Spaying and neutering – why it’s important and how we minimize anesthetic risk

By February 28, 2017 Uncategorized

Spaying (female) or neutering (male) your puppy or kitten is a sign of responsible pet ownership and provides numerous health and behavioral benefits. In Ontario alone, thousands of healthy unwanted pets are euthanized every year. Spaying and neutering helps reduce the stray pet population, thereby creating more space in shelters for unwanted, neglected or abused animals. The benefits of neutering include decreased marking behavior, decreased risk of prostatic disease and perianal tumours, and elimination of the risk of testicular cancer. Benefits of spaying include prevention of heat behavior and bleeding, pyometra (serious uterine infection) and a decreased risk of mammary tumors. In dogs, the risk of developing mammary tumours decreases to less than 0.5% if spayed before the first oestrus (heat). This risk jumps to 26% in dogs spayed after their second oestrus. Similarly, cats spayed before 6 months of age have a 91% reduction in the risk of developing mammary tumours.¹

As with any surgical procedure, spaying and neutering carries a degree of risk. Surgical complications associated with routine spays and neuters are generally minimal with appropriate technque. The greatest risk stems from the use of anesthetic drugs to provide appropriate conditions for surgery and the patient monitoring which occurs during this time. Currently, there are very few regulations regarding monitoring for veterinary anesthesia and many clinics are still using outdated techniques. Listed below are the various components which conistitute a safe protocol for spaying, neutering and other elective procedures.  Make sure to ask your veterinarian about the following precautions the next time your pet is scheduled for an anesthetic:

Surgical Services and Safety Precautions
Mountain Animal Hospital Surgery Low Cost Surgery
Blood work
  • Liver and kidney values, protein, blood sugar as well as CBC done at outside lab (More accurate).
  •  Performed about one week prior to surgery in case of abnormalities
  • Even in young animals, abnormalities are occasionally detected that can affect anaethesia (eg. liver shunt)
None or very little blood work possibly on day of surgery with in house lab (less accurate)
Physical Exam at Surgery Performed by veterinarian with owner present at drop off appointment Often admitted by technician.  Exam may be done by veterinarian or technician without owner present
IV Fluid Therapy
  • Done for every surgery and kept in all day
  • Helps maintain blood pressure and offers an excellent means of delivering pain medication and emergency drugs
Considered optional for time of surgery only
Body Temperature
  • Maintaining a normal body temperature allows your pet to metabolize drugs more efficiently and aids in recovery. We use:
    • Circulating hot water pad
    • IV line warmer
    • Oat Bags
    • Bair Hugger if needed
Often no body heating devices
Anesthetic Induction Always performed by a veterinarian (monitoring the heart during induction) Often performed by technician (administering anesthetic)
  • Blood pressure  (Doppler and Oscillometric)
  • ECG (heart waves and rate)
  • Inspired and expired CO2
  • Oxygen Saturation
  • Breathing
  • Body Temperature
May only monitor breathing (required by law)
Pain Management
  • Multimodal (more than one type of medication used)
  • Multiple injections of pain medicine starting before surgery and continued throughout the day
  • Anti-inflammatory pain medication given during surgery and sent home for 3 days post operatively
  • Local freezing to surgery site
Often one injection of anti-inflammatory medication only
Discharge Appointment Always performed by veterinarian Often performed by technician or receptionist
Follow Up Always called day after surgery Often never called


The following link to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association’s (OVMA) website provides further practical information on the importance of spaying and neutering your pets:


¹Argyle, David J, Malcolm J. Brearley and Michelle M. Turek, eds. Decision Making In Small Animal Oncology. Maiden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.