Complications After Feline Spaying

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Lethargic cat laying on bed.
Lethargic cat laying on bed. (Image: StudioBarcelona/iStock/Getty Images)

Complications associated with feline spaying -- the process of surgically removing the ovaries and uterus from a female cat -- include reactions to anesthesia, pain after surgery, internal bleeding, hernias and abscesses. Limit complications by selecting a skilled veterinarian, conducting health screenings in advance and providing excellent post-operative care.

The Spaying Procedure

Your veterinarian will place your cat under general anesthesia, then shave and clean her stomach, before operating. An incision of 1 to 4 centimeters is made in the abdomen. Excess fat is cut from the incision site. Blood vessels connected to the reproductive organs are tied off. Both ovaries and the entire uterus are removed. Several layers of sutures will close the incision.

Reactions to Anesthesia

Reactions to anesthesia are seen in about one in 100,000 cases involving animals. There may be swelling at the injection site or a decrease in the volume of blood being pumped through the heart. In rare instances, cats have experienced anaphylactic shock or death. Anesthetic aggression may occur. Hormonal changes associated with the surgery and the confusion of being removed from their normal environment can also stimulate short-term post-surgical aggression. Behavior should return to normal after anesthesia has worn off -- between 24 and 48 hours.

Pain and Discomfort

Some cats appear to experience little or no discomfort after being spayed; others deal with some pain and soreness. If your cat is in pain, she may hide under the couch or bed, behave aggressively when approached or touched, avoid food for several days, or appear stiff while walking. Ask your veterinarian to send home pain medication to make your cat more comfortable.

Issues at the Incision Site

A seroma is a lump filled with pink or reddish fluid that develops at the surgical site. Treatment is usually not required. The fluid will drain on its own, and the site will heal. If the condition appears painful for your cat, your veterinarian may drain the fluid with a needle. Post-surgery hernias may occur if the abdominal sutures loosen. They must be repaired surgically. Abscesses may develop. These are painful to the cat, hot to the touch and filled with pus due to the presence of bacteria. Surgical drainage and antibiotics are required.

Preventing Complications

Prevent post-operative complications by providing appropriate care for your cat. Check the incision site two times daily. Look for any swelling or abnormalities. Limit activity for seven to 14 days after surgery to prevent the sutures from breaking open. Keep the incision site clean. If it gets dirty, gently wipe the area with a warm cloth or cotton ball. Use newspaper or cat crystals in your pet’s litter box to avoid soiling the wound. Purchase an Elizabethan collar from a pet store or your vet’s office to discourage your cat from licking the wound. Report abnormalities or concerns to your veterinarian.

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