What happens when your dog or cat gets spayed or neutered?
I think my cat’s in heat, when can I get her spayed?
What is a spay anyway?
I get these questions all the time. Let’s follow along with Izzy as she comes in for her surgery and we will see what happens throughout the process.
The proper medical term for a spay surgery is actually ovariohysterectomy, “ovario-“ meaning ovary, “hyster-“ meaning uterus and “-ectomy” meaning remove. Yes! We actually remove the uterus and the ovaries during the spay procedure. This is a major abdominal surgery and in our animal hospital in Danville, Virginia, we follow the same types of procedures that take place with hysterectomies in human hospitals.
Izzy’s day starts early as she skips breakfast (sorry Izzy anesthesia sometimes can make patients nauseous), and arrives at Mount Hermon Animal Clinic by 9 am on the day of surgery. Izzy and her parents meet with a Candace, a veterinary technician in a private exam room to go over the day’s plan and address any concerns. Next we collect a small blood sample from Izzy and run a health screen to check for underlying problems that could interfere with her anesthesia or surgery. Izzy’s safety is our number one priority.
Dr. Smith performs a complete physical exam from head to tail and reviews Izzy’s blood health screen before giving her the all clear for surgery. Once that is done, we give Izzy an injection of medication to relieve anxiety and control pain.
Izzy goes to her private room where Candace makes her a comfortable bed; Izzy also has her own blanket with the smell of home to make her feel safe. Keeping our patients comfortable is something we as animal lovers do instinctively, but it is also an important part of the surgical process. We do everything that we can to relieve stress in our patients as stress hormone release and seriously affect blood pressure, complicate the management of anesthesia and even delay healing.
After about 30 minutes have passed, Izzy is feeling quiet relaxed, she doesn’t even seem to notice as Candace shaves and scrubs her front leg for the IV catheter. With the IV catheter and fluids in place, we have the ability to control Izzy’s blood pressure and if necessary, administer emergency drugs.
Dr. Smith gives and IV infusion of propofol, and Izzy falls off to sleep. She is completely anesthetized and is unaware of the endotracheal tube that is place in her windpipe before she is connected to anesthetic gasses.
Our team falls into a familiar routine, working quickly to minimize Izzy’s anesthesia time. Andy connects her to a number of monitors and records her heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, temperature and other vital parameters. Candace clips and preps Izzy’s abdomen with surgical scrub. Dr. Smith lubricates Izzy’s eyes and double checks Izzy’s pulse before going to the scrub sink to go through the surgeon’s ritual of triple scrubbing his hands and arms before surgery.
When Izzy’s abdomen has been adequately sanitized and prepared, she is moved from the prep table to the sterile surgery room where all staff are required to wear a cap and mask to prevent contamination. Izzy is connected to all the monitors in the surgery room and Candace continues to closely supervise Izzy’s condition as Dr. Smith gowns, gloves and drapes Izzy’s abdomen. Dr. Smith makes an incision and performs the ovariohysterectomy leaving just a small line of sutures less that an inch long in the middle of her belly.
Izzy is swaddled in heating pads and breathes from the oxygen machine for a few minutes as the anesthetic gasses clear from her body. In just a short time, she is lifting her head bleary eyed, wondering where she is and Candace holds her until she is able to sit up on her own. When she is ready, she goes back to her private room to rest. Candace give’s Izzy’s parents a call and they are happy to hear that everything went well. Izzy is still sleepy from the pain meds and is perfectly content to sleep away the night at the animal hospital. Later that afternoon, Izzy is ready to go out to pee (don’t laugh IV fluids will do it to you). The next morning, Izzy is ready to go home, she eats her breakfast and takes a pain tablet and acts like nothing has happened.