We see a lot of animals come through our doors, most of which are intact (having the ability to reproduce). All cats, dogs and rabbits that CHS adopts out are spayed or neutered which are surgeries that are done in the shelter’s spay/neuter clinic before moving to adoption. There is a lot involved in getting a large volume of animals through surgery safely and efficiently.
Once an animal is cleared medically and okay to move to adoptions their surgery date is booked. At the CHS, about 13-16 animals will have surgery in one day. This does not only include spays and neuters, but dentals and specialized surgeries are performed at the shelter as well. These procedures are completed by a team of at least two Veterinarians and two Animal Health Technologists (AHT).
Surgery paperwork is made up the night before for each animal booked with anesthetic protocol, monitoring charts and medical history. Animals in shelter are then tagged and fasted. Fasting is important as it eliminates the risk of inhaling food matter under anesthetic.
The next morning, Animal Care staff will move all tagged animals into our recovery kennels. An AHT will make sure that animals who are booked for surgery are present along with their paperwork. Veterinarians will look at each animal to make sure they are healthy before receiving anesthetic.
It takes about 20 minutes for the injected sedation to take effect. After the animal is sleepy, the AHT will either use an intravenous injection or inhalant anesthetic to get the animal fully under. They will then insert an endotracheal tube into the trachea and maintain with an oxygen and gas anesthetic mix. The AHT is trained to keep them in the perfect balance of anesthesia. Too little and they will wake up, too much and it may result in an overdose.
Before bringing the animal to the Veterinarian, the AHT will clip nails, inject a microchip between the shoulder blades, tattoo their individual number into their right ear and perform any other task that is required (ie. ear cleans, grooming, etc.). The area where surgery is performed is closely shaved and cleaned with anti-bacterial soap and alcohol. Now the animal is ready for the Veterinarian to complete the surgery!
For male animals, a neuter involves removing the testicles from the scrotum. For female animals, a spay involves removing the ovaries and uterus from inside the abdomen. The surgeon will work with sterile equipment, gloves and gowns to prevent infection. The full procedure lasts 5 to 45 minutes depending on what is being done. Afterwards, the flow of inhalant anesthetic is turned off and the animal slowly starts waking up. Recovery is a critical stage of anesthesia and animals are closely monitored. At this point, the next animal has been made ready for the Veterinarian and is moved onto the table. This process is repeated until all scheduled animals have had their surgery. They then recover for the afternoon in their kennels as the drugs administered will make them uncoordinated and drowsy. By 4 p.m. they are ready to be moved out of surgery or picked up by their adopter.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into spaying and neutering animals even though it is a routine surgery. It takes a lot of work and time but it decreases pet overpopulation and increases adoptability for our animals. This helps CHS achieve our ultimate goal of helping as many animals as we can.
- Jasmin Mostaghel, Calgary Humane RAHT