Skip to main content

How to Care for Dogs After Spaying Surgery

I've written extensively about pet care and pet health both on the web and in print. I have 6 dogs, 16 cats, and a small flock of birds.

Many pet owners are unprepared for their dog's post-operative symptoms, and they're left wondering "Is this normal?"

Many pet owners are unprepared for their dog's post-operative symptoms, and they're left wondering "Is this normal?"

What to Expect After Spaying a Dog

Did you just get your dog spayed? Great job! Spaying (and neutering) is key to controlling the pet population.

Recovery from spaying surgery takes approximately 10 to 14 days. Many pet owners are unprepared for their dog's post-operative symptoms, and they're left wondering "Is this normal?"

In This Article

  • Which items you'll need to have on hand at home
  • How to prepare a recovery room
  • Normal post-operative symptoms to expect
  • How to care for the incision
  • Warning signs of complications to look out for
  • Additional tips for helping your dog heal as quickly as possible
  • How to care for your pet in the hours and days after the operation

What's the difference between spaying and neutering?

First, let's clarify: spaying is the process used to "fix" a female dog, while neutering is the process used to castrate and "fix" a male dog. Spaying is much more invasive since it entails cutting through the abdominal wall (whereas neutering recovery is much easier since they only cut through the skin of the testicles).

What You'll Need

When your newly spayed dog returns home from the veterinary clinic, you should have the following items on hand:

  • E-collar (traditional "cone" or inflatable e-collar)
  • Dog bed
  • Food and water dishes
  • Puppy pads or plastic garbage bag and tape
  • Towel or blanket
  • A quiet room, away from children and other pets
  • Dog kennel
  • Phone number and address for the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic

Inflatable E-Collars for Dogs

Looking for an alternative to the cone (also known as an Elizabethan collar or e-collar)? Consider an inflatable one. They are smaller and more convenient for both dog and owner. It's easier for the dog to access food and water bowls, and they'll have an easier time walking around. Traditional e-collars tend to get caught on doorways, walls, and woodwork.

You can purchase inflatable e-collars for dogs of all sizes. Once inflated, it looks like a doughnut with a slit that allows you to place it around the dog's neck. It secures with Velcro.

After surgery, dogs will require lots of rest.

After surgery, dogs will require lots of rest.

How to Prepare a Recovery Room

After surgery, dogs will require rest—and lots of it! In addition, many get aggressive due to the pain and unusual physical sensations that can result from the anesthesia. Therefore, we'll need to isolate the dog from children and other pets.

Find a quiet room that can be closed off to other dogs, cats, and kids. It should be free of couches, beds, and stairs, as the dog may be unsteady and prone to falling. A fall can be extremely dangerous for a recently-spayed dog, as she may rip the stitches or trigger internal bleeding.

A bathroom typically works well, and a tile floor also allows for easy clean-up if the dog vomits (which is common after surgery).

Place the following items in the pet's recovery room:

  • Water bowl
  • Food bowl
  • Dog bed
  • Puppy pads
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Pethelpful

The dog bed should be covered with a puppy pad or placed inside a plastic bag (tape the plastic bag closed or pull the drawstrings closed, knot the strings, and snip off the excess to prevent strangulation). Place a blanket or towel over the puppy pad or plastic.

The dog bed will need to be covered because dogs are very prone to vomiting after surgery due to the effects of the anesthesia. Also, many dogs will urinate in their sleep. Your pet will be sleeping very deeply due to the after-effects of anesthesia and she may experience sleep incontinence, particularly if she received IV fluids during the procedure. Place a few puppy pads near the bed as well.

Post-Operative Symptoms to Expect

These are some of the more common post-op symptoms that your dog is likely to experience. Understanding these symptoms and why they occur will help you care for your recovering dog.

Poor Balance

Immediately following surgery, dogs tend to exhibit poor balance. This is probably one of the first things you'll notice. It's an after-effect of anesthesia and it is completely normal, though not all dogs exhibit this problem.

Remember the following tips:

  • Walk-behind your dog as she walks up any set of stairs, so you can catch her if she falls.
  • Walk slowly.
  • Keep your dog leashed while outside.
  • Be prepared to help her into the car; don't let her jump into the car.
  • Keep her away from kids and other pets. They may bump into her, causing her to fall or react aggressively due to pain.
  • Don't allow her to jump onto the couch or bed. She may miss and the sudden movement can result in torn stitches.

It's best to avoid carrying a dog immediately after spaying surgery. The veterinary surgeon must cut through the dog's abdominal wall muscles during the procedure, making her entire torso very sensitive and tender. When you pick her up, you risk stretching her skin and abdominal muscles. This can cause pain and damage to the stitches, so avoid carrying your girl.

Go straight home after collecting her from the veterinary clinic following surgery. She will be tired and in pain.

Did You Know...

The vet will insert several layers of stitches at different depths. Some stitches dissolve; others need to be removed. If you're unsure whether your dog will need her stitches removed, call your vet clinic.

Sleepy/Groggy

Anesthesia results in grogginess and long periods of sleeping, so you can expect that your dog will be tired. Notably, some dogs are more affected than others. A small percentage of dogs aren't groggy at all by the time the vet clinic is ready to send them home.

If your dog is sleepy, this is totally normal. They tend to be prone to very deep sleep, and as I mentioned above, this can result in a dog that pees in her sleep. Therefore, cover the dog's bed with a puppy pad or plastic. Check on her every few hours to ensure the bed is dry and take her outside to do her business frequently.

In the event that your dog is not sleepy following surgery, you'll have the unpleasant task of keeping her inactive and quiet. Crating may be required if your dog is attempting to jump and play.

In the days following the operation, your dog's energy level will return to normal. Her body may require a bit of extra sleep to help aid in the healing process, but she should not be groggy or lethargic. If your dog seems lethargic more than 36 hours after surgery, contact the veterinary clinic. This can be a sign of an infection.

how-to-care-for-dogs-after-spaying-surgery

Don't Forget the Puppy Pads!

Puppy pads will be useful since you'll need to protect the dog's bed from accidents and vomit. In addition, your dog will receive IV fluids during the operation and this will cause an increased need to urinate. Dogs must be supervised when outdoors until the stitches are removed, so you'll need to cut off access to the doggy door. Put down a puppy pad instead.

Vomiting and Refusing to Eat and Drink

Is your dog vomiting following a spay operation? This is totally normal.

Anesthesia results in nausea, so some dogs will vomit. Others won't.

As a result of the nausea, some dogs won't eat after surgery. Some will also refuse to drink water. This too is completely normal; it's a result of the anesthesia after-effects and it can be a response to the pain as well.

To limit the chances of vomiting, wait until 8 or 9 o'clock at night before putting down food and water. Your dog may eat a small amount of food and water or she may refuse.

The nausea and the dog's refusal to eat and drink should disappear within 24 hours after surgery. If your dog is vomiting and still refusing to eat and drink 24 hours later, consult your veterinarian.

How Do I Care for My Dog's Incision?

Your dog will have an incision on her lower abdomen. It will be several inches in length and it will be secured with one of the following:

  • Stitches
  • Dissolving stitches
  • Wound glue
  • Staples

If the incision is closed with wound glue, you must use extreme caution to avoid getting it wet. Therefore, you should avoid bathing your dog and cleaning the wound unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian. You'll know it's closed with wound glue if you can't see any stitches or staples. Non-dissolving stitches and staples will be removed at the vet's office after 10 to 14 days.

How to care for the incision:

  • Check the incision twice daily. It may be slightly red and there may be minor swelling in the day or two following surgery. A small amount of blood-tinged discharge is normal, particularly during the first few days.
  • Remove dried discharge with a warm, damp washcloth. Hold the washcloth against the incision for a few seconds, and then gently wipe away the discharge.
  • A small dab of antibiotic cream can be applied to the incision during the first couple of days post-spay. Clean the incision by applying Betadine to a cotton ball or cotton pad. Dab the Betadine onto the dog's incision. This is only necessary after removing discharge or if your dog contaminates the wound by licking it, etc. (This is another reason why the dog's e-collar must stay on until healing is complete!)

Signs of an infected incision or another problem include:

  • Gap between the edges of the incision
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus discharge
  • Large amount of discharge
  • Odor or discharge with a bad odor
  • Bleeding, especially after the first 36 hours post-surgery

The general rule is this: The incision should be improving with time. Take a daily photograph of the incision; compare the photos. This will enable you to monitor healing without relying on memory. If the redness, swelling, discharge, or general appearance of the wound is looking worse with time, this signals an infection! Get your dog to the veterinary clinic ASAP!

Why Do I Need an E-Collar or Cone?

The e-collar or "cone" will prevent your dog from licking the wound and therefore prevent infection. After several days, as the skin starts to heal, the dog's incision will get itchy! In response to the itching, your dog may bite at the incision, stitches, or staples. If you remove the cone before the stitches or staples are removed, your dog may remove them prematurely! This is dangerous and costly to fix, so keep the cone on!

Additional Tips: Dos and Don'ts

Here are some important dos and don'ts that will help facilitate a smooth recovery post spaying.

Do:

  • Look up the phone number and address of the nearest 24-hour emergency clinic.
  • Let your dog sleep following surgery.
  • Leash-walk your dog until her stitches are removed.
  • Bring her to the vet if she is exhibiting pain, signs of infection, pale gums, or other problems.
  • Crate your dog if she wants to run, jump, or play. She must remain inactive for 10 to 14 days.
  • Expect minor panting and other signs of discomfort in the hours immediately following surgery.

Don't:

  • Give your dog aspirin. It will thin her blood, causing uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Give your dog Tylenol or other pain medication! These are deadly to dogs!
  • Let your dog run or jump until her stitches are removed.
  • Let your dog lick the incision.
  • Let her off-leash until she has healed (10 to 14 days). If she gets lost, it could be deadly!
  • Be surprised if your dog exhibits aggression immediately after surgery. This is a normal reaction to pain.
  • Remove the e-collar! It only takes a moment for your dog to remove her stitches prematurely. This can lead to a medical emergency!

Is My Dog in Pain?

Your dog will be in pain following spaying surgery. Spaying is more painful than neutering since the surgeon must cut through the abdominal wall. Your vet will give your dog pain medications before she leaves the clinic, so that will help. If you think she is uncomfortable, contact your vet. NEVER give a dog pain medication at home! Many are toxic and aspirin will cause internal bleeding.

Warning Signs: Post-Op Complications to Look Out For

Prior to your dog's spaying surgery, look up the name and phone number of the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic. Know where it's located so you don't get lost if you need to rush her to the hospital. Always call ahead so the emergency vets can prepare for your dog's arrival.

Bring your dog to the veterinary clinic if you notice...

  • Bleeding**
  • Pale gums**
  • Torn stitches, dislodged staples, or an open incision**
  • Excessive panting or vocalizing due to pain (especially beyond the first 12-24 hours post-surgery)**
  • Gap between the edges of the incision
  • Foul-smelling discharge from the incision
  • Lots of incision discharge
  • Redness at the incision site
  • Swelling at the incision site
  • Refusal to eat or drink (24 hours after surgery and beyond)
  • Lethargy (24 hours after surgery and beyond)

** The starred (**) points are signs of an emergency. Rush your dog to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic if you observe any of these symptoms.

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.

Sit! Stay! Speak!

shanny on August 02, 2020:

hi my dog went for neutering a week ago he has been vomiting ever since,we took him back to the vet she put a drip we took him home

and a day later started vomiting and shaking again,what exactly is happening to him.

Wendy Miller on July 10, 2020:

Hi my female dog just got surgery done yesterday and today she drink a little bit of water this morning and she ate a little bit and it stayed Down

satyam jaiswal on June 08, 2020:

it is really nice information

Robert Gallo on May 22, 2020:

my chocolate lab is going in at 8 o c

lock today to get spayed shes 7 months my daughter keeps crying. i just pray everything goes ok.

Kathy Wells on March 15, 2020:

My 6 month old Shih Tzu was spayed last Wednesday, the 11th. She has done well, except I was wondering why she has a little lump by her stitches. Thank you.

Sue on January 14, 2020:

Does anyone know if it's ok to give my dog milk after getting spayed?

msrilyn on December 09, 2019:

My 5 year old chichuaua was spayed 3 days ago and she stil hasn't pooped

Nalas mum on October 16, 2019:

I had my 1 year old Puggle spayed yesterday and she has slept since i brought her home. I have managed to get her to eat some chicken but she is not interested in her water unfortunately but I think this is due to her having to have extra fluids during the operation. I have been incredibly worried because she can not seem to control her bladder however reading this has put my mind at rest. Thank you!

Skeeter's Mom on October 06, 2019:

We are on day 2 of Skeeter being home, her surgery was Thursday and our vet keeps them overnight. biggest issue is that our girl still wants to run and play. i freaked out when her surgery site had some spotting and it caused her to itch. it seems to help when i hold a clean towel gently, very gently to her surgery site. she is my girl and trusts me completely so there hasn't been any aggression due to her being uncomfortable, I'm hoping it stays that way!

kira25 on September 26, 2019:

i have Recently had my 14 month old Labrador Spayed on the 25/09/2019 i sat up all night to keep an eye on her it is not a Nice thing to see what they go through after surgery while anaesthetic is wearing off i have managed to get my girl Labrador to eat small portions of breast chicken on the 26/09/2019 today but i am bit concerned that she is still not going to her water bowl to drink water after 24 hrs But i can say i took her out the back garden as i know she loves the hose pipe i put that on slow to trickle and she did take a few drops of water through out the day i would say just over a cup full is that Natural for them to be like that and how long have your fur babys taken to get back to drinking water there selves after being spayed look forward to Reply of your experiences

KAMI on September 17, 2019:

Thank you so so much Jadri!

Jadri on August 08, 2019:

spayed my 7 month old German Shepard/retriever per my Vets suggestion. She said that its better if you spay a dog when they're a bit older as supposed to when they are younger than 7 months because they haven't developed completely? something like that.

my dog is SUPER energetic...and immediately wanted to jump and run...it has been so hard to contain her and I have been freaked out about her opening her incision because of all of her energy and activity. I checked it 3 days later and it looks ok. nothing major. it might be because of her age that it heals faster? I don't know. im still freaked out so we are continuing to monitor her and keeping her in a confined space.

another thing to note, is that I had read articles that say that dogs tend to change after the surgery. That they are not the same. I was afraid my dog would not bark or be playful anymore. So far that has not changed! she seems to be the same...at one point for the first couple of days she wouldn't bark I was afraid that she would never bark again, but I guess it was that she was in pain. the Doctor did prescribe pain meds for 5 days and I believe that has helped. I just cant wait this is over, because I feel for her. it hurts me to think that she thinks that we are abandoning her or don't want to play with her anymore.

to everyone out there...be patient...and be strong. Its tough to see your dog like that...but its for the best. and time will pass and your dog will be back to normal. I have about another 5 days to go...and it seems like eternity.

greeting from Los angeles California :)

Caitlyn on July 13, 2019:

My girl is a picky eater as is so her not eating will probably cause more of an issue than it really needs to be. Added some coconut oil to her mix and still nada. It’s currently 3 hrs before the 24 hour mark of dropping her off at the vet, and she had just vomited not to long ago. After reading this I feel a little at ease. However, seems like I’ll have to force water into her if she doesn’t start drinking in the morning.. she is crated and has her water and food bowl.. Guess we will wait and see!

Theress on July 06, 2019:

I adopted Alfred from PAWS in Anderson SC last Saturday. They did give me any information about the neutering. Glad i found your site. He hasnt been eating ir drinking..i was getting worried... Ithasnt been 24 hr yet.

Beni on May 26, 2019:

My dad brung my dog Lila to the vet today and I needed to know what to do to be prepared for when we got home so I’m very happy I did because now I know what to do to make my Lila comfy at home

sheila taylor on May 24, 2019:

i took my jack russel to the vets as she had gone of her food ' the vet gave her a scan and said she had a womb infection and there was fluid in her womb so she was rushed in for a spay operation. she is 14yrs old and its 2days now shes still sleeping alot and shes ate a small amount but hopfully she will start improving tommorow .

Maggie on May 21, 2019:

My pug was spayed yesterday morning and i picked her up at 3.30pm from the vets she was very wobbly and dazed and slept right through until this morning no interest at all in eating and drinking last night and i felt so sorry or her but she has eaten well and had plenty of water this morning she hasnt been to the toilet at all yet but took her liquid painkiller and antibiotic capsule wrapped in a bit chicken no problem at all I was just wondering if anyone has a male dog as well because I am having an awful problem keeping our boy away from her they are like a wee married couple and pine for each other but im worried about him licking or biting her stitches any advice would be welcome thanks.

Ann on May 01, 2019:

Thanks for your comments its helped to ease my mind. My welsh springer was done yesterday picked her up at 5.30pm very groggy slept all evening took her in the garden 10pm she did nothing just lay on the grass put her back to bed she slept all night , seemed happy to see me this morning 7am went in the garden didn't do anything put food down for her from the vets she didn't touch it proceeded to vomit all over quite a lot yellow liguid not seen her drink yet and judging by her bowl doesnt look like she has , shes back in her nice clean bed now just slerping but thanks to your comments i realise this is normal . Hopefully she'll improve as the day goes on . On the plus she is wagging her tail when i speak or touch her so happy about that.

Cheryl on April 11, 2019:

I had my baby girl cocker spaniel spayed yesterday .I managed to walk her before the op.. she was full of life and happy..I thought if only she knew what was going to happen next!I couldn’t wait to go and collect her .thow the op went very well she was drowsy and sleepy and she couldn’t get comfortable it was awful to see her looking so confused sad and feeling sorry for herself awww ... This morning a different dog ! You would never think she had had surgery!She is back to her normal self I’m pleased to say.she has eaten and drunk and took her medication no problems..also managed the toilet so all good...it is hard to keep her quiet and still I have had to crate her a little for her own sake..check up tomorrow morning so fingers crossed I’m sure all will be fine

Buffy on March 28, 2019:

Shes very restless.. All night, and still this morning. It is about 20 hours since being spayed. I was able to get her meds down this morning. Still restless..

Dee on March 18, 2019:

Our 6 month baby was spayed 3 days ago. First night was awful, my fiancé did not sleep most of the "first night" trying to make her comfortable. I should have taken a couple of days off work to get her through those first 3-4 days, luckily I work from home. If you don't, its best to have someone there the first days-not just the weekend.

Second day and night was way better, but caution she took off the inflatable collar at night...ugh!

This 3rd morning, she woke up clearly in pain again- and those awful pain jabs, that make her jerk. She will not lay down when she feels like that- until the pain med kicks in-now she is resting. We were not prepared for this-every dog is different- Coko was way easier.

Best advice -be prepared for someone to be home with the puppy for MORE than just a couple of days. Thank goodness I work remotely at home. Great site and comments. Best wishes with your baby!!

Julie on March 14, 2019:

I had my 2 1/2 year, golden retriever spayed 2 days ago.

Dropped her off at 8.30 Tuesday morning and collected her at 4pm? She was very groggy for hours wouldn't eat, managed to get her to wee about 10pm. She slept all night, was still very lethargicthe next day, I sat with her all day. I had a problem trying to stop her getting on the furniture, had to baracade the stairs, made little ramps for her to climb up to get on to the sofa, as this was the only option. Just tried to mKe everything easier for her. She's a very active dog. 48 hours on she's dragging me on a walk, I'm only doing 10 min tops. She needs to get out. Otherwise so far so good.

Justine on March 07, 2019:

I just had my pug spayed today. I read that sometimes they will make accidents in the house due to the medication they are on and not really wanting to jump at the door when they have to go out. I'm wondering if I can put a puppy diaper on her for a few days or if it will irritate the stitches

Kate on March 05, 2019:

My 3.5 years old Spanish Water Dog was spayed 4 days ago. I have postponed the operation for so long but eventually made brave decision. On the day of operations I have dropped her if at 9:30. She stayed at vets all day and they were updating me during the day how is she doing. We have collected her at around 5pm. She was spaced out and wobbly. Gave her pain killers at 7 pm together with her meal. At midnight she managed to go for a wee. I slept with her all night on the floor. In the morning she was full of energy. Myself was more tired than her. Since she is very energetic it is a problem to prevent her from jumping on furnitures. I have placed thick duvets an the sofa so she can not jump up and barricaded stairs with a chair so she can not go up the stairs. Due to her large size, she has nylon stitches put on that have to be removed after 10 days. There is a bit of dry blood around stitches but wounds looks good. I opted for surgical vest. She is wearing in most of time. This prevents her from leaking the wound and external infection. I had so many worries before doing it and it is very emotional decision to make but 4 days after I believe that it is right decision. Through this experience I have learned that dogs are so much stronger than us humans.

Joanna on February 27, 2019:

My 18 month old jack/chihuahua was spayed this afternoon. About 1.30pm. I picked her up about 5.15pm from the vets. She was very spaced out when i collected her. I opt for a surgical vest instead of a cone for comfort.

Its now 9.20pm she has been sleeping on and off. Taken alittle bit of water. Not interested at all in food. I decided to keep her in her crete as i have another dog. She has not moved a inch. Only to slightly move in her bed. Still very sleepy. Hoping she will pick up in the morning. She wont even move to wee.. so heartbreaking to see her like this but know we have done the right thing.

Nikki on February 06, 2019:

Didnt bother with a cone or e collar vet was pushing for it and i refused turns out the dog is more interested in sleep and cuddles she hasnt once tried to lick and we have 24/ 7 eyes on her so thankful for how she is recovering so mellow and says in bed untill i force her out good training good dog

Patti on February 05, 2019:

Great advice! We had our 6 mo. old girl spayed 7 days ago-7 more to go-so far so good. She is already wanting to run and play vbut NO! Crated a lot to keep her quiet, out on leash, and everything so far seems ok! No ext. stitches so that's a plus. Now 7 days from now, here we go!

Tracy on January 20, 2019:

Loved this article so much! I’m a nervous nelly so I read it probably 10 times, haha! We are doing cone every time she goes in her kennel. We put a smaller bed in her kennel to accommodate the size of the cone and she’s doing great with that. She obviously hates the cone but I know it’s best for her incision! Thanks again for the helpful article!

Monica on January 19, 2019:

My 11month old toy poodle was spayed yesterday. Now (24hrs after spay) she is swollen under rib cage. Is this normal or should I be concerned?

Caroline on January 01, 2019:

My bitch got spayed 5weeks ago now she cant lift or use her left leg properly it is up in the air and then she pants what is this is this normal shes running walking fine just cant scratch it goes up n looks like a crap she slides on her bum then i rub her leg and shes panting alot why is this plus shes gone very hypo active pants alot 2

rich on December 22, 2018:

if i am traveling can i leave the spay stitches in for 25-30 days