Neutering bitches is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures carried out by vets. Most owners of female dogs opt to have them spayed (neutered) when they are young and prior to their first season (or heat). Apart from preventing unwanted pregnancies other advantages to early neutering include reduced incidence of mammary cancer, ovarian cancer and womb infections.
Normally carried out on a day patient basis the traditional procedure of spaying bitches involves making a large midline incision into the abdominal cavity so that the ovaries and uterus can be identified and removed. Due to a larger surgical insult and longer anaesthetic time recovery can be more prolonged with a greater degree of post operative discomfort experienced by the patient.
Laparoscopic spaying is a form of keyhole surgery whereby only two small incisions are made on the abdomen of the dog to allow small diameter instruments to be introduced into the abdominal cavity through laparoscopy ports to perform the surgery. These incisions are only small; typically 5-6mm in length and require only one or two sutures. External sutures are often not required. This keyhole method involves removal of both the ovaries only compared with the conventional approach whereby the uterus (womb) is also removed, however, this normally causes no issues.
The keyhole procedure causes less surgical trauma to the patient and is generally a quicker procedure to do. Often only a few sutures are required and recovery periods tend to be much quicker and with less pain.
The equipment and expertise required to perform this procedure does mean that it costs a bit more to do but overall the benefit to the dog seems well worth it.
In rare cases there is a possibility that during the procedure a change to the conventional approach has to be adopted either because the ovaries cannot be found with the laparoscope (camera) or bleeding occurs that cannot be controlled laparoscopically.
Another useful application of laparoscopy is exploration of the abdomen and organ biopsy in patients with intra abdominal disease. The laparoscope allows us to visualise the abdominal organs directly and assess them for signs of disease. Should abnormalities be seen we can take biopsies of the diseased tissues under direct laparoscopic guidance. The management of many diseases affecting the abdominal organs relies heavily on a definite diagnosis. This can only be achieved through biopsy of the affected tissue. Laparoscopic guided organ biopsy is a minimally invasive way of achieving a definitive diagnosis in many of these patients. Treatment plans can then be tailor made. Again, short anaesthetics and minimal surgical damage allows for speedier and less painful recoveries.
This procedure is indicated in large or giant deep chested breed of dog at risk of Gastic Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV or twisted stomach) This preventative procedure can be carried out when bitches are spayed or as a sole procedure in male dogs. It involves fixing the stomach to the inside of the abdominal wall, thus “anchoring” the stomach in place and preventing it twisting during the dogs life.
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