They may only have been a part of your family for a few short months, but they have already wiggled their way into your heart. Perhaps it is their endearing cuteness or mischievous nature, but puppies and kittens tend to effortlessly acquire all of your love and devotion. That’s why it makes sense that you would want only the best for them when it comes time for their spay or neuter procedure.

It is completely natural to have concerns about the care your new family member gets during the surgery. Even though these procedures are often viewed as routine, expertise and careful planning are just as critical as ever. This is certainly not the time to be cutting corners. Just like any other treatment this experience should be tailored to your pet’s individual needs. Depending on sex, breed and size, everything from the type of medications used to the age at which the surgery is recommended may vary. The veterinarians at West Park Animal Hospital will collaborate with you to ensure your pet gets they care they deserve every step of the way. Below are some of the measures we take to make sure this is exactly what happens.

This bloodwork shows our doctors information on your pet’s liver and kidney function as well as red and white blood cell counts and their ability to stop bleeding in a normal time frame. This is important in both young and senior pets and allows our doctors to create a tailor-made anesthesia plan for each individual patient. Without bloodwork a doctor may not be able to detect disease that can impact how your pet tolerates anesthesia. By checking these organ systems with bloodwork, our doctors can minimize this risk.
The morning of the surgery, your pet will get a nose-to-tail exam by our surgery doctor. This helps us to catch any major changes that may have occurred since their last visit that would affect how they tolerate anesthesia.

Shortly before your pet’s surgery begins, they are given an injection of medication to help them relax, manage any pain they might experience during surgery and allow a lower dose of anesthesia to be used during the surgery itself.  Pets that do not receive this may feel anxiety when first receiving anesthesia and often require a higher dose of anesthesia during the surgery leading to longer recovery times and higher risk of complications.

Like humans, many pets may experience some nausea from the medications used to control pain and provide anesthesia. That nausea can make for an unpleasant experience for our four-legged family members and even prolonged recovery times. Each pet is given an injection prior to anesthesia to help alleviate nausea they may experience.

Placement of an IV catheter is done prior to giving anesthesia.  This allows our doctors and anesthesia nurses to quickly administer any medications that your pet might need during the procedure.  It also allows fluids to be administered during anesthesia to help maintain good hydration and blood pressure, protecting the kidneys, liver and other organs. We consider placement of a catheter to be essential for all anesthetic procedures as it allows our doctors to administer potentially life-saving medications during anesthesia. Without this catheter that administration becomes much more difficult in the moments that are most vital. Additionally, without IV fluids, the risk of low blood pressure goes up. This can lead to further problems with the kidneys after the procedure. All of patients get fluids during and after surgery to help maintain this blood pressure.

Anesthesia is administered in two forms.  First, each pet is given an injection of anesthesia.  This works very quickly and creates less stress than using gas anesthesia alone.  Then gas anesthesia is provided through highly specialized equipment and regulated closely to give just enough to keep your pet asleep and comfortable during the procedure. Each pet is also intubated, which means that a breathing tube is placed. This helps protect the airway and allows us to breathe for the patient.

Every neuter and spay surgery are completed by one of our experienced doctors.  Full measures are taken to ensure sterility of the surgery including using steam sterilized instruments for every patient and complete sterile covering including caps, masks, full gowns and sterile gloves. Our operating room is closed off from the rest of the hospital, and access is limited to those wearing caps and masks. Without these sterile procedures the risk of infection goes up which can lead to further pain and disease for your pet. These extra steps are some of the most commonly skipped in veterinary practice and can lead to some of the most severe surgical complications. If done correctly, a neuter or spay should not require your pet to be on antibiotics after the procedure.

Every veterinary hospital monitors differently during anesthesia, but here are all of the important parameters we closely watch while your pet is under anesthesia.
        –ECG:  This detects heart rate and rhythm and allows us to catch changes before the heart rate drops dangerously low or abnormal heart rhythms compromise blood flow.
        –Oxygen: Also known as SPO2. This, along with respiratory rate, lets us know your pet is getting plenty of oxygen to keep their heart and all of their other important organs functioning normally.
        –Blood Pressure: Anesthesia has the potential to lower blood pressure greatly, especially when higher doses are needed when pain is not adequately controlled.  It is critical to monitor this as blood pressure that drops too low for too long can cause permanent damage to organs like the kidneys that may show up months or years down the road.
        –Temperature:  Special warming blankets and fluid warmers are used on every pet during anesthesia, but closely monitoring temperature is quite important to make sure your pet is not getting too cold due to their slower metabolism while under anesthesia.
        –Capnograph: This extra form of monitoring helps the veterinarian keep track of how much carbon dioxide is being expelled, retained or breathed back in for every patient. It can also offer some insight into breathing patterns while our patients are under anesthesia. Subtle changes can alert the doctor early to problems that may lead to respiratory distress or tissue damage and help the doctor correct an issue before it even arises.

In order to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible, an injection to help control pain and inflammation is given immediately following the surgery.  This pain injection often lasts for 24 hours and works together with the pre-surgical pain medication to help them have a smooth, peaceful recovery from surgery.  An additional benefit is that your pet does not have to take any oral medication the night of the surgery.

Once home, your pet will greatly appreciate having consistent pain control for the week following surgery. While most of these guys bounce back quickly, prolonged pain or inflammation can slow healing and is not something any of us want our four-legged family members to experience.