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What is a Lap Spay and how do you do it?

Also known as a “keyhole spay” or “keyhole neutering”, this is is a form of surgery that doesn’t need a full size incision. It is becoming more and more popular as the advantages become better understood!

How does it differ from a normal spay?

A “normal” spay is technically called an “open ovariohysterectomy”. In this procedure, an incision is made along the bitch’s midline, usually 8-20cm long (depending on her body size). The surgeon vet can then look inside and using surgical instruments remove the uterus and both ovaries. The skin and muscle layers are then stitched up.

A Lap Spay is different in two ways. Firstly, instead of one very big incision, there are two small ones - usually about half a centimetre across, but maybe up to 1cm in very big dogs. The surgeon vet uses one of these to pass a camera so that they can see what they are doing, watching the procedure on a television screen; the other is for the special laparoscopic instruments. Using these, both of the bitch's ovaries are removed, but her uterus is usually left in place. The uterus can be removed via a third incision but this is usually unnecessary, and costs more. This procedure is called an “ovariectomy”. At the end, just as in the old-fashioned procedure, the incisions are closed - however, in most cases they are so small that they only need a single, internal, stitch in each one.

What are the advantages?

There are three massive advantages of a Lap Spay:

  • Smaller wounds - this means that there is a much lower chance of infection after surgery. It also means we don’t need to use external stitches - just a couple of internal sutures that will dissolve on their own and don’t need to be removed.
  • Less pain and discomfort after surgery. This cannot be underestimated - most bitches after the old-fashioned surgery are really quite uncomfortable for a few days; although we can manage this with painkillers, it’s much better to minimise it at the beginning! The smaller the hole and the neater the surgery (for example, cutting rather than tearing the ovarian ligament), the less painful it is for them.
  • Quicker recovery - the traditional approach involves cutting open the tendon (the “linea alba”) between the muscles that support the abdomen. This tendinous tissue takes a long time to heal. The Lap Spay leaves the body wall almost completely intact, except for two small gaps. As a result, dogs return to full fitness much faster - the rest period is only 2 days, as opposed to 2 weeks!

Overall, we see 50% fewer complications after a Lap Spay, and studies suggest a 65% reduction in pain and discomfort!

Are there any disadvantages?

With any surgery there are potential disadvantages - spaying, for example, increases the risk of weight gain, cruciate ligament injury, and (by a tiny fraction of a percent!) the risk of certain tumours. However, these risks are the same whichever procedure you have done.

If you’re leaving the uterus inside, isn’t there still a risk of a pyometra?

No - not at all. Pyometras can only happen because progesterone in the body triggers fluid to accumulate in the uterine wall, which then becomes infected. No ovaries = no progesterone = no pyometra.

What happens if something goes wrong?

In the (very rare) circumstance that there is an unexpected complication, our vets will immediately convert to an open procedure. We usually prep the abdomen for this, just in case (by clipping and scrubbing the belly as well as the normal instrument sites) - although we almost never have to use it!

Where can I get a Lap Spay done?

Here at Rushcliffe! 100% of our clients opt for a Lap Spay - give us a ring if you want to join them in choosing minimally invasive surgery for your dog. We have performed over 700 lap spays!

Rushcliffe Vets
Rushcliffe Vets
What is a Lap Spay and how do you do it?