Ovariectomy (OVE) Versus Ovariohysterectomy (OVH) Revisited

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Photo Credit: Roger H. Goun

If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile now, you may remember two of my previous posts. While OVH surgery involves removal of the uterus and both ovaries, with OVE surgery just the ovaries are removed. Both are effective techniques for spaying (neutering) female dogs and cats. I am bringing this topic to your attention for a third time based on a recently published article within the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The article is titled, “Ovariohysterectomy Versus Ovariectomy for Elective Sterilization of Female Dogs and Cats: Is Removal of the Uterus Necessary?” Let me get right to the article’s punch line by presenting the authors’ final paragraph:

We do not believe that there is any scientific evidence for the preferential teaching of ovariohysterectomy instead of ovariectomy by schools and colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada, and it is our view that ovariectomy provides an equally effective technique for elective sterilization of female dogs and cats with no recognized disadvantages. Potential advantages of ovariectomy include a smaller incision, better viewing of the ovarian pedicle, and possibly less risk of complications associated with surgical manipulation of the uterus.

The authors’ conclusion is based on a review of recent literature comparing these two surgical techniques. When I’ve previously recommended OVE as the spay surgery of choice, here are the two concerns that you, my readers have voiced:

  1. You are unable find a surgeon who will perform OVE surgery. Here is what I recommend. Call multiple veterinary hospitals in your community and ask if the vets on staff are willing to perform ovariectomies (if the receptionist is uncertain about what you are asking, you may wish to tactfully ask to speak with a veterinarian or technician). If nothing else, you will be raising awareness about this recommended alternative. Based on what you’ve told me, some of your vets have been willing to educate themselves and perform their very first OVE surgery in response to their client’s request, and the results have been fabulous. If one is adept at removing ovaries and uterus, removing just the ovaries is a “no brainer.” So, it is perfectly fine if your vet performs his or her very first OVE on your dog or cat (I would normally strongly advise against your pet being your vet’s “first” surgery or procedure of any kind). Board certified surgeons gladly perform OVE surgery and may do it the conventional way (incision made on the underside of the abdomen) or via laparoscopy (a method that employs scopes which are introduced into the abdominal cavity via small incisions). The only drawback to having a specialist do the work is that the price tag for the work will be considerably higher than the norm.
  2. You have voiced concern that if the uterus is not removed, your pet could develop pyometra, an accumulation of pus/infection within the uterus that necessitates its surgical removal. Please don’t buy into this ridiculous notion! Pyometra only occurs under the influence of progesterone, a hormone produced by the ovaries. Without the ovaries no progesterone is produced and there is no risk for development of pyometra. Period!

I want to emphasize that if you cannot find a surgeon who will perform OVE surgery on your dog or cat, no biggee! There is truly nothing wrong with removing the uterus. I only wish to create recognition for the fact that it is completely unnecessary to do so. Lastly, if you are contemplating spaying your older pet (her uterus has been around the block a few times), visual inspection of the uterus at the time of surgery is warranted. If the uterus appears abnormal, it should definitely be removed- the one situation where OVH rather than OVE makes perfect sense.

Has your pet recently been spayed? Which surgical procedure was performed?

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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10 Responses to “Ovariectomy (OVE) Versus Ovariohysterectomy (OVH) Revisited”

  1. jill breitner Says:

    First of all I want to thank you for writing your 2nd book “Your Dog’s Best Health” I just finished it and loved it. Very concise, very outspoken, and very necessary to all dog owners.

    I had my 1 yr old female PWD spayed last year and looked all over for a vet to perform an OVE removing only the ovaries. It was daunting at first and finally my own vet said that she spoke to a surgeon who does this and asked if there was something she needed/should know before she tried it on my dog. She felt very comfortable with this new procedure (to her) and I felt comfortable letting her be a pioneer with my dog as she is a competent surgeon for spays. When it was all said and done she said, “This is the only way I’ll do spays from now on” It took less time and much easier to perform. This translates to my dog on the table under anesthesia for less time and recovery time from anesthesia faster and my dog did great post op. I highly recommend and thank you Dr Nancy for being leading the way.

  2. Karen Says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I have recently adopted to female dogs that need to be spayed. I have been doing tons of research on both surgeries. I have really been stressing over which procedure to do. My Vet has never done the OVE and she is hesitant to do it. I will print out this blog post and take it to her so we can discuss in more detail. If she won’t do the OVE, I will find a Vet who will.

  3. Katherine Ostiguy, KPA CTP Says:

    Excellent post! I had not heard about this and it’s really interesting. Out of curiosity, have you addressed vasectomies vs. traditional neutering on your blog as well?

  4. Linda Says:

    Thank you, Dr. Nancy, for this thought provoking article.

  5. Kate Fulkerson Says:

    About 5 years ago my vet and I decided to remove only one ovary and the bitch’s uterus. Our thinking was an attempt to preserve the hormonal function of the ovary but eliminate the possibility of pyometra. Sadly, the vet’s excision of the uterus was incomplete, and the bitch developed stump pyometra requiring surgical treatment. I am still intrigued by the possibility of preserving the hormonal function of the ovary but eliminating the possibility of pyometra. My rationale for preserving hormonal function of the ovary is prevention of midlife incontinence that plagues spayed females.

    Has any progress been made in other methods of eliminating the possibility of pregnancy and pyometra but preserving hormonal function?

  6. speakingforspot Says:

    Hi Kate,
    The main reason we don’t leave an ovary is for exactly the trouble your dog got into. It is surgically just about impossible to avoid leaving a “uterine stump” when removing the uterus. Add progesterone to the mix, and you end up with a “stump pyometra” something that is surgically difficult to manage. Additionally, leaving an ovary means that a dog will come into heat (bloody discharge, visits from male dogs) and can develop “pseudopregnancy” (guarding toys, showing aggression towards other dogs within the household) on a regular basis. Most people prefer to not have to deal with this.

  7. speakingforspot Says:

    Thanks, Katheriine for a good idea for a future blog post!

  8. Barbara Baer Says:

    Dear Nancy, it’s always good to read your sensible advice. Somehow we keep adopting male pooches so the issue hasn’t come up, but I’ll never forget your sound words. Your readers are legion. Thank you, and a good new year in your new environs. Barbara Baer

  9. AmyE Says:

    This would have benefitted my diabetic dog when she had 9 mammaries removed & got spayed at the same time. The internal spay incision popped open and her bladder slipped through, which meant another surgery and $500 more expense for me. The whole point of doing it all at once was to avoid a second surgery and she had to go under again anyway. The important thing for a diabetic is getting rid of the hormones. Preventing pyometra was less of a concern.

    My next dog had been used for breeding and she had two mammary tumors. Having a less complicated spay for her could have simplified her care. (She wound up dying from pneumonia before I got it done though)

  10. Diane Blackman, CPDT-KA Says:

    I wish I could say that when I spayed my bitch two years ago, I had the choice. Unfortunately, she had pyometra. I’ll never forget that my vet told me I was the proud owner of a three-pound uterus!!!! UGH!!!

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