Spaying a female dog or cat is often considered routine and simple. In fact, an ovariohysterectomy, removal of the ovaries and uterus, is a major surgery with serious implications for the animal's health. In addition to the risks inherent in all surgeries, such as negative reaction to anaesthesia and excessive bleeding, owners must be aware of the risks and danger signs to watch for in the days following surgery.
Although there are several theories about pain management in post-operative spay cases, you should closely observe the pet for evidence of excessive pain as this can interfere with the healing process. Animals that whimper or whine, especially when moving and animals who seem to be suffering several days following the surgery, may require pain relief in the form of medication.
During spaying, pets are sutured both internally at the incision points at the ovaries and cervix, as well as externally along the abdomen.
Pets may react negatively to the suture materials used to sew an incision following surgery. Owners must check the incision several times daily for redness or irritation which would indicate a reaction. There should be no drainage or bleeding. Suture reactions often cause a small, firm lump to appear around the suture.
In addition, stitches can let go or be worked loose by the pet. Activity should be kept to a minimum in the days following surgery, as this can also disrupt sutures. Re-suturing would be necessary to keep the incision clean and free from external influence and to minimise the risk of infection.
Infection is often cited as the number one concern with any surgery. Infection can occur locally at the incision site on the abdomen or generally throughout the body.
Any obvious sign of infection along the incision, such as oozing of clear or cloudy fluid, is cause for concern and should be reported to the veterinarian immediately. Signs for owners to watch for include redness along the stitch line or bulging behind the stitches. If the pet is licking or fussing at the stitches excessively, this can be another indication of infection.
The signs of general infection are not always as apparent. The pet may be listless or experience vomiting or diarrhoea. A check of the pet's temperature may also unveil internal infection as fever can be evidence of infection.
Probably the most serious complication possible in post-operative care is internal bleeding. Though rare in spay surgery, pets can bleed internally and can die as a result. Some common signs of possible internal bleeding are pale gums and tongue and a refusal to eat with minimal drinking.
Any bleeding from the vulva is very dangerous. Blood tinged discharge from the vulva could be a sign of internal bleeding. Owners should immediately return the pet to the veterinarian if any of these sign are present.