Laparoscopic surgery has been around in human medicine for decades and is now being used more and more in the veterinary field. It holds many benefits over traditional methods of surgery, mainly a reduction in post-operative pain, quicker recovery times and is much less invasive.
Here at Folly Gardens, we have been employing laparoscopic surgical techniques for many years now, with keyhole bitch spays the most common of the procedures we can carry out. We are also able to perform laparoscopic-assisted biopsies, arthroscopies, cryptorchid castrations and abdominal explorations.
Spaying bitches prevents unwanted pregnancies and reduces the risk of developing mammary tumours and womb infections and is a very common procedure we perform most days at our clinics. Traditional methods of surgery involve a single, large abdominal incision to remove the uterus and ovaries and although it is a routine procedure, it is still classed as major surgery. By carrying out laparoscopic spaying, we can expect:
- Smaller wounds
- Reduced post-operative pain (studies have shown that keyhole surgery can reduce the level of pain experienced when neutering female dogs by up to 60% when compared with traditional methods)
- Faster recovery time following surgery – normally less than a week, compared with around 2 weeks for traditional methods.
For both forms of spaying, the dog is anaesthetised, and their abdomen clipped. However, rather than a single long wound being made to open the abdomen, an initial small incision of approximately 5mm is made close to the umbilicus.
Through this, the camera is inserted and the abdomen is inflated with a special medical gas. Two more 5 mm incisions are then made in the abdomen, through which the surgical instruments are inserted. The ovaries are located and using a special instrument which cauterises, seals then cuts, they are then removed through one of the small incisions.
Once we are happy that there is no bleeding and that both ovaries have been removed safely, the incisions are closed with dissolvable sutures.
It is worth noting that we are unable to offer the laparoscopic spay procedure to very small dogs (under 6kg) due to the lack of space in the abdomen for our instruments.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Will my dog be sore after the procedure?
Although keyhole surgery is less painful than conventional surgery, your dog may experience some mild discomfort. We routinely provide strong pain relief throughout the process, and will send them home with post-operative painkillers for the first few days. Most dogs will be back to their old selves again within a couple of days.
Q: Does my dog have to rest after the procedure?
Because the incisions are much smaller and no internal ligatures are used, there is less risk of post-operative complications compared to traditional methods. However, just to make absolutely sure of a smooth recovery, we advise that your dog is kept rested for the first few days afterwards. Usually, this will be no longer than 7-10 days, unless there are any concerns.
Q: Do I have to return to the surgery for check-ups?
We offer post-operative checks at 2 and 10 days as standard, however we are happy to see your pet at other times if you have any concerns.
Q: Does it cost more than a traditional spay operation?
Keyhole surgery requires more surgical expertise, different operating instruments, and more nursing assistance during the surgery. As a result, keyhole bitch spaying does cost more than a traditional spay operation. Please speak to one of the team for more information about our current fees.
Q: Do I have to be a regular client at Folly Gardens to receive keyhole bitch spaying?
We offer a referral service for other veterinary practices. This means that your local vet can refer you to us for the procedure, before handling the post-operative care themselves.
Q: Should I choose keyhole or conventional spaying?
We are happy to offer both methods of spaying as the decision is ultimately up to you as the owner. Keyhole spaying obviously comes with many benefits but if you are unsure of which is the best option for you and your pet, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Q: How can you see what you are doing through such a small hole?
We are able to display images from the laparoscopic camera on an 18″ medical display screen, meaning that all the structures are magnified and allowing a really clear view of what is being done. A powerful light is attached to the scope via fibre optic cable so illumination is superb at the surgical site.
Q: What happens if something bleeds during the operation?
Laparoscopic surgery does not rely on ligatures or stitches placed around the blood vessels to stop bleeding. Instead the vessels are heat sealed using high frequency electricity. This means there are no ligatures to loosen or slip. If a vessel does bleed, it is simply grasped again with the sealing forceps and resealed. Any bleeding vessels are much easier to see than in a conventional bitch spay. The excellent visibility achieved with keyhole means it is very easy to examine the cauterised vessels after they have been sealed. In the worst case, if there is unexpected bleeding that cannot be controlled, we may need to convert to a traditional ‘open’ spay for the safety of the your pet.
Q: If you are leaving the uterus behind is there an increased risk of pyometra (womb infection)?
No. If all the ovarian tissue is removed, there is no evidence that there is an increased risk of pyometra over conventional spaying. Removing the ovaries alone has been the standard procedure in mainland Europe for many years, including for non-keyhole spaying. In rare cases, if we find that the uterus appears abnormal during the keyhole spay, we may opt to remove it also, which may require making a larger incision.