Spay and Neuter – What to Expect

Recently, a coworker mentioned that they were considering spaying their 6 month old puppy but were complaining that they didn’t have the 3 months to keep her calm during recovery. Three months – really?!? I’m certain my jaw hit the floor as I looked at her to see if she was kidding me. She wasn’t. And she even went on to say that they were about to go on vacation and she really needed the $1000 for the vacation instead. Surely I was being punked! I wonder how many people aren’t spaying or neutering their pets because their perception is that it is that invasive to their lives?!?

I quickly set about gently updating my friend. I have fostered over 30 puppies, not to mention countless other tiny beings. To that end, I feel like I have a pretty good perspective on what to expect on the days following a spay or neuter.

Finding a Vet
You should not have to spend $1000 for a simple spay/neuter procedure but we can’t tell you how many times we hear of people paying these amounts because they do not know any better.  Depending on the area you live in and the programs available, the procedure should cost between $50 and $250 tops.  Check for low-cost spay/neuter programs in your state.

Additionally, there are numerous voucher programs and mobile spay/neuter clinics to service under-privileged areas. Ask at your local humane society or shelter for spay and neuter references. They are often more than eager to help stem the tide of unwanted puppies and kittens ending up in their facilities and can help you locate the best place to bring your cherished family member.

Since my friend would be saving so much from her expected expense, I counseled her to use some of that budgeted $1000 to buy her pet some fun new toys for after the procedure and then use the rest for her vacation.

The Night Before the Procedure
Typically your vet will have you withhold food from your pet after they’ve had their normal dinner the night before. What time they tell you to stop food intake has to do a lot with the time the vet expects the procedure to happen and the type of anesthesia they will use. It is very important to heed the time that they tell you in your pre-op instructions This is actually one of the hardest parts of the process for me because my foster pups always get a treat at bedtime for going nicely into their crate and sitting for me. The look in their eyes when they realize they will not be getting their good-night treat just kills me. But I’m not going to risk their life because they’re giving me sad puppy eyes.

The Day of the Procedure
The vets I work with like to have the pet brought to them bright and early. Often, they will do a quick check up before the procedure to make sure that the pet is healthy and a good weight and, in the case of the little boys, that all their “stuff” is ready.

While you won’t want to wait around, the actual procedure is relatively quick, usually only 30 minutes or less but often the vet will want to keep your pet at the hospital for a few hours to ensure that the anesthesia wears off a bit before sending them home. If my foster isn’t already microchipped, this is a good add-on to the procedure and doesn’t add any more time. You’re going to do it anyway – right?

When you pick them up: Often the vet will give you some pain meds and a list of instructions. Your pet may be a little groggy but will be awfully happy to see you. Take care holding them in the suture sites but typically, they’re not in a lot of pain. They may be a bit groggy and wobble and fall down a little. Don’t worry. That’s normal.

At Home
Although you’re probably very aware that they haven’t eaten since the previous day, I usually don’t force them to eat anything that afternoon. Sometimes their tummies are a little sensitive to food and even water on the day of the surgery. I typically offer them about 1/3 their normal dinner and have water available. They may throw it up, so I’d recommend keeping them off of your expensive rugs for the evening. Depending on the type of anesthesia used, that throw up could be neon yellow and will stain like you can’t believe.

I mostly respect their desire to just relax and often use it as an excuse to lay on the dog bed with them while we watch Lassie reruns or the latest Disney dog flick. Little boys tend to be more active than little girls that first evening since their surgeries are less invasive. As far as they’re concerned, they went to a day camp with a bunch of other pets and humans who love puppies. The truth of the matter is that male puppies don’t seem to notice it at all, so tell all your tough guy friends who don’t want to “do that” to their male puppies to just get over their big bad selves…

Radar Dogs and Public Humiliation
I have been very lucky that I rarely have to use the eCollar (or cone of shame as they called it in Up). You only need to put it on your dog if they seem to be preoccupied with their suture sites – chewing or licking the site. If you have to leave the pup alone for any amount of time, I would recommend that they wear the eCollar, just in case. It’s also fun to put it on even for a short time and take a pathetic photo that you want to post on Facebook. C’mon, you know you will…

Pain Meds
You will likely have received pain medication. Please follow the instructions your doctor gives. I typically do not use it unless the puppy seems in obvious pain and, even then, only for a couple of days. I find that the only time I’ve noticed the puppy experience pain is when she is allowed to jump up on something or run or wrestle…. In other words do some of the pursuits that you were probably cautioned by the vet not to allow them to do.

After the First Day Home
By the second day, generally the pet has completely forgotten that they had surgery. So, while you are sleeping in and hanging out in your jammies as if you were the one in surgery the day before, they’re off chasing bugs and pouncing on the cat. They can generally be put back on regular feedings. Keep an eye that they’re not running or climbing up on stuff for a few days and definitely make sure they’re not chewing on the sutures. I find that sometimes they are more likely to chew at the edge of the shave line as the fur starts to grow back in and itch. Keep an eye on that too because it can get pretty inflamed and raw if they do chew on it. If they don’t have degradable sutures, no matter how stinky they become, don’t give them a bath until the sutures are removed. Invest in clothes pins and air fresheners if you need to.

What to Watch For
Keep an eye on the incision site and if you see little red lines stringing out, don’t panic but do bring the pup in to the vet to check to see that it’s ok. Sometimes that can signal infection and antibiotics may be in order.

Abnormal Swelling
Sometimes a bump will form at the suture site that can be the size of a large marble. Usually it’s just a little hernia and will go down again within a few days. While I don’t run screaming when I see the swelling, I will call the vet so they can determine if a follow-up is needed.

Any blood seepage after the first or second day should be checked out and obviously anything worse than just small amounts at any time deserves a visit to your vet.

If your pet continues to stay lethargic into days 2 or 3, it might be worth bringing him/her back into the vet to make sure everything is ok. If you are dosing with pain meds, bring the bottle with you and let the vet know how many he/she has been given and how often.

Ten Days Later
Usually, if using non-degradable sutures, the vet asks you to come back in in 10 days to have them removed. Once they’re removed, game on!

Thank you for choosing not to bring more lives into the world when so many are yet to be saved. You have done your part!

(Originally posted by me on The PETCO Scoop on 07/13)

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