Non-Invasive Procedures

What is laparoscopic surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure. It is considered the gold standard in human medicine, and now we can provide that same high standard of care and benefit to our pets.

Laparoscopy is a “minimally invasive surgery” (MIS) within the abdominal cavity, sometimes called a “keyhole surgery” or “lap spay.” With laparoscopic procedures, small incisions are made to allow a camera to be placed within the abdomen. This camera allows the surgeon to see the structures inside the abdomen. One to two additional small incisions may be needed to introduce surgical instruments into the abdomen to perform surgery. The alternative is a traditional “open approach” surgery, which requires a more extensive incision. A “spay” is a procedure to sterilize a female animal so that she cannot reproduce. Two different surgical procedures can achieve this goal:

An ovariectomy LOVE Procedure is a surgery to remove the ovaries. Since this removes the hormones required to enter an estrus (or “heat”) cycle and, as well as the hormones that promote and continue a pregnancy, the animal will not enter estrus and cannot produce a litter. This is most common for a lap spay.

An ovariohysterectomy is a surgery to remove both the ovaries and the uterus, hence also preventing estrus and pregnancy. This is also possible for a lap spay but may require a slightly larger incision.

How does a laparoscopic spay work?

A laparoscopic spay, also known as a laparoscopic ovariectomy, is a minimally invasive spay that removes the ovaries. It is a less painful alternative to traditional spays. A single small keyhole incision is made. A camera will view the ovarian ligament and blood vessels directly. The ovarian ligament does not need to be torn, which can be one of the most painful parts of the traditional spay procedure. An instrument is used to cauterize (close) and cut through blood vessels and tissues. No tension is placed on the uterus (which is not removed). The surgery time runs shorter, and there's less bleeding, if any. Due to a significantly smaller incision, recovery generally occurs in half the time compared to post-operative timeframes for an open spay operation.

How is a laparoscopic spay performed?

  1. The entire underside of the abdomen is shaved and prepared for surgery.

  2. The abdominal cavity is filled with CO2 gas to provide an area for the surgeon to work.

  3. The camera incision is typically just behind the umbilicus or “belly button.”

  4. 1 or 2 additional incisions may be needed for instrument “portals.” Sometimes, the instruments may be introduced through the same incision as the camera. Alternatively, the instrument portal(s) may be just behind the camera portal or off midline a little forward of the umbilicus.

  5. The instruments are used to identify and isolate the ovaries and cauterize the tissues so the ovaries can be safely removed from the abdominal cavity.

  6. If the uterus is also removed, it is often exteriorized through the camera portal, and sutures are sutures placed around the part of the uterus that remains in the body, similar to an open approach.

  7. The CO2 is removed from the abdominal cavity, and the incisions are sutured closed.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of a laparoscopic spay are numerous compared to a traditional spay. The most significant upsides include:

  • A smaller incision which translates to less pain post-operatively and quicker healing.

  • Better visibility for the surgeon, resulting in shorter anesthesia times and fewer complications such as bleeding.

  • Better precision as our laparoscopic cameras can magnify the image and visualization of the structures, allowing for greater surgical precision and fewer complications.

  • The magnified view of the ovarian ligament allows the doctor to carefully cut and cauterize it rather than mindlessly tearing it, as in a traditional spay; this eliminates the pain your pet would experience from bruising caused by tearing the ligament.

  • We use a vessel-sealing device that seals the blood vessels before cutting them. Once a blood vessel has been sealed like this, there is a meager chance of future bleeding. In a traditional spay, the blood vessels are tied off using sutures, which can potentially loosen or slip.

  • Utilizing a laparoscopic spay, we only remove your pet's ovaries, versus a traditional spay, where the ovaries and uterus are completely removed. Studies show that only removing the ovaries (ovariectomy) has all the same benefits as a conventional ovariohysterectomy but is much less invasive.

  • Faster anesthetic recoveries, meaning your pet can go home sooner

  • A lap spay uses smaller incisions than a traditional "open approach" surgery. Although the body will still need to heal these incisions, it can allow a shorter recovery time and a quicker return to regular activity. This can typically take seven days compared to the standard fourteen days.

Combining the lap spay with other procedures:

Other abdominal surgeries can also be performed at the time of a laparoscopic ovariectomy, just like with a traditional open approach. The most common procedure is a prophylactic gastropexy to prevent gastric dilatation-volvulus (“GDV” or “bloat”).

A 2005 Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association study concluded that laparoscopic spays caused less surgical stress and up to 65% less post-operative pain than a traditional "open" surgical spay.

In cases of more giant breeds, such as deep-chested dogs, a laparoscopic gastropexy can be performed during the lap spay to prevent life-threatening gastric torsion (bloat).

The scope and number of procedures performed via laparoscope in veterinary medicine is growing. We also offer laparoscopic liver biopsy as the procedure of choice for attaining optimalquality liver samples. We also perform cryptorchid (intra-abdominal testicle) neuters laparoscopically.

​​​​​​​Contact your veterinarian at Bishop Ranch to see if your dog is a candidate for a laparoscopic procedure.

What makes a pet a good candidate for a laparoscopic spay?

Consideration must always be given to the individual patient, including their medical history, concurrent diseases or medical conditions, previous surgeries, anesthetic risk, etc.

Because the instruments need to be introduced through the portals and the abdomen filled with CO2 to have space to work, this can be challenging in small pets. Typically, fifteen to twenty pounds is the smallest animal this can be performed on, but there could be exceptions to this.

The cost for a laparoscopic spay:

Due to the utilization of sophisticated equipment, a laparoscopic spay incurs some extra charges compared to the standard open spay method. However, if additional procedures like a prophylactic gastropexy are performed with the spay, in conjunction, the overall cost difference becomes relatively more minor. The cost is usually 30-40% higher than the cost of the traditional surgical incision method.

How to schedule your dog for LOVE or Laparoscopic Procedure:

Should your pet have undergone a doctor's examination in the last twelve months, please get in touch with us by calling or texting 925-866-8387. We will work with your veterinarian to organize the required procedure for your dog. On the other hand, if it's been over a year since your dog's last visit to us or if you are new to our hospital, an examination by a veterinarian will be required before we can schedule the procedure. Be aware that we currently schedule these procedures with a lead time of at least three weeks.

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