Overview of Canine Tubal Ligation
A tubal ligation in dogs, also called “having the tubes tied” or “tubal sterilization,” is a method of permanent birth control in female dogs. During this surgical procedure the fallopian tubes are cut or blocked to permanently prevent pregnancy. Blocking the fallopian tubes prevents movement of the egg to the uterus for fertilization and blocks sperm from traveling up the fallopian tubes to the egg.
Tubal Ligation VS. Spaying Dogs
The tubal ligation procedure is different from ovariohysterectomy, commonly referred to as “spaying,” in which both ovaries and most of the uterus are removed from the body. Dogs with tubal ligation will have normal hormonal production and maintain their fertility (or “heat”) cycles. They will also be receptive to mating during their cycles.
Traditional spaying is common in dogs as it prevents breeding and subsequent pet overpopulation. For many years spaying also was though to eliminate the risk of pyometra (an infection of the uterus) and minimize the risk of mammary tumors (breast cancer). However, recent studies have failed to confirm whether spaying actually protects dogs from mammary cancer.
Recent evidence suggests that intact dogs may have fewer health problems than pets whose normal hormonal development and growth is impacted by traditional spaying. However, the issue of pet overpopulation is still severe, so eliminating an animal’s ability to reproduce is still considered responsible pet ownership.
The difference between a tubal ligation and an ovariohysterectomy in dogs is that with an ovariohysterectomy, the ovaries are removed from the body. A tubal ligation, on the other hand, results in a dog that is sterile while retaining the ovaries that continue to produce important hormones.
Tubal ligation in dogs is becoming a more popular option for owners that want to prevent their dogs from getting pregnant but wish to avoid the negative aspects of most sterilization procedures. Another option that has the same benefits is a hysterectomy. For more information on these risks, read our article on the negative consequences of spaying and neutering.
Tubal ligation is currently not a uncommonly performed procedure in dogs, and many veterinarians are not familiar with performing the surgery. Veterinary schools in the United States focus primarily on teaching the traditional spay procedure and many consider tubal ligation an alternative to the standard. However, the procedure is easy to learn so long as the veterinarian is willing.
Veterinary Care for Tubal Ligation in Dogs
Most tubal ligation procedures are performed on young healthy pets and extensive pre-operative work-up is not usually necessary. Preoperative evaluation involves a thorough physical examination and may include blood testing.
When a tubal ligation is performed for reasons other than preventing reproduction, such as in older animals with tumors, other diagnostic tests may be necessary to exclude concurrent problems which might increase risks from anesthesia.
The surgery is performed through an incision on the abdomen. Some veterinarians operate through the abdomen as they would during a traditional spay. Others use a minimally invasive technique using a small, flexible camera called a scope. Some veterinarians use surface sutures to close the skin incision, while others use internal sutures that absorb into the tissue.
Home Care After Tubal Ligation in Dogs
Once your pet returns from the hospital, keep her quiet and indoors for approximately 2 weeks to allow her to heal. Do not allow her to “roughhouse” or be excessively active.
Monitor the incision daily for signs of redness, swelling or discharge. Do not allow your pet to lick or chew at the incision. If you find that it is impossible to stop your pet from doing this, obtain an "Elizabethan" or “e-collar” to prevent her from reach and irritating the incision. Skin sutures, if present, will be removed in 10 to 14 days.
Dogs that have undergone a tubal ligation and retained their ovaries will continue to experience heat cycles and attract male dogs. Heat cycles are generally observed once to twice a year. Dogs with hysterectomies will not experience a bloody discharge because there is no uterus; however, the vulva may become enlarged. It is ideal to keep females away from male dogs during their heat cycles. A sterilized female dog cannot become pregnant during this time but will be receptive to mating and male dogs may cause injury or property damage in an attempt to gain access to a receptive female dog.
If the tubal ligation was performed for non-reproductive reasons, further treatment and/or monitoring may be necessary. Always contact your veterinarian for home care instructions and maintain the recommended follow-up appointment schedule.