Spey or Desexing is perhaps the most common operation performed in veterinary practice, but is not necessarily simple! Female speys are more complex than male castrations, and can take anywhere from fifteen minutes for a normal pup up to an hour for an obese, mature or on-heat dog! Complications are very rare, however, and recovery is quick. Some patients may still be a little slow the following day, but should be 100% by day two.
Unlike castration, speying an animal involves entering the abdominal cavity via an incision made in the midline of the belly. The initial incision is usually small; about two centimetres. The main body of the uterus is located and brought forth using a spey hook, which is a surgical instrument designed specifically for this purpose. By following the uterus forward, the ovary is then identified and exposed. The ovarian ligament is found under the ovary and carefully broken to allow greater exposure of the ovarian artery, which lies deep in the abdomen. Once identified, this artery is double ligated. This is the delicate part of the operation: it is crucial to tear the ligament carefully so as not to damage the artery, and then correctly ligate the artery so that excessive bleeding doesn’t occur. In large-breed, deep-chested or overweight dogs this can be quite difficult, and sometimes the abdominal excision needs to be extended in order to gain greater exposure.
This procedure is repeated on the opposite ovary. Once both ovaries have been detached, the two uterine horns are traced back to the uterine body. This too is double ligated, and the entire ovarian-uterine unit is removed. Hence the spey procedure involves a full ovario-hysterectomy.
As for castrations, analgesic and antibiotic injections are given at the time of spey surgery, and no ongoing medications are needed. Most patients are up and charging around by the next day, or at least by day two.