Today at our clinic, among the many spay/neuter surgeries I had on my docket I had three large, obese, adult female dogs. It is not uncommon for us to see overweight and obese dogs and cats. Problem in animals runs parallel to that in humans. Everyone is just getting heavier.
Anyway, while doing the surgeries on these fatty females I often ponder what people would think if they could only see what I see? If you are one of those people, I will tell you. I see lots of fat and grease. Seriously. It is true that in all animals there is a significant amount of fat in their abdomens. Usually it is proportional to how much fat is visible elsewhere, but not always. Sometimes a perfectly trim animal will surprise me with a nice belly full of it.
Am I complaining? Not really. I am used to it, pretty much.
However, it does slow down the surgery, thus extending the length of time the dog or cat is under anesthesia, thus increasing their risk of anesthetic complications.
How so? Well, firstly there is an extra layer of fat under the skin that has to be passed through before going into the abdomen. Once in the abdomen, I am faced with a large amount of "umbilical fat" (what I was taught to call it in school over two decades ago). Once past that, I need to do my usual maneuvers to locate the ovaries and uterus. Once located, pulling them out to where I can take them out can be difficult when there is a lot of fat surrounding the ovaries, so the incision needs to be made a bit longer.
So, obviously, the fat gets in the way. But the second thing that slows surgery down is the slipperiness of everything after I have been performing the surgery for a few minutes. Broken fat cells cause a greasy layer over everything, including my surgical gloves. When trying to make an appropriately tight ligature on blood vessels it is disturbing when my suture keeps slipping out of my hands.
I should also mention that fatty embolisms are a thing. I learned about them when a hip surgery patient of mine died the night of surgery years ago. The entire dog was sent to the lab, as it was a shock to us all. His extra fat contributed to his death. Fortunately I have not seen this since, probably because spays and neuters are not as long and drawn out as the hip surgery was. I am not really sure.
I can't forget to mention that since surgery can be a bit tougher, i.e. "finding stuff", needing a larger incision, there is more pain for your pet.
So if you are nervous about surgery in you pet, regardless of what that surgery is, do your best to make sure your he/she (especially the she's) is fit and trim. I know this is easier said than done. To be honest, of the 4 dogs in my home, there is one rollie pollie terrier who just can't seem to keep a nice figure. It's tough.
In the meantime, I will keep doing what I love, and doing my best at it. If my job is a little tougher due to an obese animal I just deal with it. But I do worry about the added stress to those "pleasantly plump" patients.