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Post-Op Care for Pets Following Spay or Neuter Surgery

To help your pet to recover from their spay or neuter operation as quickly as possible without complications follow these tips from our Seattle vets.

Why Spaying & Neutering Are Important

Spaying or neutering your pet, otherwise known as "fixing" your animal, are elective surgeries that involve sterilization. 

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), estimates that about 6.5 million animals end up in shelters or rescue systems annually across the United States. Of those animals, less than half are adopted as pets, meaning that millions of healthy cats and dogs are euthanized each year because there is no space for them. 

An effective way for you to do your part in reducing the number of unplanned puppies and kittens born every year (and lighten the load of rescues and shelters) is to book your pet's appointment at a spay and neuter clinic. 

Learn Why & When to Get Your Pet Fixed

What To Expect When Your Pet Gets Home

When your female dog or cat is spayed, their uterus and ovaries are removed through a small incision in the abdominal wall so that your pet is no longer able to become pregnant.

Typically when a male pet is neutered their the testicles are removed in order to prevent the production of sperm. This means that they will no longer be able to father puppies or kittens.

Following these surgeries, your pet will need a little extra love and attention to ensure that they recover well.

Incision Site

It is very important to prevent your pet from licking or chewing at their incision site. Your vet may recommend an e-collar or recovery suit (surgical onesie) to block your pet from being able to reach the area.

Female pets will have a mid-line incision in their abdomen, male dogs have an incision just above the scrotum and male cats will have two incisions, one on either side of the scrotum.

It is important to check your pet's incision site daily. There should be no sign of redness or oozing, and swelling should be minimal. In some cases, males may appear as if they still have testicles. This swelling is normal and should gradually reduce throughout the recovery period. 

If you see any signs of infection contact your vet for further instructions.


Most pets will have internal sutures that are absorbable, with the outer layer of skin held together with water-soluble surgical glue. Do not wash the area, or apply any ointments. Follow the post-op instructions provided by your vet.

If your pet happens to have external sutures or staples they will need to be removed at the end of the recovery period. It's a good idea to book your pet's follow-up appointment when you pick them up on surgery day.


Every pet is different and some pets are more energetic than others, nonetheless, as challenging as it may be it's important to limit your pet's activity for about 14 days following their surgery.

Stretching and strenuous activity could cause the wound to open, disrupting the healing process and possibly leading to infection. So, that means no running, jumping, playing or swimming. Dogs should be kept on leash when outdoors and cats should be kept inside. 

Baths are also not allowed during this 14 day recovery period.

Female pets that were spayed while in heat should be kept well away from male animals that could still be attracted to her.


Your animal will be given general anesthesia as part of the surgical process. When your pet first comes out of surgery the after-effects of general anesthesia can leave them feeling a little nauseous and lethargic.

Expect your dog or cat to gradually recover their normal appetite about 24 hours after surgery. Begin by offering smaller portions at first before moving to full-size meals. 

If after 24 hours your pet is still lethargic or has symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, call your vet immediately for further instructions. 

Signs of Potential Complications

Spay and neuter surgeries are common veterinary surgeries and considered safe for pets, nonetheless, complications can occur on occasion. You're pets incision site will be a little red (same as surgery day or less) but should not get worse. If your pet's incision site does not show signs of healing, contact your vet right away.

Symptoms that can indicate a problem are:

  • Lethargy or lack of normal energy more than 24 hours after surgery
  • Discharge or bleeding from the incision site
  • Pale gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble urinating
  • Heavy breathing, panting
  • Open incision site
  • Pet sitting or laying in an unusual position
  • Restless behavior
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Constant or repeated whining
  • Relentless attempts to lick or chew incision site
  • Hiding or other unusual behavior

Recover Time for Pets Following Spay or Neuter Surgery

Every pet is a little different and your pet's recovery time will depend upon a number of factors including their age, size, and overall health. Generally, cats and dogs are good to resume their normal activities after about two weeks of recovery time. Your vet may recommend a follow-up appointment before allowing your animal to resume strenuous activity.

Be sure to follow the post-op instructions provided by your vet and contact your veterinary clinic right away if your pet is taking longer than expected to recover from their surgery.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog or cat due to be spayed or neutered? Contact our Seattle vets today to book an appointment for your four-legged friend. 

Caring for Pets in Seattle

Northgate Veterinary Clinic welcomes new and existing clients to our veterinary clinic.

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