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Keyhole Spay (Laparoscopic)

Keyhole Spay (Laparoscopic) – Less pain for your pet!

Keyhole (laparoscopic) spaying is a way of neutering female dogs that results in less pain and a faster recovery*.

“I recently brought Sassy in for a keyhole spay and I just wanted to say how pleased I was with the whole process.  I was apprehensive leaving my dog with a vets I had never used before however I found every member of staff friendly and welcoming to the owners and pets and Sassy actually seemed more relaxed than she is at my normal practice! She was completely back to normal the next day and you wouldn’t know she had anything done.

Thank you so much for providing such a professional service and looking after Sassy so well”

Client email following keyhole spay.

“I would just like to pass on my thanks for the laparoscopic surgery performed on my male German shepherd yesterday. I chose to use this procedure again following the successful surgery on my female shepherd.

I am amazed at the recovery time, both dogs were back to normal the following day and showed no signs of discomfort. In my opinion the keyhole surgery outclasses normal surgery in every aspect. I will recommend laparoscopic surgery to all my friends particularly at [South Devon Referrals] where the welfare of the pet and skill of the surgeons appears second to none.”

Client email following laparoscopic removal of retained testicle.

What is keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery?

Keyhole surgery is a minimally invasive method of performing surgery. A laparoscope (a small camera) is inserted through a small incision to view internal structures that are magnified on a video monitor. Special precision instruments are used for incredibly fine/delicate handling of tissue.  Keyhole surgery is now regarded as the gold standard for many operations in humans due to a faster recovery, less pain, less post-operative infections or other complications. These same benefits are available to pets when having keyhole surgery instead of traditional open surgery.

How is keyhole surgery different to “traditional” surgery?

“Traditional” surgery requires a much longer incision so the surgeon is able to directly see and safely handle internal structures.

Carrying out “traditional” open surgery through a small incision risks the surgeon not properly seeing internal structures and causing damage while trying to pull internal structures up through a small incision: this is not the same as laparoscopic keyhole surgery.

Keyhole Spay at South Devon Referrals Traditional “open” spay
Two small incisions of 0.5-1cm Single midline incision 5-10cm long
Ovaries and uterus operated on in their normal position with camera and instruments Ovaries and uterus stretched or broken away from body wall inside abdomen to bring up to incision
Blood vessels cut and sealed ultrasonically Blood vessels tied off with suture material
Usually no “lampshade” collar, minimal exercise restriction, owners often report “back to normal” the next day “Lampshade” collar after surgery, restricted exercise for 10-14 days
Less pain and need for pain relief, increased activity after surgery, less bleeding, less aftercare required  


Why is keyhole surgery not used more for pets?

Keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery requires a significant investment in equipment and also expertise to carry out to a high standard. For this reason, it is not possible to offer this service in most veterinary practices. South Devon Referrals has invested in the best available equipment and highest level of training available to ensure we can offer the best and safest standards of keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery.

Can you spay small dogs by keyhole surgery?

Yes, and with the same benefits as for larger dogs. We often spay dogs weighing as little as 2kg.

Do you have a large or giant breed dog?

Large and Giant breed dogs are at high risk of GDV (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus) – also know as “bloat” or “twisted stomach”. At the same time as carrying out keyhole (laparoscopic) spay we are also able to fix the stomach to the body wall (known as a prophylactic gastropexy) in a minimally invasive way so that it is much less likely to ever be able to twist. We can discuss this in detail with you when your dog is brought in for surgery: we can also perform this surgery in male dogs.

How do I arrange a keyhole (laparoscopic) spay?

South Devon Referrals is a veterinary referral centre offering advanced and specialist treatments, so we are used to routinely managing cases that are referred from other veterinary practices. You do not need to change practice to have a Keyhole (Laparoscopic) Spay for your dog. A referral can be easily arranged by your usual vet with South Devon Referrals – the process is described here on our website. Usually your pet will only need to come to South Devon Referrals for one day, without any need for follow-up visits, although we do offer free post-operative checks as required.

* A number of studies have reviewed differences between laparoscopic spaying (ovariectomy) and a “traditional” open spay and shown reduced signs of pain in dogs that have keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. It is worth noting that when individual dogs have surgery giving extra pain relief may help reduce the amount of pain animals feel. Our normal recommendation is that all traditional “open” spays should receive 2-3 days of NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) pain relief after surgery to reduce their discomfort, and in the studies noted below extra pain relief that was given is of a different type (typically morphine or a similar medication). Some key points from a few papers are listed in the below:

Devitt, C.M., Cox, R.E. and Hailey, J.J. (2005) Duration, complications, stress, and pain of open ovariohysterectomy versus a simple method of laparoscopic-assisted ovariohysterectomy in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 227, 921–7.

  • Nine of ten dogs in the group who had open surgery needed extra pain relief as they displayed high pain scores: none in the group who underwent laparoscopy needed extra pain relief.
  • Surgical stress was higher in the group who had open surgery compared to laparoscopy as measured by two markers in blood (cortisol and glucose).

Hancock, R.B., Lanz, O.I., Waldron, D.R., Duncan, R.B., Broadstone, R. V and Hendrix, P.K. (2005) Comparison of Postoperative Pain After Ovariohysterectomy by Harmonic Scalpel-Assisted Laparoscopy Compared with Median Celiotomy and Ligation in Dogs. Veterinary Surgery 34, 273–282.

  • Dogs who had open surgery had higher pain scores (a standardised method of measuring pain) for at least 72 hours (3 days) following surgery than those who had laparoscopic surgery.
  • Dogs who had open surgery displayed more pain when pressure was applied to their abdomen for at least 48 hours (2 days) following surgery than those who had laparoscopic surgery.
  • Surgical stress was higher in the group who had open surgery compared to laparoscopy as measured by cortisol in blood 2 hours after surgery.

Culp, W.T.N., Mayhew, P.D. and Brown, D.C. (2009) The effect of laparoscopic versus open ovariectomy on postsurgical activity in small dogs. Veterinary surgery : VS 38, 811–7.

  • The activity of dogs for 48 hours (2 days) after surgery was reduced by 62% in dogs that had open surgery but only 25% by dogs that had laparoscopic surgery.
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