Neutering (in females, also called spaying) is the most common surgical procedure we carry out. However, it is still a surgical intervention, and that can be pretty scary if you’re not sure what it entails! In this blog, therefore, we’re going to walk you through the procedure step by step, so you can get a “behind the scenes” idea of what happens.
In bitches, there are three main reasons – firstly, to prevent pregnancy (a litter of pups is delightful, but it can also be expensive, and you do need to find good homes for all of them!). Secondly, for convenience – many people don’t really want every male dog for miles around waiting outside your house every time she’s in season. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), to prevent disease – research shows that neutered bitches live an average of 24% longer than entire bitches. For most dogs, that works out at an extra three years or so!
What preparation is needed?
Spaying requires a general anaesthetic, so your dog will need to be starved overnight – the exact time will depend on exactly when the next day we’re going to be operating. The only other thing we’d like to ask is is please, please don’t bring her in covered in mud! At the very least, hose her off before you bring her down!
When you arrive on the morning of the op, one of our vets or nurses will give her a quick check over to make sure that she’s healthy and that there aren’t any obvious problems. Now’s the time to mention any health concerns or any medication she may be on – before we get started and find something that may be a problem or affect her surgery. If there are any worries, or if she isn’t a youngster any more, we may recommend blood tests, to check for any problems we can’t see (like liver or kidney issues). We’ll also go through a consent form with you. Then one of the nurses will take her “back stage”, and you’ll have to leave her with us – we promise to take good care of her for you!
Once admitted, we’ll weigh your dog (the anaesthetics and other drugs are dosed by body weight), and give her a “pre-med”. This is a combination of a mild sedative, to help her relax, and pain relief. We’ll then find her a comfy kennel to rest in until we’re ready.
When the time comes, we’ll bring her down to the prep room, and one of the nurses will give her a big hug while the vet clips a small patch of fur on a front leg and injects the anaesthetic.
Once she’s asleep, we’ll put a breathing tube down her windpipe to make it easier for her to breathe, and connect her to a machine that will give her oxygen and anaesthetic gas. We’ll then clip away the fur on her tummy and clean it thoroughly to prevent an infection (this is why we need her as clean as possible!). Meanwhile, the vet who will be operating will wash their hands and scrub up, so their hands are sterile; they’ll also put on a sterile operating gown and gloves, so as not to contaminate the surgical site.
Once she’s all ready, we’ll wheel her into the operating theatre. She’ll stay on the anaesthetic gas throughout and be monitored by one of our well-trained staff. The operating vet will make an incision lengthways along her belly (usually only a few inches long) into her abdomen. Once inside, they’ll find her ovaries, clamp off the blood supply, and tie off the blood vessels using dissolvable stitches, to prevent bleeding. One unusual thing about the uterus and ovaries in a dog is that there are four arteries – one for each ovary and two for the uterus, but each artery can supply all three structures. As a result, each one has to be tied off twice to prevent bleeding. Once the ovaries are tied off, the vet will find her cervix and ties that of as well; then the whole thing (uterus, uterine horns and both ovaries) can be removed together.
They’ll then close her abdomen with dissolvable stitches in the muscles, and usually normal sutures in the skin (these will need to be removed in about ten days).
Once the operation is finished, she’ll be moved to a recovery area where our nurses can keep a really good eye on her in case of any complications. Generally, we’ll remove the breathing tube once she’s able to swallow on her own. At this point we often find bitches get up and about very, very fast, so we’ll often put an Elizabethan collar on her now – this is to prevent her licking the surgical wound. Contrary to popular opinion, dog saliva doesn’t help surgical wounds to heal – it just introduces infection that slows down healing.
Most bitches are a little uncomfortable after the surgery, but this can usually be well controlled with painkillers which we’ll put up for you. The real problem is that they want to get bouncing out and about as soon as possible – and they really need to wait for the operation site to heal for a week or so!
It’s very important that you watch out for any signs of trouble (like shortness of breath, pale gums, or redness of the wound), and that you prevent your dog from licking at it until the stitches are out. If there are any concerns, call us right away.
If you want to discuss neutering your dog, give us a call on our practice number – 01259 721576.