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How to Care for Dogs After Spaying Surgery

Often, getting a dog “fixed” with a spay or neuter surgery is the first time a new dog owner will have to care for a dog after spaying surgery. 

Caring for a dog that’s just had surgery and been under general anesthesia can make some dog owners uneasy and nervous.

Knowing what to expect when a dog is spayed is the first step toward helping the dog through the recovery process after surgery.

In this post, pet owners will learn how to help a dog recover after getting spayed; the more invasive of the two procedures used to “fix” a dog, cat, or other pet.

How to Care for Dogs After Spaying Surgery

How Do I Prepare My Dog for Surgery When She is Spayed?

Dog owners should prepare a dog for spaying surgery starting the night before the operation is scheduled.

Food and water should be withheld after 10:00 p.m. the night before the dog is spayed. This will lessen the dog’s chances of vomiting while under general anesthesia.

A dog who vomits while under anesthesia can aspirate (inhale into the lungs) the vomit, causing pneumonia or even death.

So it’s important to pull up any food and water bowls no later than 10:00 p.m.

This will ensure that any food and water in the dog’s system has moved into the lower portion of the digestive system, making vomiting and aspiration unlikely.

In most cases, the veterinarian will perform the spay operation early in the day.

The dog can then recover from general anesthesia under the watchful eye of the veterinarian.

Complications from spay or neuter operations are fairly uncommon, so most dogs go home the same day.

Vet carrying a small white puppy

What is the Dog’s Recovery Like After a Spay Operation?

How Long Does it Take for the Dog to Recover from Surgery?

Since the spaying procedure takes longer than neutering, the dog is under general anesthesia for a bit longer.

This makes the recovery process a bit more difficult.

Spaying surgery is also more invasive as the vet cuts through the muscles of the abdominal wall, so recovery takes longer.

After a dog is spayed, she will typically require about 24 hours to recover from the general anesthesia.

When a dog arrives home from getting spayed, it’s common to see the following symptoms:

  • Grogginess
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping (more than usual)
  • A Lack of Balance
  • Little/No Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bathroom Accidents
  • Panting
  • Aggression (usually toward other pets)

These symptoms are temporary, and most will disappear by the following morning.

When the dog arrives home after getting spayed, keep her isolated from other pets.

A dog who is disoriented due to anesthesia and experiencing pain and discomfort due to the operation is more likely to snap or bite at another pet or even a child.

After spaying surgery, the dog will need to urinate more frequently due to the IV fluids that were received during the operation.

It’s important to bring the dog outside every couple of hours in anticipation of her bathroom needs.

A dog that’s just emerged from anesthesia will sleep heavily and may even urinate in bed without realizing it.

A few hours after the dog arrives home, owners can offer a small meal.

Some dogs will opt to eat after surgery; others will refuse.

Upset stomach is common after general anesthesia, so offering a bland homemade dog food like rice with plain, skinless chicken or boiled hamburger meat will encourage eating while preventing stomach upset.

Sleepy brown dog laying on a white bed

Special Care for a Dog After Spaying Surgery

Recovery time is about 14 days in a female dog who’s just been spayed.

Try the following to promote recovery after spaying:

Limit Activity and Take Short Walks

The abdominal muscles and incision will need time to heal, so short leash walks for bathroom breaks only are recommended for a dog that’s just been spayed.

Therefore, the dog must be kept quiet with leash walks only for the two weeks following the surgery.

Monitor the Incision

The incision for a female dog that’s just been spayed will be several inches in length.

It’s a fairly large incision that must be closely monitored for any signs of infection.

Symptoms of an infected wound include swelling, redness, or discharge.

The incision and underlying structures (i.e. blood vessels, muscles, etc.) will take 10 to 14 days to heal.

IF Instructed, Clean the Incision 2-3 Times a Day

For the first 2 to 3 days, dog owners MAY be advised to clean the incision several times a day using betadine, which can be applied (generously) using a sterile gauze pad to gently pat the dog’s surgical incision and surrounding area.

This will disinfect the incision and surrounding skin.

Allow the betadine to air dry.

Note: This method should ONLY be used on dogs with stitches (a.k.a. sutures) or a staple incision closure.

Some veterinary surgeons will opt to close the wound with glue or dissolving stitches.

Therefore, not every dog requires suture removal.

If a pet owner is unsure whether suture removal is required or if concerns arise after spaying surgery, it’s important to consult the veterinary clinic.

In dogs where glue was used to close the incision, owners must avoid cleaning or washing the actual incision since this can interfere with the wound glue.

If you see “weeping” or dried discharge on the dog’s skin, you can use a warm, damp washcloth to (gently) clean the skin around the incision.

Be careful to avoid direct contact with the actual wound!

Brown and white Chihuahua wearing a cone

Keep the “Cone” On!

After a dog is spayed, she will be sent home with an Elizabethan collar, also known as an “e-collar,” “lampshade” or “cone.”

This will prevent the dog from licking the incision or biting the incision or stitches, as often occurs late in the healing process when the healing skin starts to itch.

The “lampshade” must be kept on until the dog’s stitches are removed about 14 days after the surgery.

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