If you have had your female dog spayed, you have just helped to lengthen her life and to protect her from breast and uterine cancer, as well as having done something to curb the growing population of unwanted pets. Dogs recover fairly quickly from this surgery, but it does involve general anaesthesia, an abdominal incision, and removal of the uterus and ovaries. Normally, the incision is closed with staples or stitches that are removed 10 days later. Follow the vet's directions for post-surgical care, and inspect the incision twice a day for any signs of infection; if they appear, call the vet immediately.
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Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap.
Turn the dog gently on her back or, if she's small, pick her up and cradle her; examine the incision for redness, irritation or swelling. Speak soothingly and encouragingly as you visually inspect the incision, which should look clean and straight. The flesh surrounding it should look free of inflammation. Be alert for bleeding or abnormal colouring, such as red streaks radiating out from the area, and for any signs that the incision is oozing yellowish or greenish pus.
Gently lay the flat of your palm on her abdomen near the incision, then slide it closer to gauge temperature. The area closer to the incision should not feel significantly hotter to your touch.
Watch and listen closely to see if your dog yips, flinches, gasps or tries to nip. The incision will be tender, but indications of severe pain could be a sign of infection.
Sniff near the incision to determine if there is any foul or putrid smell that would indicate infection.
Praise and pet your dog for being so cooperative.
Repeat this inspection twice a day until your vet pronounces the incision completely healed.
Be on the lookout for the following red flags that could signal infection: listless behaviour more than 24 hours after surgery, refusing to eat or drink water, or difficulty urinating.
Tips and warnings
- Pick up your dog on the same day she has surgery, rather than having her spend the night; it's less stressful for her and cheaper for you.
- It can cause serious complications if your dog pulls out a suture. If she seems to be licking excessively or pulling at sutures, take her back to the vet for a restraint collar.
- Don't allow your dog to swim, and don't bathe her, until the sutures are removed; this can raise the risk of infection.
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