Honey the 7 year old Golden Retriever

Emma’s family have had Honey since she was a puppy. When they initially had her vaccinated, the vet talked about having her spayed, and the family was thinking about having her done. Then they heard friends telling them that she ought to have one litter of pups first, so they put off having her spayed with the plan that they’d breed from her instead. Somehow, the time was never right to do this, so the result was that Honey reached middle age without being booked in for the operation.

Honey came into season twice a year

The obvious result of this was that Honey has come into season twice a year, every year. When this happens, she bleeds for about ten days, and she’s highly attractive to male dogs for around three weeks. They tried using a spray to disguise her scent so that male dogs are not so interested, but it didn’t make any difference. All the male dogs in the neighbourhood descended on their house twice a year, trying to get to her. The most annoying was one dog who would sit in their garden at 3am, barking continuously. He just wanted to be with Honey, and nothing was going to stop him. They managed to keep Honey in, and she was never caught by a male dog, so she never had pups. But it was a big nuisance.

A few weeks ago, Honey started to have a season that seemed different to normal. There was more blood than usual, and Honey seemed unwell. She went off her food, she was drinking more than usual, and she was panting all the time. When Emma brought her to see me, I found that Honey had a high temperature, her abdomen was swollen, and there were other signs too. She was suffering from a serious problem known as “pyometra” (which means “pus in the womb”) which is common in older female dogs if they haven’t been spayed.

what is pyometra

Pyometra is caused by age-related changes to the uterus, which cause it to become prone to infection. Antibiotics can help temporarily, but the only long term fix is to have her spayed, which involves the surgical removal of the uterus. Honey was booked in for this procedure at my vet clinic.

Ideally, female dogs should be spayed when they are young: anywhere between 5 months and a year of age. The operation is more complicated and expensive in older dogs like Honey, partly the age-related accumulation of body fat in the abdomen makes it more difficult to remove the uterus, and partly because she was unwell because of the pyometra. At this stage, Emma and her family were wishing that they had done the operation when she was a young, lean, fit dog.

There are many myths about spaying, and the family had fallen for one of those myths. The truth is that there is absolutely no need for a female dog to have puppies. There are already far too many pups in Ireland. The dog pounds are overflowing with unwanted animals. So for most dogs, the best option is spaying when young, to prevent the hassle of coming into season, as well as to prevent dangerous problems like pyometra.

Honey’s operation went well. She has made a full recovery, and she’s back to full health. But the next time Emma gets a new dog, she’ll definitely get her spayed while she’s a young animal.


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