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What Happens When Your Dog Is Spayed

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Mutts may be cute but they all need homes—spaying your dog will prevent "accidents."

Mutts may be cute but they all need homes—spaying your dog will prevent "accidents."

What Happens When Your Dog Is Spayed?

Most of you will end up taking your dog to the vet to be spayed. There are a lot of advantages to having the procedure done since it will control overpopulation and keep her from potentially developing pyometritis later in life. Are you curious about what happens when you drop your dog off to be spayed?

When you drop off a male dog to be castrated, the change is obvious. With females, you may notice that you leave an active dog and pick up a quiet dog with a small incision on her belly. There is a lot more to it—let's discover why:

  1. Preparation and lab work
  2. Surgery
  3. Recovery and discharge

1. Preparation and Lab Work

Here is what goes on before the procedure.

The Early "Prep"

Your dog will already be NPO (no food or water prior to surgery so that she will not get sick and vomit), and the first thing that is done when you drop her off is a physical exam. As long as your dog has a normal heart rate and temperature, pink mucous membranes, and is hydrated normally, things can proceed.

Some veterinary hospitals will check your dog´s blood by performing a CBC (complete blood count) and a chemistry panel. This is not standard practice at many clinics. Only one dog in thousands will have a low platelet count, anemia that was not noticed during the exam, or problems with her kidneys or liver. If you are the owner of that dog, however, she might not make it through anesthesia. You should ask whether blood work is going to be done prior to the surgery. It might cost a little more, but it is worth it.

What a Blood Test Can Reveal

Type of Test

Possible Problem


Low RBCs: Anemia


Elevated WBCs: Bacterial Infection


Low Platelets: Bleeding Problems

Chemistry Panel

Abnomal creatnine or BUN: Kidney Problems

Chemisty Panel

Abnormal Liver Enzymyes: Liver Disease

Chemistry Panel

Abnormal Pancreatic Enzymes: Pancreatitis

Even More Preparation

When the blood work has been looked over, your dog will be put back up on the exam table and one of her front legs will be catheterized. Like blood work, this is not always a standard procedure, but having an open vein will allow her to receive fluids if needed, and may save vital seconds if your dog has any problems.

Some vets prefer injectible anesthetics and some use gas anesthesia. If gas is used, a small dose of injectable anesthetics are given and then a tube is inserted into the trachea. The tube allows gas and oxygen to be delivered into the lungs.

Your dog might have her belly clipped before she is taken into the surgery room, but in some places, she will be put on oxygen before this even starts. She may have her abdomen scrubbed once while being prepped, but oftentimes this takes place in the surgical suite. Her belly is scrubbed with a compound like chlorhexidine or betadine that will kill all the bacteria present on the skin. This way, bacteria does enter the body when she is cut open.

2. Surgery

Here is what occurs during the actual surgery.

Spaying Your Dog

The surgical nurse connects your dog to the anesthetic at the same time that she is being prepped. She will also have a pulse oximeter connected to her tongue at the same time. The pulse oximeter will keep track of the oxygen levels in her blood. If they fall too low, the anesthesia can be shut off quickly before damage occurs.

After she is tied down, her belly is draped with sterile surgical towels and a large waterproof paper drape is placed on top of everything. A small incision is made on the ventral midline and the tissue underneath is dissected with scissors so that the vet can find the linea alba, or the white line that can be cut without any bleeding.

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The vet will then use a small, blunt hook to reach down into her belly and pull up one of the horns of the uterus. When the horn is found, it is lifted up and traced back down to the ovary. The vet will place two clamps on the attachment between the ovary and the body and tie suture around it so that there will be no bleeding later; they will then cut between the clamps.

The same thing is done with the other ovary, and then the base of the ovary is clamped and sutured before removal. When a dog is spayed, both of her ovaries are removed, as well as the entire uterine body. All of her female anatomy is removed—only a small stump of the uterus remains.

When the stump goes back in the body, the vet leaves your dog open for a short time to make sure that there is no bleeding. The body wall is then closed at the linea alba, the subcutaneous tissue is pulled together, and a few sutures are put in the skin to pull them closer together.

That's it! The actual surgical procedure may only last 20 minutes as most of the time is spent in preparation.

Depending on how long it will take the vet to close, the surgical nurse turns off the anesthetic gas before the surgery is over. Your dog is moved to a recovery cage, and when she is awake enough to swallow, her tracheal tube is removed.

Being spayed is great when it is over.

Being spayed is great when it is over.

3. Recovery and Discharge

Here is what happens after the procedure.

Waking Up and Going Home

A few hours later, she will be ready to go home. Most of the effects of the anesthetic will have worn off, so she will probably be on a pain medication.

Are There Things to Worry About When I Take Her Home?

Some vet clinics will recommend that your dog be hospitalized the first night after surgery. You should decline this option since you can keep a better eye on her. Just take her home, keep the other dogs from jumping on her and making her rowdy, confine her to a corner of your living room, and feed her a small meal in the evening.

Your dog might not pass a stool that night since she has been fasting, but she still needs a walk in the evening so that she can urinate when she needs to. When you take her in, let her sleep in your bedroom but fix up a corner for her so that she will not want to move around during the night.

That is all there is to it for the next week to ten days when you take her back to your vet to have her stitches removed. There is no special cleaning or other care required, but if you notice that the spay wound is red and swollen and that she is licking at the wound excessively, you might need to take her in so that she can be fitted with an Elizabethan collar. (The "cone of shame" that so many dogs do not care for.)

Most dogs will not need a special collar and will recover nicely without any special care. As soon as you go back and have those sutures taken out, all of this will be behind her.

It is a little money and a short recovery period. Please get your dog spayed. She will benefit from it the rest of her life.

More About Your Dog's Health

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.

© 2013 Dr Mark


Mary Craig from New York on October 11, 2013:

It is not often we get such good, detailed information about a procedure we've had done on our dogs for years. Thank you for always giving us the information we need.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 08, 2013:

It always amazes me that they pop back as quick as they do, epbooks. All most people see is that tiny incision, and since the dogs leave in such good shape most owners do not realize what the dog has gone through.

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on October 08, 2013:

I never knew any of this although I know our vet does bloodwork before any surgery. It's been over twelve years since we had our pup spayed but I do remember she only had a slight belly ache afterwards. Thanks for the information!

Bob Bamberg on October 08, 2013:

Really, really interesting hub, Doc. Almost like being there. Voted up, useful and interesting. I'd go on, but have to get over to the other URL...redemption time. Woo hoo.

LKMore01 on October 07, 2013:

Thank you for describing this medical procedure, Dr. Mark. This is such an important, informative and educational article.

Rebecca Furtado from Anderson, Indiana on October 07, 2013:

This is a very informative hub. I have had my female foster dogs spayed at the low cost clinic. I do not believe I have ever been offered the blood test. I will be asking for it from now on.

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