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Spay 7 year old dog?

Species: Dog
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Age: 5-8 years
Shadow my "daughter" is 7 years old. She is NOT spayed. Recently, I noticed a swollen place on her belly next to(but not on) one of her lower nipples. There was an area about the size of your pinkie nail that was very dark red (almost black), surrounded by a red area about the size of a half dollar. My first impression when I looked at it was I thought she had been bitten by a spider. She did not seem to have any pain associated with the "area" at all and no tenderness. She was her normal self, and did not exibit any lethargy or inactivity. I took her to my local Vet who examined the area, and then drained some liquid from the lump and took what she called a "slide". When she returned, she said that she had found a lot of "infection" and then put Shadow on 500 mg Cephalexin for 14 days. Shadow has been on the Cephalexin for 7 days, and the area and lump have all but disappeared. You can hardly tell that anything was ever there. Here is my problem: my Vet has scheduled her a week from now to have a "lumpectomy" and spay her at the same time. I cannot stand the thought of having Shadow go through a needless surgery and pain if there are alternative ways to deal with this. I have heard that NOT spaying her may lead to increased risks of mammary tumors, pyrometrea, and so forth. Could you PLEASE give me your opinion of this? Should I spay her at this point in her life? Please give me you honest opinion even if it is something that you don't think I want to hear. I just want the best for my precious Shadow, and I am distraught about this whole matter. Thanks so much! Rick and Shadow.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for asking such a great question Rick. I know it is often difficult to think of your "baby" going through surgery. However, in almost every case I am a HUGE fan of spaying a dog at any age.

The biggest concern that I have with an unspayed female dog is for pyometra which is a very serious infection in the uterus. When dogs get this, they need an emergency spay surgery and the cost can be several times the cost of a regular spay. It is definitely life threatening if a dog has a pyometra. The only way to prevent it is to have her spayed.

It's not a bad idea to remove the lump as well. Mammary lumps can be difficult to diagnose. It sounds like this one had infection which is probably a good sign. However, the only way to accurately know whether it is cancerous or not is to actually remove it and send it away. (Or in some cases I will remove just a portion of the lump and send it away for a diagnosis, but if this is a small lump then it just makes sense to remove the whole thing.) One unfortunate thing though, is that spaying Shadow may not prevent more mammary lumps from forming. If you spay a dog before her first heat it will greatly reduce the risk of developing mammary tumors. The risk is still reduced if we spay her before her second heat. But, after that, the risk still remains even if she is spayed.

There are other tumors though that can be totally prevented by spaying Shadow such as ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.

Dogs recover extremely quickly from a spay surgery, even if she is 7 years old. It is truly amazing to see how well they do. If this was a human having this surgery, we would be out of commission for 6 weeks or so. But, for a dog, you will likely see that she is a bit groggy from anesthetic drugs for 12-24 hours and then slightly off for a day or two. You'll likely find it hard to keep her quiet after that.

As far as removing the lump goes, this will add almost no extra discomfort.

The one negative that I find with spaying a dog is that she will be a little more predisposed to gaining weight. I recommend reducing her calorie intake by 30% after she is spayed as she won't need as many calories.

I hope this helps with your decision. Let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.