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Here’s What To Expect From Your Dog’s Spay Or Neuter Surgery
Fixing your dog is a routine surgery that can help prolong your pet’s life and prevent unwanted litters of puppies.
It’s currently estimated that 80% of dogs within the United States are spayed or neutered. Most veterinarians recommend that dogs be spayed or neutered as puppies before they reach sexual maturity (usually between six to nine months), but fixing our pets is always beneficial for their health and behavior at any age. Because of this, you may also notice that some animal rescues and shelters will also spay or neuter older dogs before they release the pet for adoption. For many rescues and breeders, sterilizing your pet is actually a requirement for adoption.
Why Fixing Dogs Is Important:
First and foremost, fixing your dog is important for preventing unwanted litters of puppies. According to the ASPCA, almost 400,000 homeless dogs are euthanized in overcrowded animal shelters each year because they are deemed unadoptable or don’t get adopted in an allotted time frame. Animal shelters are already overcrowded, and the world doesn’t need more litters of unwanted puppies. By sterilizing your dog, you are doing your part to not add to the population of stray dogs or increase the strain on overcrowded and overwhelmed animal shelters. Plus, you won’t incur the veterinary costs of supporting your female dog through a healthy pregnancy or the costs of caring for newborn puppies.
Additionally, sterilizing your dog helps to protect his health and potentially prolong his life. For example, fixing your dog lowers its risk of being diagnosed with certain cancers. Sterilized females are significantly less likely to develop uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and mammary cancer, which is fatal in about 50% of dogs with this diagnosis. Meanwhile, males are less likely to develop prostate or testicular cancer. Neutering also decreases the possibility of perianal tumors and hernias, which are common in older, unaltered dogs
Unspayed female dogs also have an additional risk of developing a secondary infection in their reproductive tract called Pyometra. When female dogs do not get pregnant after several cycles, their uterine lining becomes thicker and thicker until cysts form, which is a condition called cystic endometrial hyperplasia. When this occurs, an ideal environment for bacterial growth is created. If female dogs do develop Pyometra, they can become extremely sick and require hospitalization or an emergency spay procedure to recover. With this in mind, it may just be better to spay your dog from the get-go instead of waiting until she’s seriously ill.
Lastly, sterilizing your pet may help eliminate and prevent unwanted behaviors. For example, unspayed females go through a heat cycle twice a year, during which they may cry incessantly, show nervous behavior, and attract unwanted male animals. In general, unspayed females will be in heat for 21 days. Spaying your female dog will prevent her from going through heat cycles and exhibiting unwanted behaviors.
In addition, spaying and neutering pets can curb unwanted aggressive behaviors, such as fighting and biting. Fixed dogs are also less likely to mark their territory or have accidents inside the home. Lastly, your pet will not have an instinctual urge to go roaming in order to look for a mate, which lowers the chance of your fur baby running away and getting lost.
Before The Surgery:
Now that you know why it’s important for your dog to get fixed, it’s time to schedule the procedure. First, you’ll need to select the vet you want to perform the operation based on personal preference, cost, and availability. Depending on your dog’s size, age, gender, and the animal hospital in question, your pet’s surgery may cost anywhere from $50 to $515. If cost is an issue, some cities even offer free spay and neuter clinics to low-income residents.
Once you select a vet, you will likely schedule your pet’s procedure anywhere from a few weeks to a few months in advance. Your vet may want to schedule a pre-operative appointment or run some blood work just to confirm your pet is healthy enough to go under anesthesia and have the surgery.
Other than that, you’ll just need to follow your vet’s instructions on the night and morning before surgery. Your vet will probably ask that your dog fasts in the hours leading up to surgery. This usually means no food or water after 10 pm the night before, but your vet will confirm what to do.
The Day Of The Surgery:
On the day of surgery, you will drop your dog off at the vet at a specified time and wait for a phone call telling you that your dog is ready to go home. Since fixing your dog is a quick and routine surgery, it is typically an outpatient procedure and your fur baby will be ready to be picked up the same day.
When your pet arrives at the clinic, the vet will perform any necessary physical exams and blood work to make sure it is safe to proceed with the surgery. If everything is normal, your pet will be anesthetized and stay comfortably asleep while the vet performs the operation. Usually, an intravenous catheter will be placed to administer the anesthetic and to provide fluid therapy during the surgery. Since anesthetics can impact breathing, a breathing tube may also be inserted into your pup’s airway to make sure he continues to breathe during the surgery. This tube will allow the delivery of oxygen and gas anesthetic directly into your pet’s lungs. Depending on your dog’s size or any other medical conditions, it typically takes between 20 and 90 minutes to spay your dog and between 2 and 20 minutes to neuter your dog. Spaying (females) is a more invasive surgery than neutering (males), but both are safe and routine procedures.
After the surgery, your dog will be taken to a post-op area where he will be monitored closely as he slowly comes out of the anesthesia. Veterinary staff will monitor his vital signs, administer IV fluids and/or pain medication, and keep him warm and comfortable. Once your pet has successfully urinated at least once and is alert enough to go home, your vet’s office will let you know that it’s time to come get your fur baby.
Discharge To Home:
Before you pick up your dog, make sure you have a safe and cozy area set up at home for him to recover. He will need a cozy place to rest and heal. When you first bring him home, you may notice that your dog is a bit wobbly, groggy, whiney, or generally out of it. This is because it can take up to 24 hours for the full effects of the anesthesia to wear off. Most likely, your pet will just want to sleep, which is good for his recovery.
Your vet will have given your dog pain medication already and may send you home with additional pain meds, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. Make sure you are clear on dosages and when to start administering the medication. Additionally, take a look at your pet’s incision before you leave the vet’s office so you have a general baseline of what it should look like. You’ll need to monitor your pet’s recovery over the next couple of weeks and know how to spot signs of infections, so make sure your vet explains what to look for before you head home.
Lastly, keep in mind that anesthesia may cause your pup to lose his appetite. Just like people, those powerful sleeping drugs can make our pets feel a bit nauseous. For his first day home, your pet may have no appetite or a decreased appetite. But if he feels up to eating, just make sure to take it slow and feed him a bland diet. That said, your dog’s appetite should return to normal by the next day. If he continues to not want to eat or his appetite changes suddenly in the next few days, contact your veterinarian immediately.
The Overall Recovery:
Generally, postoperative complications for spay and neuter recoveries are rare and you’ll only need to limit your pet’s activity for about two weeks. Most spay/neuter skin incisions are fully healed within about 10–14 days, which coincides with the time that any stitches or staples would need to be removed. Vets often use absorbable stitches when they can so you don’t have to come back to get them taken out later. While most recoveries are smooth sailing, here is an idea of what to expect so you can properly prepare for your dog’s surgery.
First, your dog’s energy level will likely return to normal before he is fully healed. While your pup may be ready to play, what he really needs is to be calm and get rest. Do your best to avoid any running, jumping, playing with other dogs, or long walks as this could cause the incision to open, which is a medical emergency. If he has to go outside for walks or to use the bathroom, keep him on a short leash and keep walks short and slow.
Next, your dog’s incision may be sore or itchy as it heals and your dog’s natural instinct is to lick it or chew at it to self-soothe. Do NOT ever let your dog gnaw or lick at his incision. Most veterinarians recommend that dogs wear Elizabethan collars, AKA the cone of shame, for the duration of their recovery in order to limit their access to the incision.
In addition to keeping a close eye on your dog, you will want to monitor the incision several times a day to make sure it’s healing correctly and that your dog isn’t going at it in the few seconds you occasionally turn your back. Speaking of the incision, do not let your pet get the surgery site wet until all stitches and staples have been removed and your vet has said it’s okay. This means no bathing or swimming for at least two weeks.
While most spay/neuter recoveries don’t have complications, you will still need to monitor for possible problems just in case. Identifying possible issues as soon as possible will lead to the best outcome for your pet. According to Pet MD, these signs may indicate that there is a problem with your pet’s recovery.
-Your pet has not urinated within 24 hours after surgery or is unable to urinate.
-Your pet is straining to go to the bathroom.
-There is discharge, blood, or swelling at the surgical site.
-Your pet is sluggish or collapses.
-Your pet suffers from vomiting or diarrhea.
-There are changes in your pet’s breathing rate.
-Your pet has pale gums.
-Your pet refuses food, especially after the first night home.
While internal bleeding during spay recovery is extremely rare, there is a small risk that female dogs may suffer from an internal hemorrhage. If you think this is happening, this is an urgent medical emergency and your pet needs to be brought to the vet immediately. The following are symptoms of internal hemorrhage:
-Belly distension or swelling
-Blood dripping from the incision
-Difficulty or changes in breathing
While these risks do sound scary, remember that they are unlikely to happen to your pup. More likely than not, he will be back to his normal, happy self in just about two weeks after his spay/neuter surgery!