Nothing causes opinions to flow like the subject of spaying your chihuahua. For some people it is a no brainier and they happily book their puppy in as soon as she is old enough. For others, like me, it has taken longer to arrive at the decision if they get there at all.
When we first got Minnie, I had no intention of getting her spayed. My thought process was, our male dog has been neutered before we got him, so why put her through such an ordeal. But advice on the right thing to do has come thick and fast from all directions.
Making an informed decision
Spaying your chihuahua bitch is never an easy decision and the fact that research leads us one way and then the next makes the decision to neuter extremely confusing. We never want our chihuahuas to go through unnecessary pain, but at the same time, we want to prevent cancer and illnesses in dogs so that they can be with us for longer. We have scoured to latest research to give you the truth about the pros and cons of spaying your chi.
What is spaying?
Spaying is a veterinary procedure to remove the female reproductive organs in dogs (bitches) and the testicles in dogs. It has many names; desexing, sterilisation and neutering, to name a few. Vets will either conduct an ovariohysterectomy (removal of the ovaries and uterus) or an ovariectomy (removal of just the ovaries).
The procedure prevents female animals from becoming pregnant as well as eliminating heat cycles. It is a fairly short operation, and she can usually leave the clinic on the same day or the day after. Dogs can be given painkillers after the surgery and will usually return to their normal self quickly.
Is keyhole best?
With keyhole surgeries, vets remove just the ovaries. Because it is less intrusive and has three small incisions rather than a long scar it can be less traumatic and can heal with less risk meaning your chi can return to normal activities quickly.
The pros of spaying your chihuahua
Spaying will prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as eliminate heat cycles.
Without heat cycles, your dog may be calmer and will stop the advances of male dogs; it will also ensure a cleaner home, without the risk of bleeds or urinating in the house. Toilet training can go out the window during a season.
There is a potential for uterine cancer and pyometra (infection of the uterus) while the uterus is still present. In general this does not become a big risk until your chihuahua is around 6. Although it has occurred in younger dogs.
One of the biggest alleged benefits, which is why many choose to spay their chihuahua bitch, is an apparently healthier dog.
Spaying is said to reduce the risk of mammary cancer. But, recent research has suggests that this concern is largely theoretical and their is no real evidence to support this. It will prevent prevent pyometra as without a uterus she is not going to get an infection.
The cons of spaying
Spaying can cause weight gain in dogs, which could lead to health implications, although a reduced diet and more frequent exercise should be able to combat this issue. You may still loose the nice ‘tuck’ on a female dog.
As with any operation, there is always a risk in surgery and the chance of complications. In unfortunate circumstances, dogs can have a very adverse reaction to anaesthesia. While spaying is considered a safe procedure, there is always a chance of a negative situation.
Another disadvantage is that you may not be able to show your neutered chihuahua at events. While not applicable to all events, rules can vary. For any Kennel Club licensed events, you can show a spayed bitch, providing you have informed the Kennel Club in advance with all of their required information.
There are also other health issues associated with spaying and nueturing, your chihuahua’s uterus & ovaries or testicles are a major part of their endocrine system. With these hormone producers gone, the job falls to the adrenal gland which can get overwhelmed and cause illness later in life. There has also been some links to cancer.
Spaying your bitch too early can also result in hormone incontinence, and your bitch will be on hormone replacement for the rest of her life.
When to spay?
As with any argument in spaying, timing is a contentious subject. It is important that you wait for your chi to be a healthy weight, if your pup is undersized, your chi may not be able to cope with the anaesthesia or operation, but your vet will advise you on this.
Many people believe that between 3-6months old is the right age for chihuahua dogs as it is before their first heat and puberty.
Some suggest that after the first heat, organs can become enlarged, making the procedure more complicated. As well as this, some suggest the risk of developing mammary tumours increases significantly after the first season and rises with subsequent seasons. But, the link between mammary tumours and spaying has been largely dismissed by some. The link was only ever theoretical and no meaningful study has been done.
However, others argue that you should wait for them to become adult and have a season as this can affect their growth and bone density and that between one or two years of age is perfect. This seems to me to make more sense.
One thing my vet did say that seemed to makes some sense was ‘Your chihuahua does not have the emotional tie to her ovaries as women do.’ So there is a possibility that I am projecting what could be my own angst onto Minnie.
But, for me it’s down to ethics. Is it ethical to remove parts of your dog so they fit into human life? I feel my dogs are sentient beings that have a right to live their life as naturally as possible. I have had several chats with different vets and asked one why they didn’t just sterilise (vasectomy in dogs and tubes tied in bitches) rather than totally de-sex them. The answer surprised me. They are not allowed to. This is considered unethical.
The reason they can preform a total spay or neuter is because of the considered ‘health benefits’ of the procedure. So, even though most owners get this done to prevent unwanted pregnancy that’s not the official reason on paper.
To update this post, which was written a couple of years ago, Minnie has now been spayed. It became a necessity when we took on Arlo who was a complete dog. I was also constantly worrying at the end of each season abut pyometra. It becomes more of an issue the older your dog becomes.
She sailed through surgery and was up and about the next day.
Do I regret it. No not at all. But I am pleased I took the time to read all the information I could and made an informed choice rather than just being told what to do.
To spay or not to spay?
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer, and it depends on you and your dog’s needs. Make sure to take plenty of advice before making a decision and consult your chihuahua community so that you can make the right decision for you. Although, I have found it hard to get a rational debate going without being accused of being a back street breeder and having pictures of euthanized dogs sent to me.
As for us, ATOW Minnie is two and has now had her third season. I have decided against spaying her for the time being. I may re-consider when she is about six as this is the time that pyometra may become an issue. (see above note)
There is more to read about spaying and neutering your chihuahua in ‘We need to talk about spaying‘ For a start, did you know that spaying and neutering in Norway is consider cruel and is illegal without a good medical reason. But in the UK no vet is going to advise that you don’t spay or neuter your dog. Most UK vets are fully behind the procedure.
We would love to hear your feedback on the issue, please leave your comments below.