Spaying & neutering aftercare guide for dogs

Although spaying and neutering are standard surgical procedures that vets perform every day, being spayed or neutered is likely the first time your dog has ever had surgery. It may also be your first experience of caring for a pet after surgery!

So, to help you care for your dog following their spay or neuter, we’ve created a spaying and neutering aftercare guide…

Please note: Some vets will refer to ‘spaying’ as ‘speying’ instead, though it’s the same type of operation. 

Preventing your dog from irritating their wound

If you’ve ever had surgery, you’ll know how itchy a surgical site can become as your skin heals after a procedure – though dogs can’t understand why they shouldn’t scratch! That means it’s up to you to protect them from causing damage to their skin following surgery. 

Here are a few options available to protect your dog from their own desire to scratch and lick their surgical wound:

‘Cone of shame’ or Elizabethan collar (“E-collar”)

Also known as the ‘buster collar’ or ‘Elizabethan collar’, a radar dish-like cone is the traditional method of protecting a dog’s surgical wound from irritation.   

It’s important to get the right size of cone for your canine companion. To check the cone fits correctly, you’ll need to attach it to their collar and be able to run two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. 

Make sure the cone reaches at least an inch past your dog’s nose – otherwise, they might be able to sneak around it to scratch at their stitches!

Top tip: For a lightweight alternative to using a collar, you could use a piece of ribbon to gently secure the cone around your dog’s neck instead. 

Dog wearing an operation collar

Inflatable collar

Should a traditional plastic cone be unappealing to your dog – and you’d like to avoid having your legs bumped into by a tough, plastic cone – an inflatable collar is a great solution!

An inflatable collar is softer and less intrusive than a cone, and it won’t hinder your dog from performing natural behaviours, like eating, drinking, and sleeping comfortably. Inflatable collars tend to be available in a wide range of sizes, too. 

Most inflatable collars are made using tough materials that can resist scratching and biting, yet they’re also machine washable.

Pet suit or pet shirt

Many vets are now opting to recommend the use of a special pet suit or pet shirt to protect a pet’s surgical site after spaying or neutering. An example of a vet-approved, full-body protective suit is the MPS Medical Pet Shirt

Since cones and inflatable collars are different to what your dog is used to, wearing one can cause some canines to become stressed. By choosing a vet-recommended pet suit or pet shirt, your dog can enjoy normal, everyday behaviours, while limiting the risk that they’ll lick or chew at their surgical wound.

Top tip: A modified baby grow may work for small dogs!

Monitoring your dog’s surgical site

The best way to monitor your dog’s surgical site is to take photographs of it daily. 

Your dog’s wound should remain soft, and their skin should stay a normal colour – though the incision line itself may appear reddened initially. 

Look out for the following signs, and contact your vet if you notice:

  • Hard or soft swelling – could signal inflammation, infection, or seroma formation (a collection of fluid beneath the skin).
  • Bleeding – can be caused by re-opening the incision, due to too much movement or excess scratching, for example.
  • Discharge – might indicate an infection.
  • Unpleasant smells from the surgical site – another sign of a possible infection. 

Keeping your dog comfortable at home

A significant aspect of your dog’s recovery from their spay or neuter is keeping them comfortable. 

Sleep schedule

It’s normal for your dog to feel sleepy for a few days following their surgery, but expect them to be extremely tired on the day of their operation. So, allowing them plenty of time to sleep on their clean, cosy bedding will speed-up their recovery.

Eating and drinking

Your vet is likely to advise giving your dog plain meals, like boiled chicken and rice, for a couple of days following their surgery. Since some dogs can feel stressed enough about their experience that their appetite is affected, it’s essential to speak to the vet if your dog refuses to eat. 

Remember: Constant access to fresh, clean, drinking water is vital for your dog’s health and recovery.  

Relieving stress

Having surgery creates a significant change in routine for your dog, which may result in stress. For dogs who struggle to settle after their surgery, vets might prescribe a post-op calming tablet or plug-in to calm their emotional responses as they recover.

Providing painkillers

Follow your vet’s advice, and only give your dog painkillers as prescribed. 

Limiting movement

You’ll need to protect their surgical site by preventing your dog from jumping up, having zoomies, and using the stairs.

If possible, it’s recommended that you let your dog stay snuggled in a crate – with access to water – at night, when you’re unable to monitor them as closely. 

Helping your dog rest after their surgery

Leading on from limiting their movement, you’ll need to be proactive in preventing your dog from moving too much in the first few days after being spayed or neutered!

Our top tips for keeping your dog safe after surgery include:

  • No dog walks for the first few days (to limit risks of injury and infection).
  • Short toilet breaks on a lead in the garden (or another safe outdoor space).
  • A pet-friendly ramp for easy access to furniture, e.g. Trixie Ramp (though this should be set up before their surgery, so your dog can get used to using it!). 

Handling your dog safely after their surgery

Should you have a smaller-sized dog, avoid picking them up, wherever possible, because handling them could cause injury to their surgical site. 

If your canine companion finds comfort through cuddling, you’ll need to be careful when lifting them. The best way to pick up your dog after their surgery is to place a hand under their chest and gently scoop their backend up with your other hand.  

Always follow your vet’s advice when handling your dog after their spay or neuter surgery. 

Potential side effects after spaying or neutering

Monitoring your dog for potential side effects is important, too.

There are several side effects your dog may experience after spaying or neutering, like:

  • Excessive drooling (due to nausea).
  • Heat, pain, and swelling of their incision site.
  • Wound inflammation.
  • Infection.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Breathing difficulties, especially in flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs.
  • Changes in behaviour, e.g. aggression.

Please contact your vet immediately if you’re concerned about your dog after they’ve been spayed or neutered.

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