All You Need to Know About Spay/Neuter Surgery

Answers by Dr. Elizabeth Lynch, staff veterinarian at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm

Spay and neuter surgeries are essential procedures for the health and well-being of our furry friends. If you’re curious about what happens during these surgeries, read on to find out more.

How are spay and neuter surgeries performed?

These sterilization procedures are performed under general anesthesia, ensuring that your pet is completely asleep and comfortable. For most surgeries, a breathing tube is inserted into the throat to assist with anesthesia. However, for male cat neuters, a face mask is used due to the surgery’s speed.

Before the surgery begins, your pet receives a shot of medication to help them relax and manage any pain. Throughout the procedure, their oxygen levels and heart rate are carefully monitored. Female dogs and cats are kept warm on a heating blanket during surgery, while male cats are placed on a heating blanket immediately after their surgery.

The surgical process involves making an incision in the appropriate area. Female animals undergo an incision below the belly button, through which the reproductive tract, ovaries, and uterus are completely removed. The incision is then closed with dissolvable stitches under the skin. Male dogs have an incision made at the base of the penis near the scrotum to remove both testicles. Male cats, on the other hand, have an incision made in the skin of the scrotum, and the testicles are removed. The incision in male cats will close on its own over time.

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How old does an animal have to be before they can be spayed or neutered?

Healthy dogs and cats can be sterilized as young as eight weeks, as long as they weigh over two pounds.

How long does the surgery take?

The duration of the surgery depends on the type of animal and their specific circumstances. A male cat neuter can be completed in under two minutes, while a male dog neuter generally takes five to twenty minutes. A female cat spay typically lasts fifteen to twenty minutes, taking into account her age and heat cycle. Female dog spays, on the other hand, can range from twenty minutes to ninety minutes or longer, depending on factors such as age, size, and whether or not she is in heat. Female animals in heat may require more time due to the fragility of their reproductive tracts and increased blood flow.

What’s the recovery like?

After the surgery, most cats recover quickly thanks to a reversible anesthetic shot. Within 10 to 20 minutes, they are awake and able to move around. Dogs may take a little longer, typically requiring 15 to 30 minutes for recovery. The duration of the recovery is influenced by the length of the surgery.

Are there any risks or complications?

While young and healthy animals have a low risk of complications, it can be challenging to keep them calm and quiet after the surgery. Older animals, as well as those in heat or with underlying health issues, have a higher risk and are more prone to complications. If your pet is on medication for a medical condition or you have any concerns about their health, be sure to inform the veterinary staff in advance, so they can provide appropriate care.

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Common post-operative complications include incision inflammation or infection, opening of the incision, fluid buildup and swelling under the skin, and bleeding. These complications can be exacerbated by the pet licking or chewing the incision, as well as not following the post-surgery instructions to keep the pet calm.

Is the surgery painful?

Just like humans, animals feel pain, and surgery is not entirely pain-free. However, modern pain management methods are employed to ensure that pets are as comfortable as possible throughout the process. Pain medication is administered before and after surgery to alleviate any discomfort.

For more information about spay/neuter surgery and the benefits it provides for your beloved pets, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.

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