spayed, one had her heat cycle and a litter, the other was spayed before her first cycle...and guess who's the slender one. The one spayed before she had a cycle. I guess dogs are like one knows for sure what the effect of being spayed are.

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      ciara 6 years ago

      just had my girl dog neutered, she is doing fantastic, no cone needed, a comment was made by someone who paid £105 to have there dog done, thats crazy money when you can get a voucher from any dogs trust and your local council for £15

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      Kelly 6 years ago

      my baby girl 6 month border collie had the op Tue and pleased to say she is fine, woz a bit dopey the night we picked her up but next day like nothing happened. Cost 105 quid but by reading the plus for having it done, well worth it.

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      kare 6 years ago

      my dog is supposed to get spayed in two days, but she went into heat last night for her first time, will they make her wait now to be spayed? And if not, is it risky for my dog? She's a healthy 8 1/2 month old Olde English Bulldog. How long is a female dog in heat for?

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      billy 6 years ago

      found this information very helpful, thank you very much,my 6month bitch, wendy will be going to the vets this tuesday, after reading the comments i now know im doing the right thing for my bestest mate whom i love so very much. The information also makes me feel much better as i was becoming a bit worried as to go a head or not. thanks again..

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      Jane 6 years ago

      I have a 7 month old labrador who i was originally not getting spayed. Afting finding out more about seasons and the risks of not getting this done i've decided i'd like to get her spayed in the next couple of weeks. My only worry is that she has started showing signs she may be coming into heat. Is it going to be too late to have her spayed?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      She can be spayed at any time.

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      kwen 6 years ago

      my maltipoo is currently on her heat. she's almost 4yrs old. how many months should i wait until spaying her?

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      Adam 6 years ago

      I had my 2 dogs spayed and they both are really fat now. They don't seem lazy, but definitely gained 15 ibs. My dogs are rat terriers, so they are not supposed to be this fat. They eat the same amount of food they always have. "1 being 5 years old"

      So for the myth of them getting fat and lazy.. Lazyiness I have not found, but getting fat. Definitely true!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      Not that case. If anything, spaying cuts out hormones. There isn't any proven evidence that says any dog breed gets more aggressive after a spay or neuter

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      rikki 6 years ago

      i have an eight month old pitbull girl. i've heard that spayed pits sometimes get more aggressive. i don't want my sweet puppy to start being mean! i see that you spayed your pit pup at 8 months. did you notice any behavior changes?

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      kaylah 6 years ago

      my 6mth old puppy never when on heat yet bt i got her spay and m hapy id it. when i pick her up frm the vet on the same day she wasn't feelng alryt bt the next day she woke me up by licking me and pulling my hair and i was so hapy she bak to her self again. but i for got to say she was never in pain and that sh just sleepy that all and nw she running around like nothing hapnd..

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      Kwen 6 years ago

      i have a maltipoo. almost 4 years old by this april. is it ok to spay her? in comparison to a puppy being spayed, is it more risky or painful because she's older?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      Depending on how far along she was, yes.

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      Lois 6 years ago

      Ok so, I have a Siberian Husky. She's a year old, we got her spayed 2 days ago. But the thing is we didn't know she was pregnant, so they opened her up and they ended up just taking out the babies. We thought it was fine, but now the thing is, we got her a toy so she can feel some what better? And she protects it like if it is her baby. Is that like normal? Or.. Is she going to get over it? Because it's sort of strange.

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      Alicia 6 years ago

      I have a miniature dachshund with 1/4 chihuawa in her she got spayed this morning and she hasn't peed for at least 14 hours I'm so scared is this normal and she hasn't had anything to eat or drink since last night I am soooo worried about her

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      I'd say just an irritation. Check for mites or fleas that she could have gotten at the vet. I'd just watch it for a few days to see if it worsens. She shouldn't really be on any medications from the spay anyway, so I wouldn't say it's that. (Generally, medications aren't given for a spay unless something arose in the surgery or it was more extensive than usual.) The anesthetic should have well been worn off by now, so I doubt it's that.

      If there was a needle or implant at the ankle for the anesthesia, it could have been an irritation to the tape, but I'd say for now just watch it. One day isn't anything to worry about.

      It's sad you waited so long to spay, at it doesn't cut out odds of mammary cancer as much, but eventually is better than not at all.

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      Christine 6 years ago

      My female will be 1 tomorrow. She went through one heat. I had her spayed a week ago. She seems perfectly fine and happy. But this morning I noticed on her right front leg she has bitten hair off. She's never done this before, what could it be? Medication or the anithestic that would cause something like this.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      That is a risk, but waiting risks cancer. Personally, I can deal with incontinence, but I don't want to go through a dog with cancer again. That is a much more expensive, emotion, and heart breaking ordeal.

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