Spaying your pet is a big decision. However, it’s also the responsible decision to make if you have no interest in taking care of puppies or finding them good homes.
Furthermore, the procedure offers health benefits for your pup and convenience benefits for you. Spaying a dog reduces her chances of getting cancers of the reproductive system to zero.
When performed before the age of 2.5 years, the risk of breast cancer is also reduced. While the risk of these cancers is minimal in general, every little bit helps.
Plus, spayed dogs develop fewer uterine infections, which when left untreated can kill your pet. Overall, spayed dogs tend to live longer than their unfixed counterparts.
Though the procedure itself is very safe and the risk of complications is small, getting your pet spayed is still surgery. There are issues that can arise and warning signs that you should watch out for in the days following the surgery.
Let’s take a look at what you should know.
Healing Process and How Long It Takes
Spay surgeries are not super intense procedures. It can take as little as 20 minutes or up to about 90 minutes depending on the age and size of the dog and whether she is in heat at the time.
Your dog will likely regain consciousness about 15-20 minutes after the procedure is over.
However, most vets send the owners away during the process. They keep the dogs for a few hours after the surgery for observation to ensure the dog is recovering from the anesthesia well and there are no concerning signs.
It should take about two to three weeks for your dog to heal from the procedure. During that time you should watch her closely for the warning signs we’ll discuss in a moment. Your vet may also prescribe pain medication to keep her comfortable.
You will also receive a list of instructions about their diet, activity level, habits, and protection for the incision site. Follow these precisely to ensure the best experience for your beloved pup.
Things to Avoid During the Healing Process
To ensure your pet stays firmly on the road to recovery, there are a few things you should help her to avoid while the wound heals.
We know this one’s tough. For the first day or so, your dog will be queasy and hurting a little so she won’t want to do much anyway. But dogs are generally active and excitable and she’ll most likely get her energy back before the wound has healed enough to handle a lot of activity.
Too much movement can tear the sutures and open the wound, leaving your dog vulnerable to infection.
Thus, you need to limit her activity and keep her calm and resting. Yeah, we know, that’s a seemingly impossible task with many dogs, but just do the best you can.
This may mean that she needs to spend more time in her crate or a small room away from the excitement for a few days. Definitely don’t let her roam freely outside where she can run and jump as usual, even if she’s acting as though she can handle it.
It is critical to avoid getting the incision site wet for at least 10-14 days after the surgery, depending on how the healing process is going. Thus, you shouldn’t bathe your dog or allow her to go swimming for that time period.
Your dog will probably want to obsessively lick at the incision site. With no hands to hold or gently scratch their wounds, dogs use their tongues to soothe their injuries. It’s also a natural instinct designed to clean away debris and bacteria.
And while there is truth to the belief that a dog’s saliva helps wounds heal, excessive licking can have the opposite effect. It can introduce infection-causing bacteria to the site, as well as physically pull at the incision, inhibiting healing and potentially opening the wound.
Many vets will send your dog home with an Elizabethan collar (cone of shame) to prevent her from reaching the incision site. This is usually enough to keep her from licking herself. But if you have other pets, they may try to give their injured canine friend a hand, or a tongue, as it were.
In general, it’s best to keep your newly spayed dog away from your other animals for a few days. This will also help keep her less active as the presence of your other pets can instigate play fighting and other activities she shouldn’t be participating in.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For After Spaying Your Pet
It's important to keep a close eye on your pet in the days and weeks following the surgery. This surgery is so routine that your vet has likely performed thousands of procedures and could do it in their sleep.
The vast majority of dogs who go through the process heal up just fine and never have any issues or complications.
However, there is always a small risk of problems after any type of surgery. You can reduce the negative effects by keeping a close eye on your pet and taking her to the vet immediately if something looks off.
Here are a few things to watch for:
1. Lethargy or Lack of Energy
It's normal for your pet to be a little tired after surgery. The anesthetic will probably make her feel a little woozy and she may feel a little pain. For the first day or two, you should expect to see her lying around and showing little interest in running around.
But if she’s still lethargic or uninterested in her usual activities a week or more after the surgery, take note. It could be a sign of complications.
2. Loss of Appetite
It's normal for your pet to lose her appetite immediately after surgery. She may feel a little nauseous from the medication or just generally uninterested in eating because she doesn’t feel good.
However, if she doesn’t eat a meal within 24 hours or you notice appetite changes in general after the surgery, you should consult with your vet.
3. Vomiting or Diarrhea
Again, it’s normal to see vomiting to diarrhea in the first couple of days after surgery. These are both common side effects of anesthesia and pain medication. However, if they persist for more than a day or two, it could be a sign of something more serious.
4. Swelling or Discharge from the Incision Site
Check the incision site at least twice a day for signs of infection. Swelling, redness, or feeling hot to the touch can all be signs of infection. The site may also ooze blood or pus, neither of which are good signs.
A small lump or blister that appears to be filled with fluid may also appear. Often these lumps are painless and go away on their own after a few days, but you should keep a close eye on them nonetheless.
Interestingly, estrogen plays a role in controlling a dog’s sphincter muscle. Since this surgery usually initiates a drop in estrogen levels, some dogs can develop spay incontinence. It happens more often in larger breeds and will usually take a few days to show up.
If this problem presents itself, another trip to the vet is in order. Medication or herbal supplements can bring up your dog’s estrogen level and help control her incontinence problem.
6. Pain or Discomfort
If your pet seems to be in pain or is acting unusually uncomfortable, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
If you notice any of these warning signs, you should contact your veterinarian right away. With proper care and treatment, most pets recover from spay surgery without any problems. But if something does go wrong, it's important to get treatment right away to minimize the risk of complications.
A Healthy, Happy Puppy
Spaying your pup is generally a positive step for you and your pup. It’s more convenient for you as you won’t have to worry about your pup going into heat or developing an unexpected pregnancy.
Plus, though this is stronger in males, your female pup will also generally be more calm and even-tempered after the surgery.
Your pup also enjoys lower risks of certain types of cancers as well as they don’t have to deal with periods (heat cycles). If you’re a female, you already know how much of a blessing that can be!
Spaying surgery is inexpensive and routine and millions of dogs have already undergone the procedure. However, surgery is still surgery. There are always small risks involved and it’s up to you to make sure your pup is healing properly afterwards!
Visit the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com for more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips.
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