The Traditional Spey Procedure for Dogs

The most commonly recognised and performed procedure to prevent breeding in female dogs is by the Traditional Spey method (ovario-hysterectomy) during which both ovaries and uterus are removed. Most dog speys performed in Veterinary clinics are done by this method however did you know other methods are available?

The Ovarioectomy (Keyhole) spey or Modified Spey Procedure

In this procedure only the Ovaries are removed using minimally invasive surgical techniques and equipment. (Also known as “Keyhole” Surgery.)

The uterus remains intact.

Without egg producing ovaries, your dog cannot become pregnant. And as with the other procedures whereby both ovaries and uterus are removed, your dog will no longer experience any heat cycles or attract males.

You may be wondering whether leaving the uterus intact may still place your dog at risk of uterine infection (Pyometra). This is unlikely as the main triggers for this condition are the hormone producing ovaries. Although this manifests itself in the uterus, Pyometra is an ovarian disease.

The keyhole dog spey or “Modified Spey” is the preferred procedure in many European countries as an alternative to the traditional spey.

Instead of one large incision, two smaller incisions are made. Through one incision, a tiny camera is used to visualise the ovaries inside the body cavity. The special instruments are inserted through the second incision and the ovaries are carefully removed from inside the body cavity using the camera as a guide.

This method is less traumatic for your pet as the ovaries are removed from within the body without the need to tear them away from their attachments and bring them outside of the body as is done using the traditional spey method.

The benefits of keyhole dog spey vs Traditional Spey include:

  • Less internal trauma (Less ripping and pulling on internal structures) – less organ removal – less bruising.
  • Less chance of post operative internal bleeding.
  • Less post operative pain for your dog
  • Faster recovery time and healing
  • Smaller incision sites

Because this method requires advanced expertise and specialised equipment it does attract a higher fee.  We offer this method for all dogs aged 6 months or over on specific weekdays.
Our Recommendations for Ages to Spey Dogs

Although we can perform spey procedures in dogs from 6 months of age we recommend the following minimum ages (based on the fact we are removing the vital hormone producing ovaries):

  • Small breeds: From 8 months of age
  • Standard breeds: From 12 months of age
  • Giant Breeds: From 16 months of age.

Emerging Concerns about Removing Ovaries

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that the hormone producing organs (Ovaries in females) are quite important to overall health and that by removing them will have a detrimental effect on other body systems.

This makes sense as organs systems are interdependent and by removing one will affect others. Maybe not immediately but certainly over time.Keyhole Spey Procedure for Dogs

Our Obligations as Integrative Veterinarians

We believe we have a moral obligation to our clients and patients to present both benefits and limitations of any procedure or medical treatment we provide. It is also our obligation to keep up to date with current research findings in order to assist our clients in making the best possible decisions for their pets.

Examples of Studies evidencing Some of the Potential issues:

Back in the 1990’s studies showed that dogs speyed or neutered before one year of age grew significantly taller than dogs not speyed / neutered until after puberty. And the earlier the spey / neuter procedure – the taller the dog.

Similar findings in Human studies discovered that estrogen promotes skeletal maturation and the gradual closure of growth plates.

Translation: – The hormone estrogen which is no longer produced in dogs which have had their hormone secreting tissue removed, plays a crucial role in bone growth and development. The failure of these growth plates to close result in abnormal structual growth patterns and bone structure.

Hip Dyslasia & Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Injuries

Studies at U.S. Veterinary Universities show that both male and female dogs desexed at an early age were more prone to hip dysplasia and increased Cruciate Ligament rupture rates.

Bone Cancer

In a study of Rottweilers in 2002 it was found that desexed animals of that breed were significantly more likely to develop bone sarcoma that their intact counterparts.

The effect of speying and Canine Breast Cancer is a theory not a fact.

This is interesting.

Results of a U.K. Study published in 2012 in the “Journal of Small Animal Practice” were unable to validate the thory that early speying protects female dogs from mammary cancers.

Other Health Concerns

In addition to what’s already listed, there seem to be other reports and studies that point towards health concerns associated with the removal of hormone producing organs.

These include higher incidences of:

  • Hypthyroidism – (Especially in Golden Retrievers)
  • Various cancers including lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumours.
  • Behavioural problems

So what does this mean for you – and Us?

First of all – we strongly recommend you do your own research with regards to this issue. Our role as veterinarians and animal advocates is to be alert to trends and current research and findings and bring them to your attention.

This article is NOT about whether to spay or not spay your dog.

It is about choices of methods to prevent unwanted breeding.

The time has come where we are no longer comforable in ignoring the growing body of evidence connecting the removal of endocrine secreting tissue with a variety of health problems in dogs.

We owe it to you – (our clients) and our patients to do only what is in your dog’s best interest and uphold the Hippocratic oath of “do no harm.”

As such, we will now be offering the option of Hysterectomy for Dogs for informed pet owners who are as committed to your dog’s long term health and vitality as we are.

What You need to Know if Choosing the Hysterectomy or Ovary Sparing Method of Sterilising Your Dog.

  1. Because the ovaries remain intact – your dog will still go through her normal heal cycles. This means she will still exhibit all the signs of being on heat and WILL BE ATTRACTIVE to MALES! She must not be allowed to mate with a dog. Removal of the uterus means she has been anatomically altered and may suffer from internal trauma if mating takes place.
  2. As with the Traditional Spey method – this procedure is irreversible. Once the uterus is removed pregnancy cannot ever occur.

This method of sterilising is not for everyone however, there is increasing demand for the “ovary sparing” method from a select group of dog owners in the community – in particular for their large breed dogs.

For large breed dogs you may want to consider the preventative Gastropexy at the same time to minimise the future risk of dangerous bloat.

We offer this procedure at our practice.

Find out More

If you are interested in The Modified Keyhole Spey OR Hysterectomy procedure as an alternative for your dog, please contact us via email

Information provided in the blog post has been sourced from:

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