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Ovariohysterectomy (spay):
Procedure, risks and aftercare instructions

Kathryn C. Linden DVM

Procedure: Your pet will be given an injection of a mild sedative and pain medication about 30 minutes prior to the procedure. Anesthesia is induced with an intravenous injection (intramuscular for cats) of an anesthetic which allows the placement of an endotracheal tube through which gas anesthesia is administered.

The abdomen is clipped and surgically prepped. A small incision is made in about the center of the abdomen. The major vessels are ligated (tied off) and the ovaries and uterus are removed. The abdomen is closed with 2-3 layers of sutures. Internal sutures are used so nothing needs to be removed later. Absorbable suture materials are used which will slowly dissolve over a few months time. The pet is monitored by an assistant (heart, respiratory rate and mucous membrane color), as well as monitoring equipment (temperature, heart & respiratory rate and blood oxygen saturation), throughout the procedure and postoperatively until they are awake enough to extubate.

Risks: Any surgical procedure and/or anesthetic episode carries risks. We do several things to reduce these risks: use of safest drugs available, heated surgery table (hypothermia is a common cause of anesthetic complications in small animals), close monitoring, etc. However, even with the strictest care, risk of complications, up to and including death, still exist. Of course the benefits of spaying far outweigh these risks.

Preanesthetic bloodwork is another important way that anesthetic risks can be reduced. Anesthetic drugs are processed by the kidneys and liver. Any disease process in either of these will affect the animal’s ability to process the drug and therefore wake up. Apparently healthy animals, including juveniles, can have underlying disorders that can only be detected with diagnostic testing. This is available even on the day of surgery so let us know if you would like this done.

Aftercare instructions: Your pet will probably be a little groggy and a little sore the evening after surgery. Anesthetic drugs can cause some stomach upset so she may not feel like eating right away but you can offer a small amount of food. Water is ok as long as she is holding it down. Please contact us if her attitude and appetite are not returning to normal in 24-48 hours. Also let us know of any vomiting or diarrhea that persists longer than this time as well.

Check the incision daily. Some swelling of the incision area is normal and will often last several days to a couple of weeks. Contact us if you see any discharge, the area becomes red or hot to the touch. Monitor for licking of the incision. If seen, call for an “Elizabethan” collar or pick one up at PetsMart or Petco. Make sure the collar extends beyond the nose or she may be able to reach the incision despite the collar.

Please do not bathe or allow swimming for 10-14 days after surgery.

Above all, call if you have any concerns. Recheck exams after surgery are free so please schedule an appointment if there is any doubt that your pet is recovering normally.


- Kathryn C. Linden DVM
Sun Lakes Animal Clinic
June 1,2004



"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
- Anatole France, 1921 Nobel Prize Speech -


Titlebar Image: The Gentle Doctor, 1937-38 by Christian Peterson (U84.179) - Iowa State University