How to Care For Your Dog After Spaying and Neutering

a gray puppy wearing a plastic cone collar and being examined by a vetSpaying or neutering is a major event in a dog’s life. As you may already know, there are several possible health benefits that come with doing so including helping to control the dog population and reducing the number of homeless pets. Currently, there are about 3.3 million dogs in shelters, and these dogs include strays, surrendered dogs, dogs rescued from animal cruely, and puppies that owners didn’t know about until it was too late and couldn’t take care of. Because of this, spaying and neutering is extremely important not only for population control but also for your dog’s health. Spaying and neutering can also prevent uterine cancer in female dogs and cancer of the testicles in male dogs. Here’s everything you need to know about spaying and neutering when you adopt a new dog

That apart, your pet will need to be properly cared for to help them make a full recovery in the shortest time. You’ll also need to watch out for signs of trouble and know when to call your vet for help.

What is Spaying and Neutering?

Understanding what happens when your furry friend is spayed or neutered can help you provide the best aftercare. Female dogs are spayed, and male dogs are neutered. Spaying and neutering are two surgical procedures done to stop female and male dogs from having puppies. A vet usually performs these safe procedures that can also effectively end the heat cycle for female dogs.

Spaying is a more invasive procedure that involves cutting through the abdomen to remove the ovaries, uterus, or both. Removing the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus is called an ovariohysterectomy. Needless to say, spaying usually stops the animal’s natural desire to mate and breed.

Neutering a male dog is done by removing the testicles. This process is much more simple than spaying a female dog due to how testicles are an external sex organ rather than internal.

How Long Does Recovery Take?

The first thing to note is recovery can take approximately 10 to 14 days for both procedures but can be longer.

It is possible that your veterinarian will decide to keep your pet under observation for a few hours or days after surgery. The decision usually depends on factors such as the age and size of the dog and health status. The vet will then discharge the animal if everything looks good and will give you instructions on how to care for your dog after spaying or neutering.

As of now, your dog will likely be exhausted and nauseous a few days post-op. These and other side effects are normal. There is also a risk of infection during the first couple of weeks post-surgery. However, the greater the care they receives the better the chance for quick healing and recovery. For instance, you can give your pooch dog vitamins leading up to and after the surgery to boost their immune system and ensure they’re getting the proper daily vitamins and minerals.

There is a number of aftercare tips and precautions to take to help your dog recover. You can also browse through the recommended care guide provided by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Most importantly, follow your vet’s post-op care instructions.

The Recovery Timeline After Spaying and Neutering

The actual time it takes for a dog to recover varies based on the individual pet. For example, healing time may be longer if the wound opens or gets irritated from the animal licking or chewing on the incision site. Hopefully, this does not happen and your furry friend can be back to himself after the two-week timeline. You can take precautions by putting an e-collar around the dog’s neck to prevent him from licking the wound. Nevertheless, here is a breakdown of what to expect after spaying and neutering, from the day of surgery until the end of the first two weeks.

The Day of the Surgery

The day of a surgery is always the scariest, but knowing what’s going to happen in advance is a great way to stave off any anxiety you may be feeling.

Behavior to Expect After Surgery

a hand holding a yellow pill in front of a sleeping yellow lab puppy with a bandage around one pawThe first stage of recovery basically starts after your vet discharges your four-legged friend. Now it’s time to head home. Once you arrive home and even on the way there, your dog will display certain behaviors or side effects of the procedure. Many of the early symptoms are related to the anesthetic used to numb the dog for surgery.

You can expect them to be dizzy, uncoordinated, and not interested in eating, drinking, or playing. The symptoms will continue until the drugs wear off—usually within 24 hours. Also, do not be too alarmed if your pet whines or whimpers during the first 12-24 hours. They may just be feeling the discomfort associated with surgery. You can give them medication for pain as prescribed by your vet if you suspect they are in pain.

Feed Your Dog a Moderate Meal

Your vet may tell you to restrict feeding for 2-3 hours. It is generally best to wait to feed the dog after the anesthesia wears off and they are back in control of their senses. In any case, they may not have an appetite due to nausea or upset stomach. You can still keep water around to ensure they stay hydrated. Once your pet shows interest in food, feed them in small amounts throughout the day. Some vets recommend that pet parents provide bland foods like rice or plain ground beef as the first post-op meal. As a note, your dog may also vomit when fed for the first post-op meal due to nausea. If this happens, take the food away and don’t try to feed them again for a few hours.

The Day After Surgery

Now that the big day is over, you may expect your dog to go back to their normal self, but that may not be so. Here is what to expect moving forward.

Behavior to Expect on Day 1

Expect your dog to appear drowsy and sleep for an extended period of time. Lethargy, shivering, and drooling are other common behaviors of side effects. All this is normal. In fact, rest from the daily activities and sleep for the first 24-72 hours are critical to the healing and recovery process. Note that some dogs are aggressive while still experiencing the effects of the anesthesia.

What Activities Can Your Dog Do?

a white and brown puppy sleeping with half its body on a bed and half on the floorIt is very important to reduce or avoid strenuous activities as far as possible for the first 2 weeks. The vet will let you know the exact length of time necessary to ensure healing occurs without any setbacks. You can still allow your pooch to walk, eat, and engage in mild play with their toys. Short outdoor walks is generally okay, but remember to keep them on a leash if you decide to take him out for some fresh air.

What Activities Can Your Dog Not Do?

Your veterinarian may tell you to confine the pet in a cage or a small room away from other household animals and children. This helps to minimize the risk of injury and infection of the incision. However, the more the dog feels better, the more they’ll try to walk and move. While these are signs they are recovering, activities should still be kept at a minimum.

More importantly, long walks, swimming, stair climbing, running, jumping, and rough-housing with other dogs should be avoided at all costs. These activities can cause the incision to come loose, bleeding, inflammation, pain, and slow down healing.

The Week After Surgery

After the first week is past, your dog will start feeling like themselves again, but the healing process still isn’t completely done.

Check Surgery Site for Proper Healing

You should check the incision daily to ensure the sutures are still intact. Also clean the incision twice a day or as recommended by your vet. This is necessary to reduce redness, swelling, and infection and help speed up healing.

There is a chance the incision might get dirty and will need cleaning to prevent an infection. Check the vet’s care instructions on how to go about doing this or call your veterinarian for advice. Still keep an eye out for pus and discharge and do not wet the incision or bathe the dog until at least 10 days after the surgery.

Keep an Eye on Your Dog’s Behavior

A week after being spayed or neutered, your dog should be well on his or her way to a full recovery. It doesn’t mean that they can get into rough play with your or other pets. Continue to monitor your dog’s behavior and progress. Keep an eye out for persistent upset stomach, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and trouble standing. Also check for signs of pain or fever due to infection.

Two Weeks After Surgery

By the end of week two, your pet should be feeling much better and ready to return to his normal routine. Remember, you may need to go back to the vet to get the sutures removed. Your vet will also assess the pet’s progress and determine if additional medical care is needed.

Bear in mind that spayed females may still attract male dogs that may try to mate them. Therefore, do your best to keep your spayed pet away from male dogs for about one month after surgery to prevent her from getting hurt.

Getting Sutures Removed

the belly of a a dog who got spayed and has four sutures along the incisionSuture removal depends on the type used to close the incision to the abdomen (spaying) or skin of the testicle (neutering). Sutures buried beneath the skin’s surface (absorbable sutures) usually dissolve by themselves by the end of the second week after surgery. Non-dissolving external skin stitches, stent sutures, and staples will require removal 10-14 days after the surgery. Your vet will instruct you on when to return to the clinic for suture removal and follow-up care.

What’s Normal After Spaying or Neutering?

After any sort of surgery, a pet won’t be acting quite like themselves. However, it’s important to be able to tell what is normal and abnormal behavior.

Grogginess and Agitation

Your newly-spayed or neutered dog will likely be groggy, sleepy, agitated, or lethargic on the first day. These symptoms typically pass within the first 24 hours after the operation. Your furry friend will begin to feel like his old self afterwards. However, you should call your vet if the symptoms continue after 24 hours.

A Small Amount of Blood and Swelling

A small amount of blood around the fresh incision is normal for up to 24 hours, especially if the animal is moving around. Mild redness and swelling will also be present on the first day after spaying or neutering and usually persist for about a week. This is common and expected after surgery and the first phase of healing.

As you check the incision at least twice a day, pay attention for an increase in swelling, redness, discharge, or an unpleasant odor. Call your vet right away if you notice any of these symptoms or a change in the appearance of the wound. It may be a sign of infection.

Mild Coughing

Mild coughing is normal for the first two days following the operation. This can happen because of the tube placed in the throat to keep the airway clear during the surgical procedure. The pup may need to see the vet if coughing persist beyond the first 48 hours post-op.

Weepy Eyes

An ointment is sometimes applied to the animal’s eyes before surgery to keep them from drying out, and this may cause the fur around the eyes to appear oily or teary. There is no need worry or clean your pet’s eyes. They will likely clean their eyes on their own, or the ointment will eventually disappear.

What’s Not Normal After Spaying or Neutering?

There are certain signs to watch out for following surgery as they may be telltale signs of complications. Call your vet or an animal hospital right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:

After the First 12 Hours

The first 12 hours are the most important for monitoring your dog.

Not Being Able to Stand or Walk

Your pet should be able to stand and walk without assistance within the first 12 hours of operation. As such, they may need to see a vet right away if they stagger, stumble, or show lack of coordination after 12 hours.

After the First Day

Your dog should slowly start returning to normal after the first day. Here’s what to look for.

Not Eating or Drinking

The animal’s appetite should return to normal within 24-48 hours. If you can’t even entice your pup with a treat, it’s a telltale sign that something is wrong.


Coughing should not continue beyond 48 hours.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Isolated vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms after undergoing surgery but should cease after 24 hours. Dehydration and complications can occur if the symptoms persist.

Discomfort and Lethargy

Treat extreme discomfort, lethargy, disorientation, or exhaustion beyond 48 hours as an emergency.

At Any Time

If you notice your dog experiencing any of these symptoms, call your vet or take your dog to an emergency veterinary hopsital if you can’t get in touch with them. These could be life-threatening.

Difficulty Breathing

Gasping or breathing with large chest movements is a sign something is wrong.

Incisions Re-Open

If the incisions open, you the first thing you will notice is blood. If this happens, you will need to take the dog to the vet as soon as possible so they can re-suture the inciison.

Swelling, Discharge, or Fever

These three symptoms are signs that your dog’s sutures have gotten infected. You’ll want to take your dog back to the vet. They will be able to clean the wound and possibly prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection.

Speak With Your Vet if You Have Any Questions or Concerns

While spaying and neutering are safe surgeries, serious complications may develop in some cases. You should contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the symptoms or side effects that are outside what is normal. Even if things are progressing well, you can still ask your vet to clear up any uncertainties you may have about the procedure or aftercare.


a happy black puppy with a white chestCongratulations on spaying or neutering your pet! However, it will take time for your pet to heal and be back to their old self again. With close monitoring, gentle care, love, and lots of rest during the recovery phase, they can bounce back fast! Choosing to spay or neuter your dog is an important decision that can help their personal health and also help keep dogs out of shelters.