Having your dog neutered is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy and happy dog for years to come. It’s probably the first time you’ve had your dog under anesthesia, and you’re probably a little worried about what comes next.
This post will take you through everything you can do to ensure your dog completely recovers. Generally speaking, time and rest are the two most important factors in dog neutering aftercare.
Keep reading to find out what’s normal and what might require a call to the vet.
1: Handle Your Dog Like a China Cup
The first 24 hours after surgery are critical to a healthy recovery. 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.
2: Here’s Your Dog…and Here’s A Prescription
The veterinarian may have sent you home with a prescription for antibiotics and/or a mild painkiller.
If the veterinarian is familiar with your dog, they are likely already aware of any medications your dog is currently taking. If you have any questions about the medications, take the time to ask before you leave the office.
All medications have side-effects but most of the time they are mild. Common side-effects of antibiotics typically involve the gastrointestinal tract.
The risk of infection is high after surgery and the antibiotics will ensure that your dog doesn’t develop a nasty infection.
If you think your dog might be having more serious side-effects to the medication, by all means contact your veterinarian.
3: Tummy Troubled
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.
Dog’s typically run a higher temperature than humans. Anything above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, however, should be reported to the veterinarian.
If your dog has a low-grade fever, you may not even notice. Watch for the following symptoms of fever shortly after surgery:
- Low Key/Tired
- Warm ears
- Unusual Fatigue
- Dry nose
Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite is normal right after surgery. Your pooch probably just wants a little rest and relaxation. However, dogs (as you know) quickly regain their appetite.
If you notice your dog not showing an interest in food days after the surgery, it’s possible he/she has a fever.
If your dog develops a cough after surgery, contact the veterinarian right away. Whether it’s a fever or not is beside the point.
A chronic cough can damage the incision site and create a painful situation. If you bring your dog to the veterinarian with a cough, he/she will likely take your dog’s temperature and assess the situation.
Throwing up is another situation that you don’t want to mess with. Those first few days after surgery are vital to proper healing. The action of vomiting is harsh and certainly won’t feel very good post-operatively.
Regardless of the cause, be sure to contact the veterinarian as soon as possible.
JUST THE TIP…
To take a dog’s temperature, purchase a thermometer made specifically for dogs. Any pet store should have them. You’re going to need a pair of disposable gloves and something like Vaseline as a lubricant.
Carefully insert the thermometer into the dog’s rectum, being careful not to push too deep. The easiest way to take a dog’s temperature is to have another person calming the dog with soothing words and patting.
5: Does the Incision Look Angry?
Even though your dog is on antibiotics, it’s still important to pay attention and watch for signs of infection. This is especially true if your dog has been on antibiotics in the past.
Unfortunately, antibiotic resistance happens to dogs as well as humans. It’s not likely your dog is experiencing antibiotic resistance, but it could happen.
The important thing is to check the incision site twice a day. That way, you’ll know what it looked like on the first day and you’ll know whether it has gotten better or worse since then.
Some inflammation is normal. The site might even be a little pink or red. However, if the incision site continues to swell, becomes warm to touch, seeps, or reddens, contact the veterinarian.
6: Keep The Tongue Away!
It’s natural for a dog to want to lick a wound. Unfortunately, you can’t let that happen. The moisture from a dog’s saliva will dramatically slow down the healing time. In addition, excessive licking can pop stitches and re-open the wound.
The easiest way to stop a dog from licking a wound is with an Elizabethan collar. They are also called cones, e-cones, or e-collars. Small dogs can sometimes get by wearing a t-shirt.
As long as the cloth covers the wound and prevents your dog from getting at it, your good to go.
If you are supervising your dog and feel confident he/she won’t nibble at the site, you can take the cone off. However, the minute you have to leave your dog alone is the time when you need to put the cone back on. Your dog will not love it, but it’s for his/her own good.
7: Bathroom Time
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.
8: 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.
MYTH: It’s a misconception that female dogs get fat after surgery. The reality is (like me) you’re probably feeding her too much.
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.
DID YOU KNOW? Female dogs not spayed are more likely to develop mammary cancer than any other dog. The risk of a dog developing a mammary tumor is 0.5% if spayed before their first heat (approximately 6 months of age), 8% after their first heat, and 26% after their second heat.F
9: 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.
10: 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.
11: Redness, Swelling, and Discharge
Wounds tend to itch as they heal so it’s perfectly normal that your dog might feel some discomfort during this time.
However, if the incision site appears very red with an “angry” appearance, you might be dealing with an infection. Other problems that could occur are pulled stitches, a pulled groin, etc.
If your dog is wearing a shirt to keep his mouth away from the incision, it’s possible the cloth is simply irritating the skin.
12: Small Amount of Blood
You might notice an unusual “stain” around the surgical site when you first bring your dog home from the vet.
This is probably just an antibiotic wash used on your dog’s skin post-surgery and is nothing to worry about. In fact, there might be a little bit of blood remaining around the surgery site.
Don’t attempt to wash it off as you’ll want to keep that area as dry as possible.
If you see fresh blood seeping from the site, call your veterinarian. The veterinarian may need information from you including when you noticed the blood, what the dog was doing at the time, how much blood there is, and whether your dog seems to be in any pain or distress.
13: 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:
14: 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 potato is good as well.
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.
15: 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.
16: Sometimes, Your Dog Just Wants to Drink
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.
17: Love Your Dirty Dog
Veterinarians recommend keeping your dog out of water for up to two weeks post surgery. It’s really important to keep that incision site as dry as possible to facilitate healing.
Allowing the site to get wet and absorb water also leaves the area vulnerable to unwanted bacteria.
18: 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.
19: Keep Your Dog Pooping
Constipation can occur after surgery. Unfortunately, any kind of straining 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, 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.
20: 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.
21: 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.
22: 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.
23: Tick and Flea Control
If you provide your dog with a monthly, topical flea and tick medication, ask your doctor how soon after surgery it is safe to administer.
Generally speaking, it’s probably safe to use within 24 hours of the surgery. However, it’s always best to double check with your veterinarian to be on the safe side.
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.
24: 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.
25: 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.
To sum it up, dog neutering aftercare involves a keen eye, patience, and follow-up with the veterinarian if necessary. You should feel pretty good about having your dog spayed or neutered.
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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