Although neutering a dog is considered major surgery, it’s not as involved as spaying a female.
For one thing, the procedure is much quicker for male dogs. The surgery is less invasive and is usually completed within 5 to 20 minutes. The timeframe depends on the dog’s age and size.
After the surgery, the veterinarian will provide you with important dog neutering aftercare tips. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The better you’re able to follow the aftercare instructions, the more you minimize the risk of complications.
While this post is specific to neutering intact males, the aftercare instructions can be applied to male or female dogs.
In this post, we’ll help you understand the neutering procedure and what you can do to help your pet recover in the days and weeks to come.
Neutering vs Spaying
There can be some confusion over the definition of neutering versus spaying a dog. Some veterinarians and pet owners simply refer to the process as “getting fixed.”
Generally speaking, the term “neutering” is usually reserved for the sterilization of a male dog. Spaying, however, is used to describe the surgery performed on a female dog.
What’s involved in neutering a male dog?
Neutering a male dog is a less invasive procedure than spaying a female. Pre-neuter surgery preparation may involve withholding food and water the night before surgery. This is to minimize the risk of aspiration during the surgical procedure.
The veterinarian may want to run some pre-surgical blood work along with a physical examination before the surgery as well. This is to ensure your dog is in good health. This is especially important if your dog has any pre-existing conditions.
The Day of Surgery
You’ll be instructed to bring your dog to the veterinary clinic at a specific time. Your dog will then be placed on an IV catheter. Pre-surgery tests will be performed if they weren’t completed earlier.
The Neuter Procedure
Once your dog is comfortably sedated with general anesthesia, the veterinarian begins the procedure by making a small incision in the skin of the scrotum. At that point, the veterinarian can perform an orchiectomy in which both testicles are removed.
Afterwards, the incision is usually closed with dissolvable sutures and the scrotal sac is left intact. If the dog is young, the empty scrotum will flatten as he grows into an adult. If your dog is already mature at the time of the surgery, the scrotum will remain as a flap of skin.
Male dogs are usually discharged home on the same day of the surgery, unless there were complications.
Suture Removal After Neutering a Dog
Veterinarians typically bury skin sutures so that they are not visible. These are dissolvable and will break down on their own without the need for removal.
Watch Wally’s neutering experience in the video below!
What’s involved in spaying a female dog?
The medical term for spaying a female dog is called an ovariohysterectomy. It’s a little more involved than neutering a male but is still considered safe.
The procedure can take anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours.
The length of surgery depends on the dog’s age, size, and whether she is in heat or not. When females are in heat, their reproductive tracts hold more blood, making the surgery a more delicate procedure.
Prior to surgery, the dog will be fasted to reduce the risk of vomiting while under general anesthesia. A physical exam and blood tests are usually ordered to ensure your dog is healthy enough to undergo surgery.
The Day of Surgery
On the day of surgery, the dog is given general anesthesia. The veterinarian then makes an incision in the abdomen to access the reproductive organs.
The veterinarian will carefully remove the ovaries and the uterus. After that, the blood vessels and ligaments that hold the organs in place will be sealed to prevent bleeding.
Surgical sutures are used to stitch up the incision and the procedure is complete. You’ll be given a list of specific after care instructions similar to the list we’ve created further in this post.
Suture Removal After Spaying a Female Dog
Suture removal won’t be necessary if the veterinarian used internal stitches. Internal stitches are absorbable meaning they will break down over time.
If the veterinarian used external sutures (placed on the outside of the skin), they will need to be removed 10- 14 days after surgery, provided the skin has fully healed.
In some cases, surgical staples are used to close an incision. These need to be removed within the next 10-14 days.
Liquid stitches (also known as tissue glue) may be used to close a very small incision. These do not need to be removed.
Health Benefits of Neutering Your Dog
It’s difficult to pinpoint the “perfect” age to neuter your dog. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, concluded that the increased risk of health problems varied greatly among 35 common dog breeds.
In some breeds, delaying neutering beyond 6 months is associated with a lower incidence of hip dysplasia and certain cancers. Other breeds, however, may benefit from being neutered or spayed at an earlier age.
It’s thought that neutering dogs may offer the following health benefits:
- Reduced risk of testicular cancer.
- Reduced risk of prostate problems.
- Decrease the risk of perianal tumors and tumors of the anal glands.
- Controls the pet population.
There are many myths about spaying or neutering a dog. Some people say it changes a pet’s personality and others worry their male dog will feel emasculated.
The ASPCA has a great article that debunks some of these myths. Read: Fact or Fiction? Spay/Neuter Myths Busted.
Read the infographic below to see when your dog should be neutered.
For a complete list of dog breeds and the suggested guidelines, read: When Should You Neuter Your Dog to Avoid Health Risks?
How to Care for Your Dog After Surgery – Post Neutering After Care Tips
The veterinarian will give you some post-operative instructions after the surgery.
These instructions will generally fall into how to manage the first 24 hours after surgery, followed with instructions on what to expect in the upcoming weeks.
The first 24 hours after surgery are critical for the healing process. During this time your dog is going to be tired and probably in a little bit of pain.
Dog neutering aftercare involves a wide range of things from keeping the incision site clean and dry to keeping your dog calm.
The best thing you can do for your dog at this point is provide a comfortable bed away from other pets.
1. Protect Your Dog’s Incision
The most important thing at this point is to prevent your dog from licking or chewing the incision. Licking can lead to a serious infection.
Dogs don’t love them, but an e-collar (Elizabethan collar) can help prevent your dog from chewing or licking the incision site. It should be worn for 10-14 days for maximum effect.
2. Keep the Incision Dry
It’s not a good idea to bathe your dog during the 10-day recovery period. Avoid using topical ointment or anything that can soak into the sutures. The reason for this is to protect the surgical glue that’s been placed on the incision.
The glue will dissolve too quickly if it becomes wet.
Of course, you can still bring your dog outside for bathroom breaks. If the incision is damp, quickly dab it with a soft towel as soon as you get back inside.
3. Check the incision site two times per day.
Peak at the incision point once in the morning and once in the evening. It’s normal to have minimal redness and swelling right after surgery.
Any small bruises, redness, and swelling should gradually subside over the next week. If you notice any of the following, you should contact a veterinarian for further advice:
- Increased or excessive swelling
- Acute redness around the incision site
- Unpleasant smell
- Unusual or smelly discharge from the site (or pus)
- Bleeding from the site
If the site becomes infected, you’ll likely notice changes in your dog’s behavior along with the visual signs of infection noted above.
Your dog may not want to eat, appear lethargic, or show signs of pain, including shaking, hiding, and drooling.
Post-surgical complications after neutering are considered rare, but it’s important to watch for any signs.
4. Monitor the pain level.
The veterinarian may have sent you home with a prescription for antibiotics and pain medications. If you have any questions about the medications, take the time to ask before you leave the office.
Antibiotics are used to prevent infection in the early days after the surgery.
Follow the instructions for administration and keep an eye on your dog in the days to come. Some signs of pain in dogs include:
- Panting (not due to exercise or excitement)
- Tail between the legs
- Head low to the ground.
- Drooling (unusual drooling for the dog)
All medications have side-effects but most of the time they are mild. Common side-effects of antibiotics typically involve the gastrointestinal tract and may include:
- Loss of appetite
Speak with the veterinarian if you have any concerns about the side effects of pain medications and antibiotics.
5. Don’t Suddenly Change Your Pet’s Diet
You might need to remind family and friends not to feed your recently neutered dog anything new.
It’s human nature to want to offer your dog a treat or something to make him “feel better.” The last thing you want, however, is any kind of upset stomach.
The best post-surgical dietary advice for your dog is to keep the diet bland for a few days.
Your dog will eat when he’s hungry, so don’t worry if his appetite is a little low for a while.
6. Limit Activity
Exercise should be restricted for 7 to 14 days after surgery.
You can allow your dog to walk around the house if he or she is comfortable. The main thing is to discourage your dog from running, jumping, or engaging in rough play with other animals or children.
7. Keep Your Dog Confined During the First Day Home
Your dog’s body needs time to rest after surgery and the incision site must be carefully protected. Strenuous activity could reopen the surgery site leading to infection, bleeding, or other complications.
Most dogs will still be groggy as they come out of general anesthesia. They may tremble, be unsteady on their feet, or even cry a little during this time. This is normal in the first few hours after surgery.
If you have any concerns in the first hours or days of post-surgical care, be sure to contact your veterinarian for advice.
8. Monitor Potty Breaks Carefully
Regardless of when your dog had surgery, the time is going to come when he/she has to take care of business.
It’s not a great idea to let your dog bound up and down stairs in the first few days after surgery. So, if you have a small dog, you might want to gently carry him/her outside.
If you have a larger dog, just guide him/her slowly outside. It’s best to keep your voice calm so that your dog doesn’t build up excitement about going outside.
Yes, you want him to pee or poop, but you don’t want your dog to think it’s play time. A sudden jump or lunge could be painful.
Best Option for Potty Time!
The best option for potty time is a nice patch of grass that you can set inside or outside.
DoggieLawn is a company that sells patches of real grass (based on your specifications) and comes with disposable gloves, poop bags, and a training guide for new subscribers.
This little patch of grass can be a lifesaver, especially if you have a large dog who has just had surgery. You can’t pick him up and you definitely don’t want to hurt him/her.
The good thing about this monthly subscription is that you always have the option to hold off or cancel an order for as long as you need.
9. Special Needs of the Female Dog
Having a female dog spayed is a more complicated surgery than it is with a male. The female dog typically takes longer to heal and will need special care during the recovery time.
Your veterinarian will give you special instructions that include feeding soft food, keeping her away from other pets in the house will recovering, and preventing your dog from jumping up on furniture, etc.
10. Special Needs for the Male Dog
Male neutering aftercare tips are almost identical to those of a female. Neither sex should be bathed for two weeks after the surgery.
It’s important to keep the incision site warm and dry.
Although many surgeons use dissolving sutures in dogs, there is still the risk of popping them until the skin has had time to heal.
Male dogs who engage in too much activity post-surgery are at risk of bleeding into the scrotal sac. This is a painful and sometimes dangerous condition.
11. Age Makes a Difference
The older your dog is when he/she goes into surgery, the higher the risks. Experts suggest having your dog spayed or neutered before 6 months of age.
If, for whatever reason, you’ve waited to have your dog neutered, you may want to consult with your veterinarian about the added risk of anesthesia. Older dogs with chronic conditions may not be good candidates for general anesthesia.
The good news is that dogs are not under general anesthesia for a long time. Spaying/neutering a dog does not take a long time. Ask your doctor if the gain is worth the risk.
12. Surgical Side Effects
Some dogs may experience nausea and/or vomiting after surgery. This is usually because of a sensitivity to the anesthetic used.
If this happens, it should resolve within 24 hours after surgery.
If your dog was going to have any serious side-effects from the anesthesia, he/she would have experienced that on the operating table.
That said, anesthesia can cause ongoing side-effects that include:
- Whimpering or crying
13. Bland Diet
If your dog is particularly sensitive to anesthesia and has an upset stomach, try a bland diet for a couple of days. After that, gradually increase that amount until your dog is back on his/her regular diet.
A bland diet includes foods that are easily digestible. Boiled lean meat (chicken, for example), beef, or turkey will work.
Adding a starch like white rice or even some sweet potatoes is a good choice. Don’t push the diet too hard on those first days home.
Your dog will eat when he/she is hungry. In those early post-surgical days, giving your dog easy access to water is the best idea.
Bland Diet Dog Food We Love:
14. Keep Your Dog’s Nails Trimmed
This might sound unusual, but by keeping your dog’s nails trimmed, the risk of hooking or puncturing the suture site is lowered.
If you haven’t had the surgery performed yet, ask your vet to do the trimming while your dog is under anesthesia.
15. Allow Easy Access to Fresh Water
Move the water dish close to your healing dog after surgery. This will prevent him/her from having to get up and down too often.
Plain water is the best thing to offer your dog and he/she should have easy access to it.
16. No Swimming
Generally speaking, swimming is a great exercise for dogs (or people!) with stiff and sore joints.
However, until the surgical site has healed properly and completely, swimming is not advised. Until the skin has completely healed, the site is at risk for infection.
The softening effect of the water on skin can also cause the wound to reopen and bleed.
17. Keep Your Dog Pooping
Constipation can occur after surgery. Unfortunately, any kind of strain can pull or tear the stitches. It can also cause pain, swelling, and discomfort.
If your dog isn’t vomiting or suffering tummy upset (gagging, burping, excessive drooling, or a poor appetite), add a little pumpkin puree to his/her food.
A little goes a long way. A few teaspoons for a tiny dog or a few tablespoons for a large dog is more than enough. Too much pumpkin might cause diarrhea and diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
Your dog should be urinating and defecating normally (regularly) within 72 hours after surgery.
18. Pet Parent Bonding
Nurturing your dog back to health is a great time to bond. The extra attention is good for your dog, and even better for you.
The love and care that you shower on your dog releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that makes us want to take care of babies and puppies.
19. Is Your Dog Home Alone?
You might feel guilty leaving your dog at home alone when you go to work. However, if your dog is recovering from surgery, that time alone might provide the best rest.
Without the normal buzz of activity around the house, your dog might be better able to rest and recover.
20. Doggy Sitters
Sometimes, however, leaving your dog home alone isn’t the best option. Not all dogs will sleep and recover easily.
Dogs with separation anxiety, for example, may be more inclined to find a way to dig at the incision site.
If you need someone to check in on your dog while you’re at work, enlist the help of a dog walker, a family member, or friend.
It might not be a big deal if your dog has been on the medication before and has not had any side-effects. However, it might not be a good time to introduce any new medication.
21. Keep Your Dog Distracted
While you can’t engage your dog in active play during the first couple of weeks after surgery, there are things you can do to distract him.
Gentle grooming around the head and neck, patting, gentle massage, rubbing the paws with safe essential oils (used with a base) are all great ideas for keeping your dog relaxed and distracted.
22. Keep Your Dog Mentally Engaged
Different breeds have different requirements to be healthy and happy. Some dogs are happy to take lots of naps during the day. Other dogs, need to be mentally and physically engaged.
If you’re having trouble keeping your dog calm during the post-surgical period, try keeping your dog mentally engaged.
Some great ideas to keep dogs mentally stimulated during this time include the following:
23. Keep Small Children and Babies Away
Young children and babies love to crawl over their dogs, but they may not understand what being “gentle” really means.
Keep a close eye on young children around dogs at all times, but especially post surgery.
In fact, if you have a good-sized crate where your dog will feel safe and secure, that might be the best option for a while.
24. Consider Doggy Stairs
If your dog is normally most comfortable beside you on the couch or at the end of your bed, he may benefit from the support of doggy stairs.
You can get stairs to fit all dog breeds. They also come in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles to suit your needs.
25. Keep Spayed Females Away from Unneutered Males
It’s important to keep your spayed female away from an unneutered male for 7 days post surgery.
Now that you’ve made it through the dog neutering aftercare trials and tribulations, give yourself a pat on the back. You should be proud of yourself.
Having your dog neutered is one of the best ways to reduce his chance of developing certain cancers. In addition, you’ve just prevented more unwanted strays from roaming the streets or ending up in shelters.
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“What Is the Difference Between Spay and Neuter?” What Is the Difference Between Spay & Neuter?, 19 Mar. 2021, www.faithvetclinic.com/blog/274764-what-is-the-difference-between-spay-amp-neuter_2.
Paddock, Arliss. “Spaying and Neutering Your Puppy or Adult Dog: Questions and Answers.” American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/spaying-and-neutering-your-dog-faqs. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.
“Ask a Vet: All You Need to Know About Spay/Neuter Surgery.” MSPCA-Angell, www.mspca.org/pet_resources/ask-a-vet-all-you-need-to-know-about-spayneuter-surgery. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.
Klein, CVO, Dr. Jerry. “What Is the Best Age to Neuter or Spay Your Dog?” American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/expert-advice/vets-corner/neutering-spaying-right-age-dog. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.