Shelter Guidelines: Spay/Neuter

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) compiled the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters to provide research-based guidelines that will help any sheltering operation meet the physical, medical, and behavioral needs of the animals in their care. This webinar covers:

  • Veterinary medical guidelines for spay/neuter
  • Surgery and anesthesia best practices
  • Identification of spayed/neutered animals

Top Tips from This Webinar

Detailed Notes are Key
Complete medical records must be kept for each patient. These should include the names of drugs that were given, the type of surgery that was performed, and any complications that arose during or after the procedure. Recording this information accurately will make it much easier to deal with unexpected problems later on.

Keep it Clean
Spay/neuter procedures require aseptic surgical technique, and separate sterile instruments should be used for each patient. It may be tempting to share a pack between littermates, but avoid this practice. While it's important to take these sorts of steps to protect animals' health, the routine perioperative use of antimicrobials is not recommended. Antibiotics should only be used in situations such as pre-existing infection or a break in surgical asepsis.

For the Little Ones
The guidelines sanction spay/neuter in puppies and kittens as young as six weeks. These tips will help keep pediatric sterilization as safe as possible:

  • Practice gentle tissue handling during surgery to reduce post-op pain.
  • Use quick, easily administered, reversible anesthesia.
  • Get an accurate weight for each animal to ensure proper drug dosing.
  • Limit pre-op fasting time to 2-4 hours, and feed the animal a small meal as soon as the anesthesia wears off.
  • Take steps to prevent hypothermia, such as avoiding alcohol prep and allowing littermates to recover together.

Be Prepared
While spay/neuter surgeries are routine procedures, you should always be ready for problems. Be prepared to intubate or place an IV catheter at short notice. Have everything accessible nearby, including emergency drugs with a dosing chart available; the last thing you want to be doing in a critical situation is flipping through your drug handbook while punching in numbers on a calculator.

X Marks the Spot
The guidelines strongly recommend permanent tattoos to identify both male and female sterilized animals. Feral cats should be ear-tipped, the universal symbol for identification of a spayed/neutered free-roaming cat.


Bonus: We've packaged the guidelines into a free resource, Shelter Care Checklists: Putting ASV Guidelines Into Action, and we invite you to use this set of easily understandable and actionable checklists in your shelter.

Related Articles

Spay/Neuter Glossary of Terms
Pediatric Spay/Neuter

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