How to Care for Dogs After Spaying Surgery


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-spaying symptoms, and they're left wondering "Is this normal?"

Here, we'll discuss what's normal after spaying surgery in dogs. We'll cover:

  • Vomiting
  • Refusal to eat and drink
  • Sleeping
  • Incontinence
  • Aggression

...and more. We'll also discuss how to care for your pet in the hours and days after the operation.

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. So in this piece, we'll explore recovery from spaying, which 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.)

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 other pets and children
  • Dog kennel
  • Phone number and address for the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic

Read on for additional information on what to expect and how to help a newly-spayed dog after surgery!

Prepare for your dog after spaying surgery. (Benjamin Earwicker Photo)
Prepare for your dog after spaying surgery. (Benjamin Earwicker Photo)

Preparing a Recovery Room

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

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 as the tile floor also allows for easy clean-up if the dog vomits during recovery.

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

  • Water bowl
  • Food bowl
  • Dog bed
  • Puppy pads

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 during recovery. 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.

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.

Poor balance is normal after spaying surgery. (Mariana Figueroa Photo)
Poor balance is normal after spaying surgery. (Mariana Figueroa Photo)

Poor Balance

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

Remember the following tips:

  • Walk behind the dog as she walks up 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 your dog away from other pets and kids. They may bump into her, causing her to fall or react aggressively due to pain.
  • Don't allow the dog to jump onto the couch or bed. She may miss the jump 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 your dog 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.

Dogs sleep a lot after spaying surgery. (Andrzej PobiedziÅski Photo)
Dogs sleep a lot after spaying surgery. (Andrzej Pobiedziƅski Photo)


Anesthesia results in grogginess and long periods of sleeping, so you can expect that your dog will be tired. Though, 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 who 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.

Puppy Pads

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 or drink is normal following a pet's surgery.
Vomiting and refusing to eat or drink is normal following a pet's surgery. | Source

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, 24 hours later, your dog is vomiting and still refusing to eat and drink, consult your veterinarian.

Benjamin Earwicker Photo
Benjamin Earwicker Photo

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 your dog's 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.

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 post-surgery.
  • Remove dried discharge with a warm, damp washcloth. Hold the washcloth against the incision for a few minutes, and then gently wipe away the discharge.
  • Clean the incision by applying Betadine to a cotton ball or cotton pad. Dab the Betadine onto dog's incision. This is only necessary after removing discharge or if your dog contaminates the wound by licking it, etc. (Another reason why the dog's e-collar must stay on until healing is complete!) A small dab of antibiotic cream can be applied to the incision during the first couple of days post-spay.

Signs of an infected incision or another problem include:

  • A gap between the edges of the incision
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus discharge
  • A large amount of discharge
  • An 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!

How Old Was Your Dog When She Was Spayed?

  • Puppy (12 weeks - 3 months)
  • Juvenile (3 months - 6 months)
  • Young Adult (6 months - 12 months)
  • Adult (1 year - 5 years)
  • Middle Aged (5 years - 10 years)
  • Senior (10 years+)
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A Note on Your Dog's E-Collar or "Cone"

In the days immediately following surgery, the e-collar or "cone" will prevent your dog from licking the wound. This will 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 your dog gets her stitches or staples removed, your dog may remove them prematurely! This is dangerous and costly to fix, so keep the cone on!

Additional Tips

  • -- DO look up the phone number and address for the nearest 24-hour emergency clinic.
  • -- DO let your dog sleep following surgery.
  • DO leash-walk your dog until her stitches are removed.
  • DO bring your dog to the vet if she is exhibiting pain, signs of infection, pale gums or other problems.
  • DO crate your dog if she wants to run, jump and play. She must remain inactive for 10 to 14 days.
  • DO 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.
  • DON'T give your dog Tylenol or other pain medication! These are deadly to dogs!
  • DON'T let your dog run or jump until her stitches are removed.
  • DON'T let your dog lick the incision.
  • DON'T let your dog off-leash until she has healed (10 to 14 days). If your dog gets lost, it could be deadly!
  • DON'T be surprised if your dog exhibits aggression immediately after surgery. This is a normal reaction to pain.
  • DON'T 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 reduce her pain. If you think your dog is uncomfortable, contact your vet. NEVER give a dog pain medication at home! Many are toxic and aspirin will cause internal bleeding.

Bring Your Dog to the Veterinary Clinic If...

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

The following are signs of a problem.

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

  • **Bleeding
  • **Pale Gums
  • **Torn stitches, dislodged staples or open incision
  • **Panting or vocalizing due to pain
  • A 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)

Sit! Stay! Speak! 44 comments

Franksterk profile image

Franksterk 5 years ago from California

Excellent topic and lens. Blessings and bear hugs, Frankster

anonymous 5 years ago

Informative lens. Thank you.

miacarter profile image

miacarter 5 years ago from SW Florida Author

@Franksterk: Thanks for your blessing, Frankster! My first blessing, in fact! :-)

VoodooRULEs 5 years ago

Great job on this lens! Thank you for all the tips!

WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 4 years ago

Never knew about inflatable collars. Thanks for the info.

anonymous 4 years ago

after the first day of sapying, i brought her home with the e collar, and she reacted as advised in this article: strange reactions to eating and drinking,disorientation, a bit of blood from the incision, letgargy; but the 2nd day, she started to tremor, apparent in her head, shaking quite violently; she also could not control her bladder, peeing everywhere, and a bit aggressive when trying to leash her. unfortunately my vet did not reply at all to my concerns over the weekend, btu i chose to take off the e collar, because clearly it was causing her problems, perhaps fear. I imagine not being able to see peripherally cause a lot of disorientation in her mind. but with the ecollar off, i kept it off all night, i checed the wound this morning and it was find. she seems to only try to chew it when i am around her and i am awake, so i am confident i can monitor it. i hope i am doing this right

anonymous 4 years ago

This was the best article I've read on the subject of spaying. I had my dog Angel, done yesterday. Luckily no accidents though when it came to the bathroom, ate a little bit last night and this morning appetite is back to normal. It was very informative on everything. The panting did worry me last night, but good to know it's normal. It's been saved to my bookmarks as a point of reference should I need to! Thank you!

anonymous 4 years ago

Very helpful,answered almost all my questions. Thanks for a very useful resource aiding my decision to spay my dog.

Cari Kay 11 profile image

Cari Kay 11 4 years ago

Excellent page! Have to bless this page because spaying and neutering your pet is just so important!

anonymous 4 years ago

My six month girl has just been spayed six days ago, she hated the cone collar, and became very depressed. I took it off and put her in a baby grow with the arms cut out, and some elastic at back to go round each leg, she has been very happy with this and has left the wound alone, so long as the baby grow was on.

anonymous 3 years ago

Thank you, very useful and informative.... Had my little girl spayed yesterday and she has been so poorly today, tremors and panting, took her to the vet and he said this it was not abnormal.... Was still worried so found this site and it has put my mind at rest..... I just can't wait for the next ten days to be over so she can return to her normal happy self... Poor little Miss Mollie.... I was starting to regret getting her altered!!!

anonymous 3 years ago

Thank you! I was so worried about the excessive (to me at least!) vomiting the day I brought Sunny home from her spaying surgery. Glad to know it's normal!

anonymous 3 years ago

Very good info. Addressed all the common problems.Very helpful, good page. Thanks!!!!!

anonymous 3 years ago

This just answered everything! Thank You!!

anonymous 3 years ago

Very helpful.worried that she may have infection but have vets on tuesday

..only noticed today..good idea about taking pics

anonymous 3 years ago

My Silky/Yorkie is 6 mo. She urinated 9 times in 1 1/2 hours (3 in house) on the 2nd. day after the surgery. She had one active period where she wanted to resume fetching, digging, and she strained on the leash to greet someone. Could too much activity have encouraged the peeing?

miacarter profile image

miacarter 2 years ago from SW Florida Author

@anonymous: It's likely this is due to the extra fluids that she was provided while at the veterinary clinic. It can take a day or two to get back to normal in this regard. :-)

And yes, if she's taking part in activities that leave her thirsty, this could cause her to drink more and thus, pee more.

Just be careful to avoid over-doing it with the activity post-surgery. She needs to be kept low-key to allow the incision to heal. :-)


Mia Carter

LauraHofman profile image

LauraHofman 2 years ago from Naperville, IL

Excellent and informative tips here! Our dog was very groggy after coming home from surgery. She thankfully didn't experience any nausea though.

trimomsarah 2 years ago

Thank you!!!!

TerriCarr profile image

TerriCarr 2 years ago

Yikes! I had no idea it takes so long for female dogs to recover from spaying. Nice, detailed explanation of what to expect.

crystalrobbie 2 years ago

Hi my dog us getting more and more distressed having the collar on which is hurting her. Can I put a bandaid over her stitches or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks

miacarter profile image

miacarter 2 years ago from SW Florida Author

@crystalrobbie: A bandaid won't work; she'll just pull it off.

I'd get an inflatable e-collar instead (pictured further up the page). That's more comfortable and they work just as effectively as a lampshade. Best of luck! :-)

grassykeyis4me 2 years ago

My 10 year old yorkie had surgery for removal of mamory tumors. She couldn't handle the collar. So i bought a baby onezie in preemie size. She didn't mind wearing it. It worked very well. She was unable to get at her stitches. Looks a little funny and you have to unsnap every time they need to go out for potty but at least she was comfortable.

Babz 7 months ago

Had my 6 month old puppy spayed today. This article was so helpful and well written. Now I know what to expect and what signs to watch for.


Cynthia 7 months ago

My dog, Lola, got spayed at the animal care and control shelter and shes an outside dog. We cant keep her in the house because we have kittens. This is her 3rd day after surgery and she seemed fine and playful early on in the day. Towards the afternoon, we went to the store and while we where gone the neighbors said they fed her BBQ ribs. Now she seems out of it, and has mucus running down her nose, and is a little teary-eyed... I hope she didnt hurt herself by eating too much food.... im worried.... foes anyone have any input??????

Skye 6 months ago

Skye haveing her op on Tuesday I am worried as she active dog I have a big cage for her I no she going to hate the cone but I no sh he has to have it on she still chews every thing Whats worrying me we have to climb a lot of steps to get to the front Door will it harm her

Amber 6 months ago

My 2 yr old coon hound was spayed 3 days ago. She is having bloody diareah. Shes eating. Amd drinking water. Not quite herself but not too far off.

Should i be concerned?

Natalie 6 months ago

My French bulldog got spayed 2 days ago & she is leaking a dark urine but not much just concerned about this is it normal?

Evelyn 5 months ago

Had my Abby spayed 2 days ago, she only tried licking it a couple times, we told her no, and she's been staying away from it. She's been sleeping most of the time. Still giving her the pain meds as it says for 3 days. She ate about 1.5 cups of dog food yesterday (she usually eats about 2-3 cups/day), and she hasn't eaten since. No vomiting, and no peeing in house. I'm worried that she's not eating... thoughts?

mrinalini 4 months ago

my 6 month old puppy was spayed yesterday has not been eating or drinking since . Is groggy and sleepy and looks a little low . is it normal ? My parents have almost given up hope . Please im desperate to know if she will recover . How much time does it normally take ?

wendy 4 months ago

hi .my bitch was spayed 3 weeks ago aged 10 months , its taken her all of the 3 weeks to totally recover from her op. she stopped eating/drinking and going toilet for nearly a week , so dont worry too much.

Dellavern Gittens 4 months ago

Hi my shepherd mix got spayed at 7 months she's a very active dog.

i notice a swelling at the site but no discharge no fever so i'm hoping it will go down eventually' she never had a cone but bounced back the second day after surgery, eating as usual , drinking water , playing is just too much.

she just can't keep quiet. but she's herself. get too excited when i'm around hope all works out well.

LisaWestbrook 3 months ago

IHad just had my dog spayed a week ago, she is a 2 and 1/2 year old Husky, I just got her a few months ago. She has been a Joy. She has done well with the surgery and recovery, my concern is that since that day, she acts like she is nesting, she gathers up toys and lays with them. she moves them to where ever she is, She has become very protective over the toys and stresses out when the other Husky plays with them. There have been no actual dog fights between but there has been some warnings, little growls and lunges. They have gotten along well since they have been together, When they are outside away from the toys, they are fine.Is this normal? will it Pass? or should I be concerned? Should I put all of there toys away for a while? I am not sure what to do, This is the first older dog that I have ever had spayed, I usually spay right away

Mandi 3 months ago

I am quite the momma duck with my Dog. I'm a worrier about everything, especially my pets. This article helped. I'm still ridiculously concerned that she won't drink or eat but she did only get her surgery today. I'm just extra worried because my vet had us fast her the night before. So she hasn't eaten anything since yesterday night.

Carol 3 months ago

My dog never snored before the spaying she is in her 1st day after and she has been snoring I thought, Now I am wondering if she is having trouble bresathing and it is not snoring, It only happens when she sleeps. but she wakes up even if I just get up from my chair or bed. I try to be quiet but she wakes. Could she be snoring? Its 7:51 Pm, I picked her up at 3pm yesterday. I am just worried about the snoring, she is eating, walking wants to play but accepts me containing her. She moans when I pick her up, I notice, and I just read not to pick her up.

amy 2 months ago

i had my little 3 years old baby girl spayed yesterday after surgery I walked her home layed her down she was whistling through her nose and started whining I called the vet. she said shes probley in pain to put her in a dark room by her self away from my kids and her brother shes in pain and that a little dot of blood is normal im so worried its all most 24 hours and she wont eat or drink for me at 2:15am I forced her to drink a little bit of water in a dropper I offerd food too. and she wont take it so worried. pluse I had to carrie her home because she couldn't walk is she ok or did I hurt her by carring her home please someone reply soon thanks

lily keat 2 months ago

my dog is getting spaded tomorrow i'm so worried hope she'll be ok when we left the adoption center so she could get spade her eyes looked so sad

Fluffy 2 months ago

Is it normal for them to breath fast after getting fixed?

zoey 2 months ago

My dog was spayed on Tuesday early morning, Tuesday and Wednesday were hard for her and me, with it being Saturday she has done so well and really wants to be outside. Do you think it is to early. Was told to at least wait 7 days. She is so back to her self and the cut looks great... I want to wait the 7, but she want out... she is a boxer and more of an outdoor dog then indoor.

SK 2 months ago

My dog is just a year old, I got her spayed this Saturday and since then she is been just vomiting. it's Tuesday today and she has not been eating anything.. the doc says it's acidity, but now I am really worried. She is been on saline and she is not eating anything. Is this normal? Do dogs have acidity post spaying?

SkL 2 months ago

My 6 month old border collie was just spayed and she would not wear a buster collar so I purchased a ballet leotard and cut a hole for her tail. She keeps this on and it prevents her licking day we are on day four and no issues at all. Her incision site looks great...just hard to keep a border collie quiet so I keep her on leash and with me at all times.

SueG 6 weeks ago

Thank You so much for writing this article. It was very informative and eased all my fears of what I thought was not normal... Thank You Thank You!!!!!

Mona 5 weeks ago

2 days ago I had my 2 puppies spayed. They are the best in the world after reading some of the comments. One's a little lethargic yet but her sister is fine.

One thing I have noticed though is when there's a stab of pain they go ballistic. Scared me at first but only just found out that was normal. Your article and reviews were very informative.

Rosie Partridge 5 weeks ago

our little shih Tzu puppy has just been spayed. We had a blood test done first which picked up an abnormal enzyme in her kidney so they put her on a drip and checked her urine which was clear....thank god. She stayed at the vets overnight and had her op this morning. Will be collecting her this afternoon so will keep everyone posted on her progress.

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    Mia Carter (miacarter)7 Followers
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