Part of being a responsible pet parent is taking measures to protect your fur baby's health. This might include regular vaccinations, feeding an appropriate diet for their age and health, and treating them for parasites. It's also a good idea to consider getting your dog spayed if you're not intending to breed from them since this can reduce their chances of developing mammary cancer and will prevent them from getting a life-threatening womb infection. But of course, the thought of putting your beloved canine companion through surgery can be daunting. Let’s find out what the surgery entails and what you should expect.
What does the term ‘dog spay’ mean?
You might hear the term dog spay or bitch spay used to describe the neutering procedure in female dogs. This term refers to the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries, known as an ovariohysterectomy. Sometimes, a specialist can use a keyhole technique to remove just the ovaries, known as an ovariectomy.
What does the dog spay procedure involve?
A pre-anesthetic health check
Before your dog has their neutering operation, they'll be checked over by the veterinary team. Their heart health will be assessed, as well as checking the vulva and mammary glands for any signs of a season or phantom pregnancy. If your dog is showing any signs of being unwell, or if they are over eight years old, the veterinarian might recommend a blood test to check if their organs can cope with the anesthetic. If your veterinarian hears a heart murmur, they’ll let you know and discuss how to proceed, but you can find more information about heart murmurs here.
Your dog’s veterinarian will choose the most suitable sedatives and pain relief medications based on your dog’s pre-anesthetic examination. The pre-medication will make them more relaxed and a little drowsy and will make sure they are pain-free from the start of the surgery.
Once your dog is feeling sleepy, and when it’s time for their surgery, they will be taken to the operating theatre and an anesthetic drug will be injected into their vein (usually in their front leg). A tube will be passed into their airway to allow them to breathe more easily, and they will be connected to a supply of oxygen and anesthetic gas.
Preparing for Surgery
Before starting the surgery, the veterinary team will clip the fur from your dog’s belly and use a sterilizing solution to make your dog’s skin clean and free from bacteria.
The veterinary surgeon will cut along the midline of your dog's tummy, carefully cutting down through the skin, fat, and muscles. They will locate the uterus and ovaries and use special surgical thread to tie knots around the nearby blood vessels so that the organs can be safely removed. They will then stitch the muscle, fat, and skin layers back together.
Your dog will be monitored for a few hours at the veterinary practice, to make sure they recover from the anesthetic and their pain is controlled. When you collect your furry family member, you’ll be provided with thorough discharge instructions as well as pain relief medication to keep them comfortable during their recovery. You might also be given a cone collar, or bodysuit to stop them from licking at their wounds. You should keep your dog calm and quiet, avoiding jumping and off-lead exercise for at least 10 days. The stitches may be dissolvable, or they may need to be removed by the vet or nurse after 10 or 14 days.
What should you expect during your dog’s recovery?
On the evening of your dog’s procedure, you might find that they’re still a bit drowsy, dribbly, or vocal. They might not be very interested in food either. These can all be normal symptoms after an anesthetic, but it’s important to speak to your vet if you’re concerned. If you think your dog might be feeling uncomfortable or in pain, check out our article on how to spot signs of pain. After a day or two, your dog should be feeling much brighter, and it might be a bit of a challenge to keep them calm! Your dog mustn't lick at their wound or nibble their stitches, so make sure you use a cone collar, bodysuit, or another prevention method, especially when they’re unsupervised.
When should you be worried?
If you’re concerned about your dog after a dog spay procedure, you can contact a member of our veterinary team. Keep an eye on your dog for signs of pain like vocalizing or restlessness. You should check the wound regularly for heat, swelling, redness, or discharge, and let the veterinarian know if there are any signs of inflammation or infection. If your dog manages to lick their wound or chew their stitches out, speak to a veterinarian immediately, as they may need further surgery, staples, or a course of antibiotics.
How long does recovery take for a female dog after being spayed?
You should keep your dog as calm as possible for 10 to 14 days after the dog spay surgery. This means no jumping and no running about! You might find they are a little bit sleepy and not themselves for the first 24 or 48 hours after the anesthetic, but after this, they often don't act as if anything has happened!
What should I expect after my dog’s spay surgery?
Your dog may feel a little bit subdued for a day or two after the dog spay surgery. However, once the anesthetic is out of their system, as long as their pain is controlled, they probably won't act very differently from normal. It's still important to make sure that they take it easy, though, until a couple of weeks after the surgery when they are signed off by the vet team.
It’s an anxious time whenever your pooch undergoes veterinary treatment or surgery. However, rest assured that the dog spay procedure is regularly performed and major complications are uncommon. Although the recovery period can be hard work as a pet parent, it’s worth it when your pet’s wound heals well and they’re back to their normal selves quickly.