Least traumatic way to spay a dog?
March 29, 2013 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I recently adopted a rescued terrier mix, about 3.5 years old, and she's a bit of a snowflake - loyal, intelligent and sweet but also previously abused, lived on the street, quick to fear, and absolutely terrified of other dogs. Love, fresh air and positive reinforcement training have been mellowing her out over the few months I've had her, but she needs to be spayed, and I'm worried about the effect it'll have on her. My vet keeps post-op dogs together in a room, and they told me she'd be so zonked on drugs that it wouldn't be a problem. I'm not so sure. Are there vets that have private rooms or areas for dogs after surgery? Does anyone have experience with this kind of situation? I'm in Southern California, and the dog licensing law does require that she gets spayed.
posted by symbebekos to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Is there a reason you feel you can't trust your vet on this? Presumably they spay lots of animals and have seen it all.

Maybe check in with a trainer that deals with dogs with her type of issues? I also have a snowflakey shelter dog who can't deal with certain things that are a no-brainer for other dogs, and that's probably what I would do.
posted by Sara C. at 1:41 PM on March 29, 2013

Trust your vet, and be there promptly for pick up when she's ready.

There are a lot of things that are stressful for animals, and sometimes, as much as we hate it, as responsible animal companions, we have to do them.

My kitties HATE the flea treatment, but I don't want bugs on my furry family, so we deal with it.

It will be fine, and having her spayed will make her life a LOT easier!~
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:47 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

My friend is an internal medicine vet. I've been in the back of many vet hospitals with her. Dogs who are fragile--either physically or behaviorally--are frequently sequestered in those large, nearly ground level cages that line the walls of many vet hospitals. Does your vet practice not have any such cages in back? I'd be really surprised.

If they do have them, and if your dog started waking through the general anesthesia enough to freak out and hurt another dog or herself, I've little doubt the staff at your vet hospital would get her into one of those cages toute suite, with her little elizabethan collar and her stitches and her wooziness. She will in all likelihood be totally fine.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:51 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know you're thinking mostly about post-op here (and +1 to making sure you're there to pick her up as soon as she's ready), but consider talking with your vet about pre-op as well. My first dog was fairly anxious without me when she was younger, and when she had to have anesthesia for an operation the vet actually let me stay with her until she was asleep - actually, they started wheeling her into the operating area after giving her a shot that knocked her most of the way out, but she started whining almost immediately, and so they suggested I come in and be there for those few last seconds before she was asleep. Your dog might be comforted to have you there for that as well, if your vet will allow that.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:03 PM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm a vet, but not your vet so this isn't medical advice.

You don't want a vet that has animals in private rooms. You want your pet to be within view of as many people as possible, in case something comes up. The more pairs of eyes on her the better. Just make sure that they know she has anxiety issues, and they'll cocktail her drugs accordingly. Trust me, the last thing we want is a patient who doesn't do well. It is in everyone's best interest, especially the dog, to have her in the post-op ward or the treatment area.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 3:09 PM on March 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

My vet suggested we leave an old t-shirt or something with our smell on it for my nervous-nellie dog who was having surgery. That way he had something familiar with him in the cage when he started waking up. Maybe your vet will let you do that as well?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:45 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

loyal, intelligent and sweet but also previously abused, lived on the street, quick to fear, and absolutely terrified of other dogs.

I'm sure your dog is unique in many ways, but scaredy-cat dogs come through our veterinary teaching hospital every day. I am sure the techs and doctors at your vet will have experience with these sorts of patients as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:56 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

We adopted a cat in September and she had been traumatized and abused before we got her; it took her months to trust me and she still isn't sure at all about my partner. A month or two after we got her, she had to be knocked out to have her teeth cleaned and several extracted. I did have to spend some time rebuilding my relationship with her, but we didn't start from zero like when we first brought her home (zero here being her hiding under the bed). She spent the night of the surgery on the bed with us, and after a week or two of being cautious around me, she relaxed. So it's difficult but not a deal-breaker; she'll find it stressful, I'm sure, but she'll be okay. I like Nickel Pickle's advice to discuss this with your vet first. And remember--she was tough and resilient enough to survive the abuse she experienced and being spayed will be nowhere near as difficult.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:45 PM on March 29, 2013

I have adopted rescued dogs and use to foster abused dogs to get them to the point where they were adoptable. Every animal that has been abused has their own unique issues. My current dog gets very stressed at the vet. Instantly. The instant we enter the office, her eyes get pink, she starts panting, etc.

I talked with the vet staff and they agreed to let me always stay with her and to be the person that held her when she had to be held. It made a real difference.

If I were you, I would absolutely follow the t-shirt suggestion. I would express my concerns to the vet and take the advice they give. I would also not use a vet that I felt did not take my concerns seriously.

A dog rescued from an abusive situation needs and deserves a true guardian and protector. That said, dogs are amazing in their ability to recover as long as they have a loving home.
posted by driley at 2:31 AM on March 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I realize this is a little old, but wanted to add something else here. Your dog takes her cues from you first and foremost. Vet offices can be scary places for dogs, and she may be scared before and/or after surgery. However, what changes this from "may be scared" to "will definitely be scared" is you. If you are nervous, she will be too. If you are outright anxious, she will be, and will probably amplify what you are feeling. First and foremost, work on making yourself calm and assured at the vet. The surgery will be fine; they are professionals. If you don't trust their medical expertise, find a vet you do trust.

Now, since you say she tends to become fearful in general, there are some things you can do to mitigate this. The above suggestions, especially regarding leaving your scent with her, are excellent. Another I would add would be to bring her to the vet several times for absolutely no reason, both before and after the surgery. In fact, I'm of the opinion that most dog owners should make a habit of this in general. Show her that the vet's office is usually just a fun place to visit where she gets to hang out for a while (possibly in the exam room, if other dogs spook her; the vet is not the right place to work on that).

Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your rescue. :)
posted by Urban Winter at 12:49 PM on April 1, 2013

Urban Winter, I think you mean well, but you've touched a nerve: dogs take cues from their people to an extent, but I assure you, my dog has been anxious and upset when I'm solid as a rock. Dogs are not exclusively mirrors of their owners, and I've actually had to deal with some extremely passive-aggressive know-it-alls on walks who had the nerve to suggest that if I changed in some way it would be reflected in my dog, when in fact her fear behaviors are a result of her history of abuse and abandonment. Which I'm working to mitigate as swiftly as possible. Basically, I think a lot of people watch that Dog Whisperer nonsense for ten minutes and believe themselves to be dog behavior experts.

I do think your advice about visiting the vet for no reason is a good one and I appreciate the good wishes.
posted by symbebekos at 9:27 PM on April 1, 2013

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