Desexing – the operation

Preparation for surgery

Animals scheduled to be desexed should be confined by their owners the night before – you would be surprised how many cats ‘disappear’ on the day they’re due to go to the vet! Give them their evening meal, but take away their food at 8.00pm. Leave water with them, but remove it first thing in the morning.

Your pet will be admitted between 8.00am and 10.00am on the morning of their surgery. Allow 10-15 minutes to complete the paperwork for the admission process. We recommend that all animals undergoing anaesthesia have some blood tests performed beforehand. Our in-house lab allows that to be done in under 15 minutes. These tests allow us to “expect the unexpected”. It is rare to find anything wrong in young animals, but we have detected congenital liver and kidney disease in some animals as young as 3 months.

Once your pet has been admitted, an intravenous catheter will be placed in the front leg (this is the shaved area you will see when you take your pet home). If required blood will be collected at that time and blood tests run through. After interpreting the blood results, the veterinarian will give your pet a physical examination to confirm his/her health, and then administer a combination of a sedative and a painkiller. Research has proved that pain relief works best if given before any painful procedure is performed.

Once your pet is heavily sedated and relaxed, an intravenous anaesthetic is administered via the IV catheter. When anaesthetised, your pet is intubated (a tube is placed in his/her trachea) and attached to an anaesthetic machine that delivers oxygen and isoflurane, an anaesthetic gas. Your pet is also started on intravenous fluids. (These fluids contain a mixture of painkillers that are infused at a constant rate throughout the procedure. The fluids also maintain your pet’s blood pressure while anaesthetised.)

The surgical area is then clipped, cleaned and sterilised while the vet is scrubbing up. Your pet is also attached to a pulse oximeter – a machine that gives a constant reading on pulse rate and blood oxygen concentrations – and a respiratory monitor that ‘beeps’ with every breath. Your pet’s blood pressure is monitored throughout the procedure by use of a Doppler Ultrasound. Most importantly, a trained vet nurse is constantly with your pet, overseeing the monitors and ensuring your pet’s safety.

The surgery itself

Once everything is ready to start the surgery, the veterinarian covers the surgical area with sterile drapes and opens a sterile instrument kit. Speying is a complete ovariohysterectomy; the surgeon opens the abdomen and locates the uterus and both ovaries. The ligament and blood vessels between the ovaries and the kidneys are clamped and ligated (tied off). The base of the uterus is then similarly clamped and ligated. The entire uterus and both ovaries are then removed. The abdomen is then closed with 3 layers of sutures – one in the muscle, the next in the fat under the skin, and then the skin itself.

Castration of dogs is performed by removing both testicles through a small incision just in front of the scrotum. The entire testicle is clamped, ligated and removed – it is not a vasectomy! Once the testicles have been removed, the skin and subcutaneous fat are closed with 2 layers of sutures. Cats are done slightly differently – a small incision is made over each testicle, the testicle is removed and then the skin incision is left open to heal.

After the surgery

Once the surgeon has finished closing the skin, the anaesthetic gas is turned off. (Your pet remains on oxygen and fluids until nearly awake.) While still anaesthetised your pet is tattooed in the left ear with a circle with a line through it. (This tattoo is recognised all over Australia as a symbol of a desexed animal.) Another painkilling injection is administered – this one lasts for 24 hours. So your pet has received pain relief before, during and after the surgery.

Before your pet recovers consciousness an Elizabethan collar (a ‘bucket’) is placed over his/her head to prevent him/her chewing at the skin sutures or licking the wound. (Male cats do not need a collar, as they rarely bother their wound.) Contrary to popular belief, a dog licking its wound does not speed recovery – it simply infects the wound and can lead to wound breakdown.

Once your pet’s surgery is complete, one of our staff will call to let you know that all is well. Your pet will usually be ready to go home between 4.00pm and 6.00pm the same day. If we feel your pet is not ready to go home for any reason, we will call you again.

At home

Once your pet is home they can usually eat a small meal. They should be kept quiet and rested for a few days, and should not go for any walks or runs till the sutures are removed – no matter how good they feel! You will be given written discharge instructions that lists possible complications. If you see any problems developing at all, contact the Surgery immedately.

Our goal is to make desexing as safe and pain-free as possible. We find that the techniques we currently use give us our best results – we rarely find pets are frightened to come back to the Surgery after desexing – a common experience in clinics that do not use as much pain relief and fluid therapy.

Desexings are performed on weekdays only. We need appointments to be made in advance – this can be done simply by calling the Surgery during normal business hours. Our staff will be more than happy to give you an estimate of the costs at that time – fees are determined by whether your pet is a dog or cat, male or female, young or older, fat or thin, pregnant or not pregnant, in season or not.