Feline Spay, Neuter, and Declaw Process

At our Amarillo vet hospital, we do our best to prevent problems by carefully assessing each patient prior to anesthesia, during surgery, and in post-op recovery. Our precautions were carefully considered and do require more equipment, time, and nursing care to provide. Here is an explanation of the extra care your pet receives when you choose Noah’s Ark Pet Hospital for your pet’s elective surgery.

Before Your Appointment Before you arrive, we ask you to restrict your pet’s food after midnight prior to the surgery but keep water available. This is so your pet has been fasted, which minimizes stomach upset and gives the most reliable results on pre-anesthetic blood chemistry tests. Letting your pet drink up to appointment time helps ensure she doesn’t come dehydrated. You may also have been asked to give medication at home in a few bites of food if your pet has shown signs of fear, anxiety, or stress in unfamiliar places or at the vet.

When You Arrive You will be asked to arrive prior to listed business hours, so you and your pet get our full attention. The phones will not be ringing, and you will be asked to fill out an anesthesia consent form that includes your preferred contact phone numbers, what procedures you want completed, any medication your pet is currently taking, any previous anesthesia history (especially if your pet has ever had difficulty), and any other concerns or questions you have for the doctor. A member of our nursing staff will be available to answer questions or explain anything you don’t understand.

Preliminary Exam and Blood Tests Your pet will then proceed to our treatment area where they will be weighed and a pre-surgical examination that includes temperature, pulse and respiration will be conducted. Our highly trained staff will then draw some blood for analysis prior to anesthesia. A complete blood count and serum chemistry panel is then shown to the doctor and if any abnormalities are found you will receive a call explaining the abnormal value and how the doctor wishes to proceed.

Some things that could be found on blood work that may postpone your pet’s surgery are not enough blood platelets necessary for clotting, elevated white blood cell counts which may indicate your pet is fighting an infection you may not know about, elevated BUN or creatinine which may be due to a kidney problem, low red blood cell numbers (anemia), low albumin, or abnormal electrolyte values. Things we sometimes find on physical exam that may postpone surgery are heart murmurs, fever, breathing difficulties, pale gums, or slow capillary refill times. Since spays, neuters and declaws are not generally emergencies, if we find something is off, we will let you know and offer our diagnostic and therapeutic recommendations to get your pet back to good health, so we can safely proceed to surgery a few weeks later.

Pain Relief Prior to Anesthesia When your pet’s blood work has been approved, he will be given medication by injection to prevent inflammation and pain and to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. We give these prior to anesthesia because the best way to handle pain is to stop it before it starts. We all know that surgery causes pain, but did you know we use three medications because they each work on a different pain pathway and by combining them we use LESS of each drug and improve safety and pain control?

Starting Anesthesia Once your pet is relaxed, an IV catheter is placed in a front leg, so we can safely administer medication to start the anesthesia and give a warmed, balanced electrolyte solution during the procedure. This helps keep your pet hydrated and her blood pressure in a safe range for good kidney function. After your pet is asleep, we place an endotracheal tube in the windpipe to provide oxygen and inhalant anesthetic medicine which keeps your pet asleep during the operation. This tube also protects her airway in case of esophageal reflux or vomiting during surgery and recovery. The tube is removed, after surgery while in the recovery area, only after she shows she can control her airway, usually by coughing, licking, or trying to sit up.

Maintaining and Monitoring Anesthesia Your pet is also placed on or covered with a warm air blanket called a Bair Hugger throughout anesthesia to maintain core body temperature which tends to drop quickly in small patients due to low body mass relative to surface area. Low body temperature decreases the anesthetic required and can lead to excessive sedation and slow recovery.

 We also continuously monitor heart rate, blood oxygen levels, body temperature and respiration during the surgical site preparation and the operation. Your pet has a member of our nursing staff specifically dedicated to watching and recording your pet’s vitals, including pulse and other reflexes indicate the depth of anesthesia during the surgery. Our technician adjusts the anesthetic as needed to maintain strong vitals and ensure a painless operation.

Preparing the Surgical Area Surgical site preparation includes clipping the hair for abdominal procedures, cleaning the surgical site three times with chlorhexidine scrub, and “painting” or soaking the site with yellow, antiseptic betadine solution. All these steps ensure that harmful bacteria are removed and will not be introduced into the incision and surgical site. Our surgeon also scrubs his hands with chlorhexidine before operating and wears sterile gloves while placing sterile drapes around the incision site and during the operation. For cat declaws, Dr. Pearson places a long-acting (72 hours) local anesthetic at this stage, which should keep your feline friend’s feet comfortable for three days after surgery.

Closing the Incision Dr. Pearson is an adept surgeon, and he closes most incisions in a two-layer fashion with absorbable suture material. The stitches for the skin are placed internally, so there isn’t something sticking out for your pet to lick, chew, or pull on. This technique also leads to minimal or no noticeable scarring and your pet doesn’t have to return for removal of stitches.

For cat declawing surgery, Dr. Pearson uses a surgical glue or tissue adhesive which falls away over the next two weeks. This closure seems to be the most comfortable for cat feet and least likely to result in licking or chewing of the paws post-op. Since your cat will have to use his feet immediately after surgery, we do keep your kitty overnight to be certain that there is no bleeding from the toes before he goes home.

Waking Up and Going Home Your pet is watched throughout the remainder of the day during recovery. This means our nursing staff is stationed across from your furry companion and she is not hidden away from view. Our staff will contact you after surgery to let you know how the surgery went and when Dr. Pearson expects your pet will be ready to go home. All surgery patients go home with written post-operative care instructions and pain reliever to be given at home. Keeping your patient comfortable helps her heal quickly! It does mean you have to do a little work to manage your pet’s activity level, but the reward is a fast return to normal for you and your pet. If you have any questions after you get home, don’t forget you can use our clinic app to send photos, questions, or comments at any time.


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