Minimally Invasive Surgery

Laparoscopic Spay

PicoSearch
Site Search by PicoSearch. Help

Article Written by Dr. Daniel A. Degner, Board-certified Veterinary Surgeon (DACVS)

Key Points

Laparoscopic spays have been shown to be 62% less painful versus traditional spay procedure

Smaller incision with laparoscopic spay means less risk for herniation of abdominal contents if the patient removes sutures prematurely

Faster return to normal activity with laparoscopic spaying


Introduction

Minimally invasive surgery has been used in man for years and has proven to be less painful, frequently being performed on an outpatient basis, decreased total cost to insurance companies or the patient, and returning the patient back to work sooner. Take for example a gall bladder removal...typically a patient would be off work for 6 weeks, but now with laparoscopic gall bladder removal, patients will only need to take a few days off work. Does this mean that animals should also have laparoscopic surgery? Based on a blinded study performed by Dr. Chad Devitt, laparoscopic spaying was found to be 62% less painful than traditional surgery in dogs. This fact alone is grounds for clients to want the best for their furry companions.

Laparoscopy is a procedure in which the surgeon only makes one or two small incisions in the abdomen. The first incision is utilized to insert a camera, which provides the surgeon for a view within the abdomen. the abdomen must be inflated with carbon dioxide, to allow the surgeon to have a "working space within the abdomen. If the surgeon utilizes an operating scope, instruments can be inserted down a channel within the telescope, thus avoiding an additional incision.

 

Candidates for laparoscopic spaying

With the advent of smaller telescopes, even dogs under 10 pounds can have laparoscopic surgery. Patients that have laparoscopic spaying should be healthy, which almost all of these patients fall in this category, as they are young. Preoperative blood work is typically performed to ensure that the pet is in good health to undergo anesthesia. In addition. the surgeon will perform a physical examination to rule out any other problems.

 

Preparation for surgery

Make sure that your pet is fasted, as instructed by your pet's surgical team. Water is usually permitted up to the time of admission to the hospital. Your pet's surgeon may prescribe an antacid such as Pepcid AC, which should be administered by 6 AM on the day of surgery; this treatment will help reduce the risk of esophagitis (heartburn) in the postop period. Inform the surgical team of any medications that your pet is currently receiving. Your pet should not receive any aspirin within 1 week of surgery, as this medication will thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding. Prior to surgery, your pet will receive a sedative, have an intravenous catheter placed for the administration of intravenous fluids and intravenous medications, be induced under general anesthesia with medication(s), and have a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) placed to allow delivery of oxygen and gaseous anesthesia. The surgical site will be clipped and cleansed with an anti-septic solution in preparation for surgery. While under general anesthesia, your pet's breathing will be assisted with a ventilator and vital parameters such as heart rate, respiratory rate, core body temperature, blood pressure, oxygenation of the blood (pulse oximetry), exhaled carbon dioxide (capnography), and heart rhythm (EKG) will be monitored to ensure your companion's well being. Pain will be controlled both during and after surgery with analgesics (pain-controlling medication).

 

Surgery

Laparoscopic spay can be done with either a single port (one small incision) or two incisions. I have performed lap spay using both methods and prefer the single port. Intuitively a single port should be less painful for the patient; however, one recent study indicated that the two port technique was less painful than the single port. I suspect that the investigators that compared the two techniques likely were more experienced with the double port surgery, thus the single port procedure might not have gone as smoothly....hence more pain.

The single port lap spay involves making a single small incision about 2 inches behind the belly button (umbilicus). A camera is inserted into the abdomen. Forceps are passed through the channel of the laparoscope and the ovary is grasped and pushed up to the body wall. A suture is passed through the skin and body wall and through the tissues surrounding the ovary, thus suspending the ovary and reproductive tract. The forceps is released from the ovary and the a cautery forceps is passed down the channel of the laparoscope. The tissues and blood vessels of the ovaries are cauterized with this instrument, thus freeing the ovary from the uterus. A grasping forceps is then used to pull the ovary out of the body via the port (see video below that depicts the description above).

 

 

Aftercare and expectations

To allow for a very smooth recovery at home, your pet should have a soft bed in a quiet room to encourage rest. Although laparoscopic spay results in much less pain than experienced with traditional surgery, the prescribed analgesic medication(s) should be administered for a day or two. About half of a normal meal should be fed after your pet gets settled at home. Do not allow consumption of excessive amounts of water the evening after surgery (or vomiting likely will ensue). If your pet does not eat the regular diet, offer a cooked meal consisting of a 50:50 mixture of lean meat and a carbohydrate source such as rice, potato, or pasta. During the first evening, walk your dog outdoors three times for elimination purposes; your pet may need to urinate more than normal, as intravenous fluid were administered during the procedure (note: a full bladder can may your pet whine and seem in pain). Bowel movements might not be seen for a day or two after surgery. Do not allow your pet to lick the incision. Check the incision daily for signs of infection. Schedule an appointment to return to the surgeon two weeks after surgery for another evaluation of the healing process.

 

Prognosis

The prognosis following laparoscopic spay is typically excellent with an uneventful recovery. Frequently the laparoscopic spay involves only removal of the ovaries, as this procedure is faster and less traumatic to the patient versus removal of the ovaries and the uterus. Research studies have not found any ill effects when the uterus is not removed. Medications that contain progesterone or progesterone-like substances should be avoided, as they could cause and infection in the remaining uterus (pyometra).

Frequently Asked Questions After Surgery

When should my dog have the first bowel movement after surgery?

  • Many dogs will not have a bowel movement for the first 4 to 5 days after surgery
  • Reasons that a dog will not have regular bowel movements after surgery include:
    • The dog has been fasted prior to surgery
    • Dogs do not eat well during the hospital stay
    • They frequently do not eat well when they go home
    • They are fed highly digestible food that produces little stool
    • Pain medication that contain narcotics (such as morphine, fentanyl patches, and tramadol) can be constipating
  • If a pet does not have a bowel movement on the 5th day of being home, a stool softener such as metamucil can be fed
    • Dose of metamucil is 1 tsp per 25 Kg mixed in with each meal (canned dog food); feed immediately after mixing, as the metamucil will gel the food and may make it less palatable

My pet had surgery and will not eat.  What can be done?

  • Dogs
    • Most pets will not eat their regular dog food after surgery, especially if it is kibble.
    • Offer a cooked diet having a 1:1 ratio of a protein source and carbohydrate source.  The protein source can be any meat (example: chicken breast, turkey breast, lean hamburger) that is low in fat and should be cooked (drain off all fat after the meat has been cooked).   The carbohydrate can be pasta, potato or white rice.
    • Try canned dog food; to enhance the flavor sprinkle a very small amount of garlic powder or chicken or beef broth (Chicken-in-a- MugTM or Beef-in-a-MugTM products)
    • Try Gerber strained meats for babies such as the chicken, beef, turkey, or veal
    • Try Hill's A/D diet available at most veterinary hospitals
    • Hand feeding: place a small amount of food in the mouth so that your dog gets the flavor
    • Warm the food slightly in a microwave, as the food will be more aromatic; stir the food before feeding and test the temperature on the bottom side of your wrist; it should only be luke warm.
    • Remember that most pets will not eat the first day or two after they get home from surgery
  • Cats
    • Offer smelly foods that contain fish such as tuna or smelly cat foods
    • Try Gerber strained meats for babies such as the chicken, beef, turkey or veal
    • Hand feeding:  with your finger place a small amount of food on the roof of your cat's mouth; use a syringe to get soft food into the mouth
    • Warm the food slightly in a microwave as the food will be more aromatic; remember to stir the food before feeding and test the temperature; it should be only luke-warm
    • Some cats will only eat dry food, try kibble if your cat normally has been fed that food
    • Petting and stroking your cat frequently will help to stimulate appetite
    • Remember that most pets will not eat the first day or two after they get home from surgery
    • Appetite stimulants such as cyproheptadine may be helpful
    • If your cat refuses to eat anything for 7 days a stomach tube or nasogastric tube should be placed to provide nutrition so that a serious liver problem (hepatic lipidosis) does not develop

My pet is vomiting.  What can be done?

  • The first thing for you to discern is whether your pet is vomiting or regurgitating.  Both will result in fluid or food being brought up.  Vomiting always will have heaving or retching of the abdomen prior to expulsion of the vomitus.  Regurgitation is not associated with heaving and the pet usually just opens the mouth and fluid or food will be expelled.  Usually the regurgited material will be clear or brown colored fluid. 
  • Next is to identify the cause of the vomiting or regurgitation.
  • Causes and treatment of vomiting after surgery
    • When some pets return home after a stay in the hospital they may drink excessive amounts of water at one time and then vomit; if this appears to be the case, the water should be limited to frequent smaller amounts.
    • Medications such as antibiotics, narcotics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication commonly cause vomiting after surgery.  In order to see which medication is causing the problem, the administration of each drug should be separated 2 hours apart.  Usually the pet will vomit or appear nauseated (drooling and sick look) within 1 hour of administration of the medication that they are sensitive to.  The antibiotic in some cases may be changed to a different one, or may be discontinued. 
    • Stomach upset from anesthesia is a potential cause of vomiting and will pass within a couple of days. 
    • An uncommon cause of vomiting after surgery is internal organ failure.  Blood testing will confirm this problem. For this reason vomiting should not be ignored if it persists for more than 24 hours.
    • If your pet had surgery of the bowels or stomach, vomiting is always a concern, as it may indicate that infection of the abdominal cavity, called peritonitis, is present.  Do not ignore this sign.
    • Symptomatic treatment of vomiting involves withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, then introducing small amounts of bland food such as rice and lean cooked hamburger, if your pet does not vomit after that then gradually wean him/her back onto the regular diet after 3 days.  In order to decrease the acidity of the stomach, Pepcid AC 0.5 mg/kg can be given by mouth twice daily for 5 days.  Metoclopramide and Cerenia are good anti-vomiting medications for dogs and cats.  You should always consult a veterinary healthcare professional before administering medication.
  • Causes and treatment of regurgitation after surgery
    • The most common cause of regurgitation is reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus while your pet is under anesthesia.  Acidic fluid from the stomach can cause a chemical burn of the esophagus and result in a bad case of heart burn, called esophagitis.  This results in poor motility of the esophagus, therefore water and food will accumulate in this structure.  In most cases, esphagitis is self-eliminating and will resolve within two or three days. 
    • If the esophagitis is severe the esophagus may develop one or more strictures.  A stricture is a narrowing or stenosis of the esophagus and does not allow passage of food down the esophagus, in regurgitation that lasts longer than one week.  This problem should be brought to the attention of your pet's doctor within the first two weeks so that it can be treated by ballooning the stricture (minimally invasive procedure, as it is done with the aide of an endoscope).  If an esophageal stricture is chronic surgery is needed.
    • Symptomatic treatment of regurgitation caused by esophagitis includes feeding bland food, and administering a coating agent (sucralfate) and an acid blocker (omeprazole or other).  Consult a veterinary health care professional if the regurgitation continues for more than a couple of days.

How do I know that my dog is in pain following surgery?

  • Signs of pain include
    • crying
    • biting if you get near the surgical site
    • grimacing (lips are pulled back and the the dog looks anxious)
    • tragic facial expression
    • panting
    • restlessness and unable to sleep; pacing
    • if abdominal surgery was done the pet will not lie down on the incision, or will continually sit up in spite of appearing very tired
    • the worst pain will be for the first 2 to 3 days after surgery

What can I do to control my dog's pain?

  • Narcotic medications that control pain: tramadol, butorphanol, Duragesic (fentanyl patch)
  • Anti-inflammatories used to control pain: Deramaxx, Rimadyl, Previcox, or Etogesic
  • If an orthopedic surgery has been done cold packing the surgical site may be helpful
    • A cold pack may be a pack of frozen peas, crushed ice in a Ziploc bag, or a cold gel pack; place a thin barrier between the skin and the cold pack.  An alternative to a cold pack is to freeze water in a styrofoam cup; after frozen cut the bottom of the styrofoam cup out. Cool the surgical site around the incision by rubbing the exposed ice directly on the skin in a circular pattern.  Cooling the surgical site helps to numb the area.

How do I know that my cat is in pain following surgery?

  • Pain is more difficult to assess in cats versus dogs, as signs can be more subtle and they usually do not vocalize when in pain
  • Signs of pain in a cat include the following:
    • biting if you get near the surgical site
    • growling or deep cry
    • not wanting to eat
    • hiding and not wanting to be near owner (remember that this could also be caused by the cat just being upset about leaving home and coming back)

What can be done for pain at home for my cat?

  • Pain medication such as buprenorphine or a Duragesic (fentanyl) patch
  • Tylenol will kill a cat as they lack abundant glutathione enzyme in the liver
  • Anti-inflammatories can be used, but the dose is much less than dogs

Is it okay for my pet to lick the incision?

  • If a dog licks the incision, the healing process may be delayed.
  • Licking can remove stitches and cause the incision to open
  • Licking can become a severe habit that is difficult to break
  • Licking can cause infection as the mouth has many bacteria
  • Dogs will frequently lick the incision when the owner is not watching such as at night time; if the skin looks red or excoriated the most common cause is from licking.
  • To stop your pet from licking the following can be tried:
    • Elizabethan collar can be placed on the neck; this will not help stop your pet from scratching at the region
    • Cervical collar (bite not collar) is a less awkward device and can be effective at stopping a pet from licking the surgical site
    • A tee shirt can be used to cover an incision on the chest or front part of the abdomen; gather the waist of the shirt up over the dog's back and wrap an elastic band around this part of the shirt.
    • A bandage or sock can be used to cover an incision on a limb; fasten the top of the sock to the dog's limb with tape.
    • Bitter apple can be applied around the incision; many dogs will continue to lick  after application of this topical
    • Bitter Apple and Liquid HeetTM (obtain this from a drugstore...it is used for sore muscles) mixed in a 2:1 ratio can be applied around the skin incision
    • Antipsychotic medication in some cases is needed

Board-certification by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons

What does it mean?

  • Four years of advanced training in surgery beyond the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree

  • Experience in the development of new surgical treatments

  • Rigorous examination by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons to ensure competency in advanced surgical techniques

  • Assurance that a veterinarian is a surgical specialist

All information on this web site is copyright © 2004 Vet Surgery Central Inc. VCS Inc. will not be held liable for any information on this site that may be used for or against medical litigation.