How are spay and neuter surgeries performed?
These two sterilization procedures are done under general anesthesia, with your pet fully asleep and intubated (with a breathing tube in their throat). Cat castrations are one exception; these are performed with an injectable anesthetic, because it is a faster procedure. Before receiving general anesthesia, your pet is given an injection of medication to make them sleepy and to help with pain relief. Your pet’s vital parameters, including oxygen level and heart rate are monitored by a veterinary technician or veterinary assistant (with the aid of a machine) while they are under anesthesia. We use special equipment, such as heating blankets, to ensure your pet’s comfort and safety during their procedure.
Female animal sterilization is called a spay. Females have an incision made just below the belly button into the abdomen. The reproductive tract, both ovaries and the uterus are completely removed through this incision. Then the incision is closed with two layers of stitches under the skin that dissolve and are absorbed by the body over time. The skin is closed with surgical adhesive, skin sutures or staples.
Male animal sterilization is called castration. Males have an incision made in the skin at the base of the penis nearest to the scrotum (the skin that holds the testicles). Both testicles are removed through the incision. The incision is closed with stiches under the skin that will dissolve and be absorbed by the body over time. The skin is closed with surgical adhesive, skin sutures or staples.
Male cats have an incision made in the skin of the scrotum, and the testicles are removed. The incision is not sealed but will close on its own with time.
Click here to learn the importance to pre-anesthetic blood tests.
How old does an animal have to be before he/she can be spayed or neutered?
At Sequist Animal Hospital, our recommendation is to wait until your animal is at least 6 months of age. The mature size/weight of dogs is taken into consideration. The larger the adult weight will be, generally the longer we will want to wait.
For large and giant breed dogs: we try to wait for a female to go through 1-2 heat cycles and for the males to reach full maturity (this could be anywhere from 12-24 months of age). This can help your pet develop stronger joint and ligament health which may help prevent problems in the future.
If your pet is having behavior issues (humping, wandering off, aggression, etc) then we may recommend surgery to occur sooner.
Also, you may want to check requirements at boarding and daycare facilities that you use as they generally will have an age cut off for intact animals entering their facility.
What should I expect before the procedure and how do I prepare for the procedure?
Click here to learn what to expect before and after with your pets procedure.
How long does surgery take?
It depends on the procedure. Generally a male cat castration will take less time than a cat spay and a male dog castration takes less time than a female dog spay.
Female animals in heat can take a longer time because their reproductive tracts are much more fragile and hold more blood when they are in heat. Generally, we will delay the procedure if an animal is in heat (especially dogs). If you have a spay scheduled and your animal comes into heat, please contact the office to see if you should reschedule surgery.
What is anesthesia recovery like?
Usually within twenty to thirty minutes, cats are able to stand and start to walk. Dogs take a little longer, about thirty to sixty minutes before they stand and attempt to walk. The longer the surgery generally the longer it takes for them to recover.
Please refer to the What to Expect from Surgery handout for at home care.
Are there any risks or complications?
Healthy young animals have the lowest risk and are less likely to have any serious complications. However, it can be much harder to keep young active animals quiet after surgery, so they are more likely to have simple post-surgical complications.
Older animals, those in heat and especially those with additional health issues, have a higher risk and are more likely to have complications. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health or if he or she is on medications for a medical condition, please let the veterinary staff know ahead of time so your animal can be treated appropriately.
Some of the more common post-operative complications include inflammation or infection of the incision, opening up of the incision, swelling under the skin at the incision site caused by fluid, and bleeding. These complications can be caused or made worse by the pet licking or chewing the skin at or near the incision or by not keeping the pet quiet as directed after surgery.
Dogs and cats should slowly be transitioned onto adult food (over 2-4 weeks) either before of after their surgical procedure. The reason this is important is that their metabolism slows after their procedure. This may also coincide with them not needing this type of food any longer. Generally kitten and puppy food can be transitioned to an adult food when the animals is 7-9 months of age or older.