It’s always nerve-wracking when your pet has an operation. Even routine surgeries such as having your pet neutered will give many owners butterflies. This is completely understandable, they are your babies after all!
You’ll be relieved to get your dog home afterwards, but, don’t forget, this is where the hard work starts for you. As routine as a bitch spay is, it still comes with certain risks and responsibilities. Your veterinarian will discuss the risks of surgery beforehand; however, it’s important to be aware that your dog will need some careful monitoring and TLC afterwards.
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First things first, what happens in a bitch spay?
A bitch spay is where the female reproductive organs (the uterus and ovaries) are removed through an incision into the abdomen. The dog is first given some medication to get them to relax and provide pain relief, and then a general anaesthetic is given. Under anaesthetic, they are completely unconscious and relaxed. A tube is placed to control the airway and they are connected to oxygen, anaesthetic gases and monitoring equipment.
Some clinics can offer a less invasive procedure called a laparoscopic or keyhole spay. Here, a camera and fine instruments are used to remove the ovaries through two or three tiny incisions into the abdomen, again under a general anaesthetic. The advantage of laparoscopic procedure is that the dogs tend to recover faster, the wounds are smaller and the operation itself can be quicker.
Depending on your clinic, your dog may have absorbable stitches in the skin that you can’t see, or perhaps stitches (or staples) that will need to be removed around 14 days after the surgery.
What to expect after a bitch spay?
It’s completely normal for your dog to be quieter than normal when she returns home after her spay. She may cry or moan a little, and might just feel like sleeping. It’s important to let her rest, keeping her still will be essential for an uneventful recovery.
It often takes a day or two for pets to feel like themselves again. It can also take a couple of days for them to pass faeces. Many dogs aren’t so keen on eating on the same day, and may even experience some nausea or vomiting. Your vet will make you aware of any signs for concern in the days after the surgery and how to care for her incision. If you are worried about your dog, don’t hesitate to call your vets or out of hours service for advice.
What care do you need to provide after the spay?
We know you’ll be prepared for all the extra cuddles and love your pet needs after her operation! There are a couple of other things you’ll need to do too. You might need to think about when you arrange it, so that you can organise to have someone with her as much as possible in the first few days. She will need a recovery period of around 14 days and during this time you’ll need to keep a few things in mind:
For around two weeks your dog will need to have restricted activity, this means just out to do her business and back inside to rest. If you know your dog is particularly active, consider getting a crate so she can’t be jumping up on the sofa or running up and down the stairs, etc. We need to keep her as still as possible so that the wound knits back together nicely.
Being overactive in the days after surgery is a common cause of seromas (liquid accumulation in the wound) and hernias (where the muscle doesn’t close properly because of excess movement). A hernia could mean another operation so it’s in everyone’s best interests to avoid it.
Be prepared for your vet to provide some pain-killers for a few days. If you think you’re going to struggle to give them, then talk to your vet at her discharge appointment. You might need to get some paté or treats to hide the medication in.
These days we normally recommend that pets stay on the same food after surgery and don’t necessarily need a lighter diet. However, in the first few days your dog could have an upset tummy or not much of an appetite. So it’s a good idea to have a few things like chicken, rice and eggs on hand to make up some light meals if needed.
You’ll need to have a look at the wound every day, in most cases you won’t need to clean it. If it has become particularly soiled then just a little clean around with some saline or cooled, boiled water should be enough (avoid pulling at the edges or wiping at the incision line though). Have a look and maybe a very gentle feel around without touching the incision, to make sure it doesn’t seem swollen or bulging.
You dog will likely have a buster collar on to prevent her from getting to the wound. It’s important not to take this off and to make sure that she can’t get it off either. The last thing you want is her licking at the wound, this can cause an infection or result in it opening up. As annoying as buster collars are (believe me, we know!), we only use them when necessary and for your pet’s own good.
When to call the vet
You’ll have an appointment or two arranged for check-ups after your dog’s surgery, but there are a few things to look out for which might mean she should be looked at sooner. We would always want to know if your dog shows any of the following:
- Being reluctant to move or is difficult to wake up
- Difficulty passing urine or straining a lot after the operation
- Her gums look white or very pale pink
- Having multiple episodes of vomiting
- Appearing in a lot of pain despite taking her pain medications.
Additionally, if there are any problems with the wound itself then it’s best to get your vet to take a look. A little ooze from the incision can be normal on the first day, however, if there is bleeding that has soaked the wound pad, any other discharge, or if the wound seems to be very swollen, then ring your vet for advice.
Keeping all this in mind, you’ll be able to help your dog recover as fast as possible from her spay. Her 10-14 day check-up will soon arrive and she’ll be back to normal before you know it.
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