Keep Your Dog Comfortable After Their Spay Or Neuter
Going through the often inevitable process of spaying or neutering your dog comes with a lot of preparation and aftercare for your pup. Ensuring their physical safety while also keeping them entertained and comfortable can be quite the balancing act. After working for several years as a vet tech, I have compiled a comprehensive guide on caring for your dog after surgery, as well as some ideas to make the process go a bit smoother.
General Rules Post Surgery
After your dog has had its spay or neuter surgery, it is best to keep them confined and at a low activity level for at least a week following the procedure. Your dog will still be under the effects of anesthesia for up to 24 hours so keep this in mind as they may have a decreased appetite and seem lethargic.
Be mindful of your dog’s medication schedule post-surgery, as well as they may be receiving a mix of pain medications and antibiotics, depending on what your veterinarian prescribed. You want to stick to the suggested dosing regimen and schedule outlined by your vet to create the most pain-free and comfortable recovery possible.
Lastly, keep an eye on your dog’s incision site to ensure no swelling and bleeding. Some discharge is natural, but as always, contact your veterinarian if you are concerned. Refrain from bathing your dog during the healing period, and this can irritate the incision or cause an infection.
To Cone Or Not To Cone
The first step to keeping your dog comfortable after surgery is to make sure you have some way to keep them from messing with their sutures or incision site. This can look different for every dog as some take to a traditional “cone of shame” quite well. Others have a difficult time navigating the world around them with so-called “blinders” all-around their head.
Here are some functional alternatives to keep your dog from messing with their incision and also comfortable during the healing process:
- Recovery Suit: In lieu of a traditional cone, recovery suits can be a reliable alternative to keeping your dog away from their incision. Sizing is the most important factor when selecting an appropriate suit for your pup as you want it to be snug enough to keep them away from the incision but also not tight enough to irritate the sutures. This Suitical Recovery Suit makes it easy to select the right size and also rolls up easily for all of your dog’s bathroom breaks.
- Inflatable Collar: Slightly less invasive and more flexible than a standard cone, an inflatable collar may be a good option. These collars blow up and create a barrier between your dog and areas they want to lick or chew on. Some dogs may be able to wiggle out of these collars but it can be much less disorienting than a large cone.
In terms of keeping your dogs movement to a minimum during the healing process, it is best to confine your dog in either their crate or small room so that they cannot move around too much. Jumping, running, or rough play can cause the sutures to reopen, causing discomfort and another trip to the vet. Baby gates and exercises pens are a great alternative to crates as it gives your dog a bit more room to move around without giving them free access to the house.
Depending on your dog, you want may to line their crate or resting area with soft blankets or towels that can easily be thrown in the washing machine if they get dirty. Only do this if your dog does not chew up these items as the last thing you want is the trouble of them ingesting something they shouldn’t have.
Keep Your Dog Entertained
Let’s talk about mental stimulation. For those with high-energy breeds (me!) such as Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Shelties, etc., keeping your dog entertained without physical exercise can feel like an impossible task. As someone who plays ball with my pups at least twice a day, there is a very stark difference when we are not able to get in that daily exercise. Fortunately, the surgery itself will have your dog pretty tired for at least a day or so afterward. From there on out, it’s up to you to provide them with appropriate toys, chews, and activities that will keep them mostly stationary or minimally active at the very least.
Turn mealtime into an engaging training session by having your dog perform some low-intensity commands such as sit, shake, go into the crate, or stay. If your dog isn’t the biggest fan of using their food as a reward, try putting their meal into a snuffle mat to keep them engaged while eating.
These mats make your dog work for their food by having to sniff around and figure out where each piece of kibble is. Depending on the size of the mat, it usually takes my dogs 20-45 minutes to find about one cup of food in the folds of the snuffle mat.
Overall, your goal is to keep your dog as comfortable and happy as you can during its recovery period. Sticking to a treatment regime, keeping them from itching their incision site, and keeping them mentally stimulated are the three areas you will need to focus on most. As always, if you encounter any issues with your dog, such as medication reactions or inflamed surgery sites, contact your veterinarian to receive further medical assistance.