Road To Recovery: Post-Operative Spay And Neuter Care

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
Before your dog heads into surgery, here’s what you should know about the spay and neuter procedure

If you’re going to have your dog spayed or neutered, you’ll also have to be prepared for the procedure itself. It’s a surgical operation that requires preparation, comes with risks and needs aftercare. Here are the basics about spaying and neutering procedure:

What Is Spaying and Neutering?

These surgical procedures performed by skilled veterinarians that ensure dogs can’t breed by removing their reproductive organs. Spaying (also known as an ovariohysterectomy) is performed on a female dog and consists of the complete removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and both ovaries. For male dogs, they undergo what’s called neutering (known as castration or orchidectomy), which includes the complete removal of the testicles.

The Recovery Process for Spayed or Neutered Dogs

If you’re a first-time owner and this is your first operation, it’s normal that you’re a bit nervous taking care of your patient. Your vet will go over all of the post-operative instructions that you’re going to need to follow to make your patient comfortable. Many vets will advise you to withhold food and water up to a certain time before the surgery. And depending on where you take your dog for the operation, many will require your dog to spend the night for observation.

It’s not unusual for there to be some discomfort after the surgery and your vet can give your dog medication for the pain. Pills can be sent home with you and tapered off as the wound begins to heal. To make sure your dog gets better quickly, here are a few tips to follow:

Limit Activity. This is one of the hardest things to do with dogs, particularly young dogs who have lots of energy. But it’s one of the most important things you can do because you don’t want any stitches popped or extra healing to have to happen because they did something playing. It’s hard, we know, but consider crating if necessary.

Dry incision. Keep the incision as dry as you can. Check on it twice daily at a minimum. It’s not uncommon for infection to occur, especially if your dog has somehow gotten past their cone of shame. These days, there are lots of flexible options for preventing them from licking their incision site. Your vet may even want to put it on from the start before they ever release them. Don’t let them get wet or give them baths for at least 10 days after surgery.

Keep abreast of their pain level. Just like for humans who have surgery, you’ll want to make sure that you’re on top of their pain levels. For the first 48 hours, it’s probably a good idea to keep giving them the pain medicine as prescribed, regardless of how they’re behaving. Sometimes the trooperiest of troopers will fool us, but they’re going to end up in pain as a result of their busy-ness. Keeping on top of their pain, especially since they can’t verbally tell you they’re hurting. They’ll do their best to put a brave face on for us (one of the many reasons we adore them) so we need to do our best to help them be as pain-free as they can be.

When it comes to feeding them, you’ll want to keep them to a regular diet as you can, but that first day after surgery, perhaps consider maybe 1/4 of what you’d normally give. A larger amount may make their stomachs feel icky, but you’ll also want to be sure you’re not giving them medicine on an empty stomach either.

Pay attention to any swelling, discharge or opening of the incision. Odds are your dog will be more lethargic and tired, but if you notice any excess or your dog is throwing up or having diarrhea, check with your vet immediately. Decreased appetite is another sign to watch out for too, so pay attention to that.

Be sure to give your dog enough time to heal, keep a close eye on him and keep your follow-up appointments with your vet for checkups.

Most importantly, be sure to give your dog a lot of extra TLC. The hard thing about your dog getting treated for anything is that they just don’t understand what’s going on and they look to you for understanding. Of course, you won’t be able to help them understand the spay or neuter was in their best interest, but you can love on them and let them know you’ll always be there for them.

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

More by Amy Tokic