Teaching HQHVSN Techniques to Veterinarians in Maine

“Great day, and I learned a lot! Very helpful to do a few and then watch techniques again from instructors. This would be a great program for new graduates to help with confidence with s/n.”

“It was neat to see how different people have different approaches/  – techniques. The say one, do one, teach one is effective. The variety of cats and the number allowed for valuable, varied experiences and for valued mentorship commentary….This course did provide an excellent opportunity to learn in a safe, ethical and supportive environment.”

–Testimonials from students who attended the April 7 wet lab–

Facing a backlog of 2.7 million spay/neuter surgeries, and the ongoing shortage of veterinary professionals across the nation, United Spay Alliance and the Veterinary Shortage Task Force have been working to problem solve, and identify opportunities to support our friends in the veterinary field, while helping more animals get the spay and neuter help they need. 

To this end, United Spay Alliance has dedicated itself to providing hands-on training for veterinarians, also called wet labs, for more vets to gain practical experience in high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter (HQHVSN) techniques. Over the course of the next year, we’re aiming to host these wet labs in various states and locations, using different models and templates such as Each One Teach One mentoring sessions, or large-scale surgical training centers. In the end, we hope to have compiled a how-to guide for anyone looking to provide more HQHVSN spay/neuter training to veterinarians in their community. 

We kicked off this initiative on Friday, April 7, when two teaching veterinarians and three students came together to learn HQHVSN techniques at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Portland, Maine. 

Altogether, 34 shelter cats and kittens were spayed – and one male neutered – and three more veterinarians walked away with real, hands-on experience performing high-volume surgeries. Each student performed 5 surgeries, applying and practicing the techniques they had learned in real time, and they each went home with 7.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to count toward their ongoing professional development.

The wet lab was led by Dr. Elizabeth Stone, who owns the Community Spay-Neuter Clinic in Topsham, Maine, and Dr. Beth Sperry, who worked with the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland for 10 years before starting her own mobile spay/neuter business, Back Roads Spay Neuter. Both are highly experienced and respected veterinarians who have mastered the art of performing cat spays in a fraction of the time, with few complications, and no deaths.

As the class started, one could hear a pin drop as the instructors explained some of the facts, followed by audible “a-ha” moments as the information sank in. The class began with a few short videos which augmented the videos assigned as “homework,” which the participants had watched prior to the clinic. Instruction was followed by a dry lab, and time spent learning the various knots (done with yarn) used in the quick spay techniques, how pee-pads are used, and little known facts (such as that orange cats have the different reactions to anesthesia from other cats), the use of spay hooks, and the best closure methods.

Later in the morning, Drs. Sperry and Stone demonstrated the techniques on actual cats, and participants began doing the closely-monitored surgeries themselves.  

At the close of the day, participants gave the program 5/5 stars, eager to take all that they had learned home to their own clinics and practices, to start making a change in their community.

We are very pleased by the success of this wet lab, and look forward to more events just like it in the year to come. Stay tuned!

This wet lab would not have been possible without the support and expertise of our teaching veterinarians and their team. We are profoundly grateful to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland for hosting this event, and coordinating all the cats and clinic operations for the day. 

We also extend a very special thank you to the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation for sponsoring the event and helping more vets gain the knowledge and experience they need to expand lifesaving in their own communities.