The study, presented at an international specialty conference last month, found a canine mortality rate of 0.9 per 10,000 surgeries (0.009 percent), compared to 1 per 10,000 surgeries in women. Even though cats didn’t fare as well, with a mortality rate of 5/10,000 surgeries (0.05 percent), the overall mortality rate of 3.3/10,000 (0.03 percent) closely approached that found in human surgical practice.
“This is a stunning validation of the expertise and skill of spay/neuter veterinarians,” said lead researcher Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM, DABVP, of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida.
The research also echoed similar findings from human literature about the importance of specialized skills and volume of practice in achieving high surgical success rates. The study examined surgery performed at a high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinic operated by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay within the parameters of The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Veterinary Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Clinics.
It’s unsurprising that extreme focus on a specific set of skills leads to mastery of those skills, said Dr. Levy. However, it’s not just the number of times the procedure has been performed that is correlated with greater success.
“Repeating specific procedures without interruption to perform other procedures is common in high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinics,” she said. “That lack of interruption is itself an independent predictor of reduced mortality in human surgery.”
Study co-author Karla Bard, DVM, director of medical operations at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, presented the research findings at the annual meeting of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in October.
“These findings confirm the proficiency of teams specializing in a limited spectrum of spay/neuter procedures,” said Dr. Bard. “This pays off in a safety profile that is ten times higher than previously reported, and facilities that are capable of safely sterilizing many more animals than traditional low-volume settings.”
Although the number of surgeries performed was significant, they were all performed at a single facility. These findings will carry more weight if the outcomes can be repeated at more surgical sites. Additionally, the authors believe future research should include an examination of the vastly different mortality rates for dogs and cats, as well as factors including the effect of the surgeon, anesthetic protocol, monitoring, duration of surgery, and animal characteristics.
Read the complete study here.