What happens at a neutering clinic once everyone is checked in...

Step One:
Each pet is checked for signs that they may not be up for surgery at this time. Their weights are noted in the anesthetic log.

Step Two:
An anesthetic protocol is chosen for each pet. This is a combination of drugs that includes a sedative, a pain-killer and one or more anesthetics, some given by injection, some by inhalation. Dogs & cats usually receive different medications, and an older animal may get different drugs than a younger one.  Animals with more difficult surgeries (deep-chested dogs, overweight animals and certain breeds) are chosen to have their surgery first.

Step Three: When it is your pet's turn for surgery, her medications are administered - sometimes one at a time, sometimes in combinations. Under certain protocols, patients are intubated and hooked up to an anesthetic machine. Five to ten minutes later, your pet is sleeping peacefully, completely unaware of her surroundings.

Step Four: A surgical assistant puts a lubricating ointment in each animal's eyes to protect them during surgery. She then clips the hair off the abdomen, and the pet's bladder is gently expressed to empty it. Your pet is then positioned on the surgical table, on her back. Tamed iodine soap and alcohol are used to scrub the surgical site in a circular pattern, a minimum of three times.

Step Five: After opening up a sterile pack of surgical instruments, together with a suitably sized sterile suture pack & scalpel blade, the surgeon positions a sterile drape over the pet's abdomen, chest & legs, leaving an opening centrally. Towel clamps are utilized to hold it in place.
Step Six: An incision is made in the skin, roughly 3/4 inch for young cats who haven't had their first heats, an inch for cats who have, or larger for dogs or pregnant animals. A similar incision is made between the two major muscles of the abdomen.
Step Seven: A specialized instrument is used to locate the V-shaped uterus, which is then followed cranially on one side, then the other, until the ovaries are located. The blood supply to each ovary is tied off twice (once to do the job; the second time to be doubly sure no suture slippage could occur). This is especially important in obese animals, where the extra fatty tissue makes surgery much, much harder to accomplish smoothly.
Step Eight: The body of the uterus, where the 2 horns of the uterus meet, is also ligated with 2 separate sutures. The ovaries and uterus are then removed, leaving the cervix behind. The pictures above are of a young cat spay. The uterus of a dog is naturally much bigger and more covered with adipose tissue (fat).
Step Nine: The abdomen is checked for signs of hemorrhage (Note to those who think surgery is, by necessity, bloody: excess bleeding is rare unless an animal is in heat. Most surgeons will spay cats in heat. Most surgeons are understandably unwilling to spay dogs in heat for this reason.)

Step Ten: Three separate layers of sutures (body wall, subcutaneous tissue, and then skin) are carefully put in place.

Ta da! Time to wake up, princess!

A cat's uterus compared to a dog's uterus. Note the fat in the broad ligaments
(the filmy tissue attached to both uterine horns) of the dog, but not in the cat.

Now, for what often happens when a pet is NOT spayed...
mammary tumors
uterine infection
post-op, after 2 1/2 hours of surgery to save her life


Copyright 2011 - Safe Harbor Farm
P.O. Box 493, Maysville, NC 28555

Updated 10-31-13

Curious as to what happens when your pet gets spayed?

Read on...