When you adopt an adult female dog whose history is a mystery, it isn't always possible to know if she has been spayed, and unfortunately, you can't ask her. While a spay tattoo is a clear sign, there are a few other things you can look for that indicate your dog is already spayed.
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Spaying serves as a humane means of population control to reduce unwanted litters of puppies and stray dogs. In addition, spaying your dog can reduce the chances of her developing certain types of cancers and uterine infections. There are some ways you can determine if your dog has been spayed before heading to your veterinarian for some help.
Physical signs your dog is spayed
Many spay clinics tattoo the incision with a permanent green or blue line so shelters and veterinarians can identify dogs who have been fixed. Without the tattoo, it's difficult to be certain of a dog's status.
Because dissolving sutures are becoming more common, there might not be any stitches to feel. This is especially true if the surgery was performed more than six months before your dog's adoption. Dogs in the United States are generally spayed at around 6 months old or possibly even younger, and those who were spayed young might not retain a scar from the surgery. Also, if there is a scar, it could be from a different cause.
The spay incision is a vertical line low on the dog's belly between her teats and genitals. Get her to roll onto her back in a well-lit spot. Soothe her with a calm voice and with petting. Look for a green or blue line.
Move her fur in different directions to examine her skin. If you don't see the green line tattoo, using a pet razor to carefully shave the center of her lower abdomen will make it easier to examine her skin.
Check for a microchip
Have your veterinarian or the shelter from which you adopt your dog check her for a microchip. Ideally, the microchip will contain information about whether your dog is spayed. At the very least, the chip may lead you to your dog's previous owners or her former veterinarian. Use the contact information to ask the former owners or veterinarian if the dog was spayed.
Wait for a heat cycle
After checking for a scar, a microchip, and a tattoo, you can simply wait for your dog to go into heat if you aren't sure whether she's been spayed. Dogs go into heat anywhere from one to three times a year, so you're sure to see signs of your dog experiencing a heat cycle during your first year together. This is also referred to as going into estrus.
Signs of estrus include bloody vaginal discharge, a desire to roam, and urine marking. Dogs who go into heat are not spayed. The cycle should last for around 10 to 14 days, after which you can have your dog spayed.
Test to see if a dog is spayed
If you don't have medical records for the dog and there isn't a spay tattoo, take her to a veterinarian. The vet can examine her and may perform an ultrasound to find out if the dog still has her ovaries and uterus. Your veterinarian can also perform blood tests to determine if your dog's hormone levels indicate whether she still has her uterus and functional ovaries.
The doctor can even take cell samples from your dog's vulva to test for these hormones. If you've exhausted all other options, your vet can perform exploratory surgery under anesthesia to see if your dog's uterus and ovaries are intact. During the procedure, they can be removed with a spay surgery.
- Emancipet: Spay/Neuter FAQ
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: General Dog Care
- Pets4Homes: How Can You Tell if a Female Dog Has Been Spayed?
- VCA Hospitals: Estrous Cycles in Dogs
- University of Florida Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program: Spay/Neuter Tattoos Can Prevent Unnecessary Surgery for Cats and Dogs