I'm the proud owner of two dogs: a Chihuahua-Papillon cross and an American Staffordshire. I am an animal lover and advocate in general.
A canine urethrostomy is a very invasive and permanently life-altering procedure. If your dog is unfortunate enough to have this surgery, it was likely imperative to save their life. So whilst the recovery is an emotional journey for both you and your pet, try to remain positive.
Enjoy the second chance the procedures given the both of you. My Staffy is roughly five years post-op and has had no issues relating to his surgery. With a lot of love and care, life after this procedure can be just as good as before.
Recovery After a Urethrostomy
After the initial urethrostomy procedure, a dog is usually kept in a veterinary hospital. However, this is not always the case and it certainly wasn't for us. My dog was released just hours after the surgery, and the aftermath was brutal for the first few weeks. Owners should be aware that this will be an emotional time for both their pets and themselves.
Is Bleeding Normal?
Bleeding heavily from the operative site is absolutely normal but definitely scary as well. Bleeding and healing will vary with each individual dog depending on things like breed, behaviour, age, and general well-being of the animal. My American Staffordshire did not have a smooth recovery. Being a young dog with an energetic nature, it was near impossible and very difficult to keep him rested. But that's the most important thing to do—to keep your dog as calm and immobile as possible.
Keep the Wound Clean
Hygiene, particularly of the wound itself, is key. Dogs should be kept indoors where possible and cleaned effectively, several times a day and after urinating and defecating. I found baby wipes particularly useful during the recovery period as well as after! Unfortunately, dogs rarely urinate in a steady single stream after a urethrostomy. It becomes more like a sprinkler and often will end up getting all over your pet's legs and feet, which is not good for their skin. So wipes are handy to avoid further skin conditions developing as a result.
Problems During Recovery
Dogs typically take six weeks to fully heal from a urethrostomy. Unless, of course, there were problems such as sutures being reopened or wounds compromised by infection. We will address some of the common problems as well.
Keeping the Surgical Site Clean
Stitches can reopen and the operative sight can experience trauma in so many ways. Keeping your pet immobile enough to heal is problematic for a lot of owners. The dog might be excitable and energetic, and reluctant to stay still. The wound can be itchy and your dog might scratch at the wound or grind on the ground. For any trauma, return to the vet who performed the surgery immediately. They will assess the damage and decide what action is necessary.
Infections during recovery should be prevented with antibiotics prescribed by your vet. Whilst uncommon, they are not impossible. If the operative sight begins to look red, swollen or oozy, do take note. Return to your operative vet and they will assess the infection and prescribe antibiotics. For more severe infections or instances of foreign matter being present, they may wish to reopen the sight and clean it.
With any and all concerns post-surgery, the advice is the same. Frequent communication with your vet is key. Do not hesitate to call them and raise any and all concerns.
Getting back to normal once healed can be a learning curve in itself for both you and your pooch. This section will assess aspects of returning to normality in terms of combining old routines with new challenges and care tactics.
Most Patients Are Male
Most dogs that require this procedure are male. Meaning they have likely become neutered as a consequence of the procedure if they weren't already. This can mean your dog may experience behavioural changes typical to male dogs after being desexed due to hormonal changes on top of anatomical changes.
Learning to Potty
Male dogs can no longer urinate as they did before either. Going from a steady stream and leg lifting to being a sprinkler and needing to squat are big changes for them. Most dogs will learn to squat instead of lifting their leg on their own in time. Some never will. For these owners, in particular, maintaining good doggy hygiene is imperative. I still to this day, baby wipe my dog after every trip outside.
Fur growing around or in the new urethral opening needs to be kept trimmed but not closely shaven. Long hair can get in the way of good hygiene. But shaving the hair close to the skin can result in ingrown hairs. I was very fortunate, my Staffordshire has naturally short hair so didn't need extra grooming however I do have to be careful loose hair of his doesn't venture into the urethral opening. Be sure to inspect the area frequently for any loose hair or other foreign materials such as grass or dirt.
Your pet should be able to play and walk as they did before surgery. Exercise is as important as ever for their well-being. So do not hesitate to take them out and about. Do be on the lookout though for 'grinding' behaviour or excessive scratching on grasses and carpets that might agitate the new urethral opening.
As with any operation, pets should continue to receive veterinary care and post-operative check-ups. This procedure might mean your dog is unlikely to have future problems with bladder stones, however, it may make your dog more susceptible to urinary tract and bladder infections. So doing a routine urine collection and analysis is worth the peace of mind.
How to Care for Your Dog After a Urethrostomy
This article is a follow up on a previous article and has limited detail on the procedure and recovery. For more information about the procedure and helping your pet through the initial recovery period, please read my article: "How to Care for Your Dog After a Urethrostomy."
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2019 Stephanie Purser