What is involved in a Spay?

It is common practice to have your female pet spayed. But do you know what is involved with the surgery? Do you know what you are paying for? Here at Mission Ridge Animal Hospital we take every precaution to ensure the safety of your pet before, during, and after the procedure. Here is a step-by-step overview of what we do behind the scenes.

1) We recommend a pre-surgical exam to all patients who haven’t been seen in a while, and especially for those we’ve never met. At this appointment the doctor who will perform the surgery does a “once over” on your pet. The Doctor will check for any retained baby teeth that would need to remove, umbilical hernias, and a general exam to make sure your pet is healthy to go under anesthetic. Blood work is recommended to rule out any underlying issues that can’t be found during the exam. While this is optional, it’s a good idea to make sure the liver and kidneys are working. You are always called with the results, no matter if it is normal or abnormal. This is also a perfect opportunity for you to voice any concerns about the procedure or ask questions.

2) On the morning of surgery the surgical technician goes over legal paperwork, make sure you understand the costs involved, and that you consent to the procedure. She also collects contact numbers in case we need to reach you in an emergency. Your pet will  with us for the day, and a discharge time is set up.

3) Your pet’s vitals will be assessed. We take their temperature, heart rate, and respiration rate before introducing any drugs. Once your pet is confirmed healthy to proceed, sedation is administered. There are two ways to administer injectable drugs: IM or IV. IM stands for intramuscular, or in the muscle. IV stands for intravenous, or in the vein. The nature and size of your pet will determine which route we choose. If IM sedation is used, you pet is placed back in her kennel until the drugs have taken effect. An IV catheter is then placed to administer fluids throughout the procedure. It is important for having a venous access in case of an emergency, and is the route we use for administering the induction agent before anesthetic. It helps to maintain blood pressure while under anesthetic. If your pet will tolerate it, an IV catheter is placed before sedation and the drugs are administered through that line. This route works quicker and is sometimes more effective.

4) An injectable induction agent is given through the IV line to render your pet completely anesthetized. When she is fully relaxed, an endotracheal tube is placed in the airway and connected to the anesthetic machine. This allows us to administer anesthetic gas to keep her asleep during the procedure. It also allows us direct access to the airway in case of an emergency.

5) Your pet’s heart rate and respiration rate is again checked. A Doppler allows us to hear the pulse while we are preparing for surgery. This also allows us to track blood pressure, which is important for maintaining adequate blood supply to internal organs. Her eyes are lubricated, as animals do not blink under surgery and so their eyes can dry out. Corneal ulcers can occur if we let this happen. Their nails are trimmed, and we all love trimming nails on sleeping patients!

6) Once we are ready, your pet will be turned onto her back for her belly to be shaved. A large area is shaved to ensure as much sterility during the procedure as possible. We vacuum all the shaved hair for adequate cleanliness. Then a surgical scrub is performed. The entire area needs to be scrubbed at least three times, depending on how dirty your animal is. Rubbing alcohol is applied to the site when finished.

7)  Meanwhile, the doctor will do a surgical scrub on her hands and arms, donning a mask and bouffant to prevent debris from falling into the surgery site. She wears a sterilized surgical gown and gloves. After she is all dressed (with the help of an assistant), she is not allowed to touch anything unsterile. Her surgical packs will be opened with sterile technique by an assistant.

8) You pet is ready to move into the surgery suite. The surgical site must not be compromised during the move, and for big dogs a second person may be needed for transferring.

9) Once your pet has been moved, she will be reconnected to the gas anesthetic, and hooked up to our monitoring system. This measures blood pressure, oxygen in the blood, heart rate, respiration rate, CO2 levels, and has an ECG. A final alcohol splash is administered to the surgical site, and the doctor can place a drape over the area. This covers the unsterile area except for the incision site. This adds to the sterility of the procedure. The surgical technician is there to track your pet during the entire surgery and adjust the anesthesia. Depending on how your pet is doing.

10) Warm blankets are rotated through to cover the non-sterile areas of your pet, most importantly the head and feet. The gas anesthetic can lower the body temperature, so it is our job to make sure your pet stays warm. This also allows for a quicker recovery from anesthetic when we are finished. This is especially important when the abdomen is cut into, as a lot of heat is lost through there. A warm water blanket is also running underneath your pet to protect her from the cold metal table.

11) A “spay” is layman’s term for ovariohysterectomy. This means the doctor removes the entire uterus and both ovaries. It is major abdominal surgery and is often taken too lightly! For big dogs it can be especially tricky because of the sheer size of the organs, not to mention the blood vessels that need to be tied off to prevent internal bleeding.

12) Once the procedure is finished and your pet’s abdomen is closed up, the anesthetic is turned off and your pet is allowed to slowly wake up. At this time we inject a microchip between the shoulder blades if you consent to this. A microchip is a great form of identification and is injected under the skin between the shoulder blades. An injectable anti-inflammatory is also administered at this time as long as your pet’s blood pressure was maintained at a normal level during surgery. She will be sent with oral medication to continue at home.

13) Once your pet is awake enough to be extubated (endotracheal tube removed) she is taken back to her kennel where she will be monitored and kept warm until she goes home.

14) Discharge instructions are sent home with you and the surgical technician will call you the next day to make sure everything has gone okay in the last 24 hours. A complimentary recheck appointment is recommended in 10-14 days to ensure everything has healed well.

15) One thing to note about spaying and neutering your pet. Their metabolism will decrease by about 33%. This means you will likely need to decrease the amount you are feeding. Obesity in animals is a big problem in our society and it is easier to prevent it than to fix it!

So, there you have it! All you need to know about spaying your pet. The same quality of care is used for any other surgical procedure. Neutering your pet requires the same procedure, with the exception of the surgical part, as it is often a quicker procedure to remove the testicles, and the doctor does not need to enter the abdomen. Any further questions can be directed to our staff at Mission Ridge Animal Hospital at 780-458-3833.