Dog Spay & Neuter Recovery: What to Expect After Neutering or Spaying Your Dog

Medical articles
Dog Spay/Neuter Recovery

Congratulations on making the pawsome decision to spay or neuter your furry best friend! Now, the vet's done their magic, and the "aftercare torch" is passed to you. But fear not, pet parent! This guide will equip you with the knowledge to navigate the post-op journey smoothly. 

From navigating the first post-op night to keeping a watchful eye on that crucial incision, we'll equip you with all the knowledge you need to ensure your canine companion heals comfortably and happily. Get ready to learn what to expect after a dog spay or dog neuter and discover how to create a pawsitive recovery environment for your furry best friend. Let's embark on this journey and make the post-operative period a breeze for both of you! 

What to Expect After Neutering or Spaying a Dog 

Unless veterinarians have twenty four-hour care at their facility, most veterinarians prefer to send pets home for direct observation by their people. Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Pay close attention to veterinary recommendations when you pick up your dog after surgery. Take notes or ask for written instructions, and make sure you observe the incision so you know what the staff considers normal. 

  • Owners should plan on staying with their pet overnight. This is not the night to go out for dinner or plan to attend a concert. 

  • Vomiting, extreme lethargy (beyond what your veterinarian explained you should expect to see), and signs of internal bleeding (see below) are the most immediate issues. 

  • Don’t worry if he or she skips that evening’s meal or fails to drink as much water as usual. A small meal is typically recommended anyway. 

  • Pain can be difficult to assess, but shaking, drooling, and hiding may be cause for concern. Dogs rarely whine or otherwise vocalize when they’re in pain. 

  • Keep an eye out for bleeding or excessive weeping from the incision site. A small amount may be expected, but little beyond that. An unusually-distended abdomen or pale mucous membranes are also cause for immediate concern, as this may be evidence of internal bleeding (uncommon but possible). 

  • Call your veterinarian’s professional answering service or the ER if you have any doubts. You may be asked to assess his or her gum color. 

How Long After Neutering is Testosterone Gone? 

It is important to note that even after neutering, testosterone levels remain high for 4-6 weeks. So male dogs may still exhibit behaviors driven by the hormone like roaming, mounting, and marking. Don't despair! Just be patient and consistent with training, and soon those unwanted behaviors will become a distant memory. 

Male dogs can also still impregnate females up to 6 weeks after neutering. So, for the first 6 weeks after the procedure, keep them away from any female friends in heat. You wouldn't want any surprise bundles of joy, right? 

What to Expect After Neutering or Spaying a Dog 

While some veterinary facilities offer overnight care, most prefer to send pets home after neutering. This allows for direct observation and monitoring by their loved ones, ensuring a smooth and comfortable recovery for your furry friend. So, with this guide as your map, you can navigate this crucial post-operative period with confidence. Here’s what you need to know: 

How Best to Monitor the Spay and Neuter Surgery Incision 

Keeping tabs on the incision is important to ensure it’s not getting infected. Dog spay/neuter infection symptoms include: 

  • Redness around the incision site 

  • Discharge from the incision, particularly if it’s not clear and thin 

  • A foul smell emanating from the incision 

  • Opening of the incision where the brightly-colored subcutaneous tissues are exposed (called dehiscence) 

  • Swelling of the incision, particularly if it’s bulging 

Preventing Self-trauma After Spaying and Neutering 

The most common complications to expect after neutering or spaying are related to self-trauma. This means your furry friend might lick, chew, or scratch at their incision, leading to infection or even the wound splitting open. Here are a few strategies to help avoid these complications: 

  • Keep that cone on! 

  • Keep a close eye on your dog if you remove the recovery collar for eating or walking. Replace the collar immediately should you notice that they attempt to lick the incision. 

  • Watch out for rubbing of the incision on the floor or other surfaces. 

  • If the cone doesn’t seem to do the trick, try a dog cone alternative. Investing in a ComfyCone, a padded collar/cone may be in order. Most large pet retail outlets offer alternative collars like this one. 

Spay/Neuter Recovery Time 

Recovery time varies and tends to depend more on size and age than anything else. Here are some general guidelines for dogs: 

  • A spay is an abdominal procedure that’s far more complicated than a neuter. As such, the dog neuter recovery time is much faster than the dog spay recovery time. Some neutered males may not even act as if anything ever changed. 

  • In general, larger, older dogs experience a longer recovery period. For these, it often takes two to three days for dogs to return to their normal selves after a spay and one to two for a neuter. 

  • Dogs over three years of age may take a day or two longer to recover. 

  • In many instances, older dogs (over six) can take up to a week to feel completely better after a spay or neuter surgery. 

  • In general, smaller dogs recover more quickly. The incisions are smaller, and so is the internal anatomy affected, hence less discomfort. The risk of bleeding after surgery is also lower among smaller dogs. 

Behavior and Other Long-term Changes After Spaying and Neutering 

While a dog’s fundamental personality will not change after a spay or neuter surgery, there are some changes you might observe, including: 

  • Behavioral changes are more pronounced among neutered males. They’re less likely to hump people, other dogs, and inanimate objects (though many persist). 

  • Males tend to wander and urine mark less, and aggression may be diminished in dogs who previously were. 

  • Female dog behavior after spaying rarely changes, though many will take on a lazier disposition. 

  • Activity levels may be reduced in both males and females after spaying and neutering, but this is by no means certain in all dogs. 

  • It’s important to note that males may still engage in full-testosterone male behaviors while their male sex hormone levels diminish after surgery. This can take up to six weeks. It’s crucial for owners to know that they can still get females pregnant. 

  • Appetite may increase after spaying and neutering, and so can their weight. Owners should be counseled to expect this change and adjust feeding amounts accordingly. 

These lists are by no means exhaustive. Ask your veterinarian if you have specific concerns. 

Supporting Your Dog's Neuter or Spay Recovery  

When your dog’s neuter recovery is complete, it's a big relief! But even routine procedures can come with surprises. That's why having pet insurance can give you peace of mind if any issues pop up. Now, insurance doesn't cover preventative care like spaying or neutering. But it's there for the unexpected stuff—illnesses, injuries, accidents, and so on.  

For budgeting out routine costs, we also offer pet wellness plans to help spread out expenses for dog spay or dog neuter, vaccines, exams, teeth cleanings, grooming, and more. Budgeting becomes a breeze, ensuring your furry friend receives the best preventive care throughout their life. 

At Embrace, we understand the deep bond between pet parents and their furry companions. As fellow pet lovers, we're here to support you every step of the way – from choosing the right insurance plan to navigating the joys and challenges of pet ownership. We believe every dog deserves a happy and healthy life, and we're dedicated to empowering you to provide it.  

Embracing a Smooth Recovery: The Path Ahead 

As you prepare for your dog's upcoming spay or neuter surgery, remember that a comfortable and successful recovery is within reach. The knowledge and tools provided in this guide will equip you to confidently navigate the post-operative period and support your furry friend every step of the way. 

By understanding the process, setting realistic expectations, and following your veterinarian's instructions, you can create a positive and stress-free environment for your dog. Be patient, attentive, and shower your furry companion with love and affection. 

Celebrate their progress, no matter how small, and remember that your support plays a crucial role in their healing. With your dedication and the guidance provided here, you'll be walking alongside your dog on a path towards a healthier and happier future, one positive step at a time.