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A golden retriever sleeps on a bed with a pet parent in the background included in The Dig article about incision care

Health & Wellness

Neutering and spaying dogs: what to expect and pet-care tips

We’ll walk you through the whole process 

If your pup is about to have surgery, whether it’s a spay, neuter or something else, you’re right to want to be prepared. After your pet’s surgery, you’ll most likely receive instructions about post-operative care from your veterinarian. However, there may be more questions that pop up throughout your pet’s recovery. That’s why Dr. Aliya McCullough, veterinarian and pet health advocate, is sharing tips on what’s normal — and what’s not — when it comes to dogs’ post-op spay and neutering incisions. 

What to expect after neutering or spaying a dog

There are several reasons why people decide to spay or neuter their dogs. Some common reasons include: 

  • Preventing testicular, mammary or uterine cancer and infections
  • Pet population control (avoiding unplanned pregnancies)
  • Ending certain behaviors like roaming, mounting or aggression

While spaying and neutering dogs is common, it’s still a major surgery. Post-op behavior varies from dog to dog, but your pet may be more tired, quiet or completely normal. Monitor your pup for unusual changes in mood after their surgery and contact your vet if something doesn’t seem right. 

When a vet creates stitches, they are sure to close multiple layers of skin. It will either be through stitches, staples (which they’ll need to remove in a couple of weeks), skin glue or dissolving stitches, which disappear on their own. All methods are effective and safe. 

If something is wrong with your pet’s incision (say, a stitch comes out), you should reach out to your vet. Regardless, check on your pet’s stitches twice a day to make sure everything is looking OK.

What a normal, healing incision looks like

There are key signs that indicate that your pup’s incision is healing well, which include: 

  • Closed incision edges
  • Pinkish skin surrounding the incision edges (this is a normal part of the inflammation process)
  • Slight skin bruising
  • Pinkish or clear fluid drainage for the first 24 to 48 hours

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Caring for your pet’s incision

A dog spay recovery time generally takes between 10 to 14 days. And if your pet has staples or stitches, those will need to be removed around that time, too. Your dog may feel groggy (especially immediately following the procedure), so confining them to a specific area in your home may help them to get adequate rest. 

There are a couple of tips you can follow to make your pup’s recovery easier, which include: 

  • Follow medication, pain management and incision care instructions given by your veterinarian
  • Keep the incision clean and dry (swimming and baths are off-limits)
  • Use an Elizabethan collar (cone-like collar) to prevent licking or chewing the incision
  • Limit exercise until the incision is healed
  • Monitor pain, swelling and discharge
  • Watch your pup as they eat (look out for vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Use prescribed supplements or medications to make sure your pup is calm (if your vet gives the OK)

Signs of an infected incision or an incision that isn’t healing properly‍

On the other hand, here are some common signs that indicate the incision isn’t healing properly. Call your vet if you notice any of these changes: 

  • Continuous drainage or dripping fluid
  • Smelly discharge
  • Yellow discharge
  • Severe swelling or pain
  • Gaping of the edges of the incision
  • Heavy bleeding

Until your pup is cleared by your veterinarian, follow their instructions and our tips for your dog’s incision care. By following these steps, the incision will eventually just be a scar (or disappear altogether) and your pup can get back to having fun.

Photo by Bruno Emmanuelle on Unsplash

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