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The Pros and Cons of Spaying a Sheltie

  By Becky Turner Visit The Sheltie Forums

Spaying a Sheltie mean surgically removing the reproductive organs: the ovaries, uterine horns and the body of the uterus. This completely eradicates female heat cycles, prevents pregnancy, and reduces the risk of developing diseases of the reproductive organs.

Foxie, a beautiful female Sheltie
Foxie, a beautiful female Sheltie

Shetland Sheepdogs who aren't spayed generally enter their first heat cycle from 8-10 months of age. They will release powerful airborne pheromones which can travel huge distances to attract unneutered males for a period of 3-14 days.

You must keep a female Sheltie very secure during this time or face the likelihood of having 4-6 unplanned puppies on your hands. According to The Humane Society, 3 million dogs are put down in US shelters every year - that's about 1 dog every 10 seconds. And often these animals are the unplanned offspring of cherished family pets. The solution is to spay your Sheltie if you do not plan to breed her.

There are also significant health benefits to spaying your Sheltie. Indeed, many vets recommend spaying a dog after you have finished breeding her for health reasons alone, as it can improve the quality of her life and even increase her life span. This article is here to present you with all the pros and cons of spaying your dog.


The Pros of Spaying a Sheltie

  • Prevention of unwanted pregnancy - Most pet owners do not want an unplanned litter on their hands. There is no real money to be made this way, since it takes considerable time and expense to raise the puppies to 8 weeks (consider food, vet checks and vaccinations for up to six puppies in one go). Even professional breeders don't make much money from producing litters - they do it for the continuation of the breed. And worst of all, it may be hard to find new homes for the puppies who may ultimately face euthanasia at a rescue shelter when they can't be cared for any longer. Who wants an unplanned dog litter? No one.

  • Prevention of menstruation - If you leave your female Sheltie unspayed, she will menstruate every time she goes into heat. This can be both messy and inconvenient. Most female Shelties go into heat every 6-8 months. During this time, you can expect to have male dogs hanging around your house. You must never leave your female Sheltie out in the yard while she's in heat, nor let her off the leash if there are other dogs nearby. The best thing to do is drive to a remote area for walks - otherwise her urine and vaginal discharge will blaze a trail right back to your home. In short, you must be very vigilant with a Sheltie in heat. Spaying eliminates this.

  • Reduced risk of cancer - Spaying a Sheltie reduces her hormone levels which directly correlates to a reduced risk of uterine, mammary and ovarian cancers. However, this is heavily dependent on how early you spay your dog:

    • Before first heat = a 0.5% chance of developing breast tumors later.
    • Between first and second heat = an 8% risk of developing breast tumors.
    • After second heat = a 26% risk of developing breast tumors in later life, which is the same risk as a dog of any age who is not spayed.

  • Prevention of Pyometra - By spaying a Shetland Sheepdog before her first heat cycle, you prevent Pyometra, a hormonal abnormality and bacterial infection which commonly affects middle-aged dogs who have not been spayed. It occurs after a heat cycle where fertilization doesn't occur, and causes the horns of the uterus that usually weigh 3 oz to swell to 10-15 lbs. If left untreated, the uterus will eventually rupture and spill bacterial fluid into the abdomen, causing uremic poisoning which is fatal. Treatment for Pyometra is expensive, involving hormonal and IV fluid therapy or a complete ovariohysterectomy costing up to $1,000. What's more, the strain on the kidneys or heart can cause lifelong problems even after the uterus is removed.

  • Improved coat - This may not be a deal breaker but it's certainly a factor in your decision to spay your Sheltie. Because Shetland Sheepdog hair grows in phases, it is often inhibited during heat cycles and whelping. The coat appears thin and even exposes the skin in certain areas. It can take 2-4 months to return to normal, and some dogs never develop a normal coat because of their wildly cycling hormones.

The Cons of Spaying a Sheltie

  • Sterilization - Once you spay your dog, she will never be able to produce puppies. If you are going to breed your Sheltie, you should wait until at least her second heat cycle, and make sure that you have her genetically tested for health problems and that she has a good temperament. These are just some of the factors that professional breeders take into consideration before breeding a dog. However, you may want to ask yourself why the breeder sold her as a pet and didn't keep her for their own breeding stock. My advice is, if you have no experience, don't go there.

  • Spay Incontinence - After spaying, some female dogs develop incontinence. This is caused by low estrogen levels weakening the muscle tone around the urethra so that urine leaks from the bladder. However it can be easily treated with medication, and is not limited to spayed dogs; all older dogs can develop this condition.

  • Cost of spaying - The cost of spaying a Sheltie at a Humane Society or a low-cost clinic is between $50 and $175 depending on the size of your dog. Some vet clinics charge up to $300 but this is the higher end price range reserved for bigger dogs. As a Sheltie owner you should not expect to pay as much, although it certainly will depend on where you live. Generally spaying is more expensive than neutering, because it is a more complex internal surgery. Remember that the cost of spaying your dog is far less than the cost of vaccinating a whole litter of Sheltie puppies.

  • Dangers of anesthesia - During surgery, your Sheltie will go under general anesthesia, which carries risks like the forming of blood clots, fatal arrhythmia and respiratory depression. A UK study found that for healthy dogs, the risk of death under anesthesia is 1 in 1,849 - and that covers various surgeries. In terms of allergic reactions, herding breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs - while still statistically rare - are possibly the most likely breeds to suffer an allergic reaction to pre-anesthetic drugs used during surgery. While the evidence is sketchy, many vets are aware of the connection, and will adjust their procedure either by testing for the rare MDR1 gene prior to surgery, or changing their pre-anesthetic protocol to avoid suspect drugs. Be sure to mention this to your vet before the surgery. However, serious complications during anesthesia are uncommon and this alone should not put you off spaying a Sheltie. In fact, many dog owners allow their pets to go under general anesthetic for simple procedures like having their teeth cleaned.

  • Early Spaying - This is a hot area of contention. Due to the problem of overpopulation of dogs in the US, some animal shelters and vets have begun spaying and neutering at a very early age - even as young as 6 weeks. This is much sooner than the norm of 5-8 months, ideally before her first heat cycle. Some experts say that early puppy spaying can actually increase aggressive tendencies in females, as it prevents the production of progesterone, a Serotonin uplifter. Opinions vary on the ideal time to spay - from 6-7 months of age (before the first heat cycle) to 3 months after the second heat cycle (about 18 months of age).

As you can see, there is a wealth of information to take into account when considering spaying a Sheltie. The one issue that stands out from the crowd is the problem of dog overpopulation. Even with the majority of pet dogs spayed today, there are still millions of unwanted puppies put down every year in the US. If no-one spayed their pets, this problem would be a whole lot worse.

Finally, in the US, many professional Shetland Sheepdog breeders require you to sign a spay agreement before you buy a puppy from them. This is to ensure that only their best quality Shelties will be used to propagate the breed, which is what created the beautiful Sheltie dog you see today. It also ensures that pet owners don't add the the problem of unplanned breeding. So if you want a purebred dog as a pet, you will likely be obligated to spay your Sheltie anyway. This also goes for rescue Shelties - many shelters spay dogs before rehoming them, whatever their age.


Becky TurnerAbout The Author

Becky Turner is the creator of Sheltie Planet. She lives in New Zealand with her partner, Peter, and their son, Fox. Becky is 100% owned by Howard and Piper Woofington Moon, the Shelties who inspired this site. Visit them on Facebook or The Sheltie Planet Forums.

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