As a responsible pet owner, you understand the importance of spaying or neutering your pet at the medically appropriate time to reap the health benefits and help battle the numbers of homeless pets. Not only will this sterilization procedure protect your pet from reproductive cancers, but they will be less likely to fight, roam, and be hit by cars. You’re also helping battle the pet overpopulation problem we see in our country and helping the shelters filled with pets needing homes. However, you may not be entirely sure what the process entails. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn what happens during your furry pal’s spay or neuter. 

Step 1: We perform a comprehensive physical exam and preanesthetic testing on your pet

Before we place your pet under anesthesia for surgery, we ensure they do not have any underlying health issues. Our team performs a thorough physical exam, checking their heart, lungs, gum color, and temperature, and also may run a preanesthetic blood panel. This blood work checks your pet for anemia, infection, dehydration, and organ dysfunction.

Step 2: We carefully formulate the best anesthetic protocol for your pet

Based on your pet’s preanesthetic exam, we determine the safest anesthetic drugs and the best pain control and sedation.

Step 3: We place an intravenous catheter in your pet

Before we administer any anesthesia to your pet, we place an intravenous (IV) catheter to ensure we can administer medications directly to their bloodstream in case of an emergency. We also administer IV fluids to maintain your pet’s blood pressure and help their organs flush out the anesthetic drugs.

Step 4: We administer a pre-medication cocktail to your pet

To help your pet relax, we administer a pre-medication cocktail containing a sedative and a pain medication to ensure your pet is pain-free and comfortable when surgery begins.

Step 5: Once your pet is sedate, we induce general anesthesia

After 10 to 15 minutes, your pet is likely sedate enough for us to induce general anesthesia, which makes them completely unconscious. This medication is typically a drug given through the IV catheter. Once your pet is unconscious, we place an endotracheal breathing tube that helps protect their airway and provides anesthetic gas and fresh oxygen.

Step 6: We hook up your pet to various monitoring equipment

To help us keep a close eye on your pet’s vital signs before, during, and after surgery, we use multiple monitoring devices. These machines tell us your pet’s heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, oxygen level, blood pressure, temperature, and more. Of course, no machine is as effective as the skilled veterinary technician monitoring your pet, but we take every extra step to ensure your beloved companion is safe. 

Step 7: We prep your pet for surgery

Next, we prep your pet for surgery by shaving the surgical area. In female pets, we shave a rectangle on their abdomen that reveals their umbilicus, or belly button, because the incision is made right below. In male dogs, we shave the area between the scrotum and penis, whereas in male cats, we pluck the hair on their testicles to prevent razor burn. Once the surgical area is hair-free, we scrub the skin with a surgical disinfectant.

Step 8: Our surgeon scrubs in for your pet’s procedure

While our surgical team preps your pet for surgery, our surgeon becomes sterile by scrubbing their hands with a disinfectant, and putting on a gown, glove, cap, and mask to minimize contamination. When the surgeon is ready, they drape your pet, leaving only a small opening where they make the incision, while keeping the rest of the area clean and sterile.

Step 9: Our surgeon makes the initial incision in your pet’s skin

To reach the underlying reproductive organs, our surgeon makes the initial incision in your pet’s skin, and then cuts through the underlying tissue layers. In female pets, this incision is made into the abdomen. In male dogs, one incision is made above the scrotum, whereas in male cats, two incisions are made in the scrotum.

Step 10: Our surgeon locates and then removes your pet’s reproductive organs

In female pets, the ovaries and uterus are removed. In male pets, the testicles are removed. Once our surgeon locates the reproductive organs, they ligate (i.e., tie off) your pet’s blood flow with suture, to prevent bleeding once the organs are removed. 

Step 11: After ensuring the ligatures look good, our surgeon closes your pet’s incision

After the surgeon ligates the blood supply to the reproductive organs, and excises and removes the organs, they check to ensure the ligatures are tight, with no bleeding. Once everything looks normal, they close your pet’s incision using sutures and tissue glue. However, male cats are an anomaly, and their incision is generally not closed with sutures or tissue glue, to prevent them from chewing at their incision. Cats heal quickly when the scrotum is left open.

Step 12: We will recover your pet from anesthesia

Once your pet’s procedure is completed, our team continues to carefully monitor them as they recover from anesthesia. Injectable anesthetic drugs can take hours to fully wear off, although your pet will start to become conscious and alert shortly after the anesthetic gas is turned off. We watch your pet for signs of pain, monitor their gum color, and keep a close eye on their heart and respiratory rates, and their temperature, to ensure they recover uneventfully.

Step 13: Your pet returns home to you

After your pet is fully conscious, alert, and can walk unaided, they return home under your watchful eye. You’ll have the hard part of keeping them calm and quiet as they heal from surgery—no licking the incision, roughhousing, running, or jumping until their incision is healed.

Unsure of the best time to have your furry pal spayed or neutered? If you still have questions about your pet’s spay or neuter procedure, our Southwest Vet team is here to help. Give us a call to discuss your questions.