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A call came in from a frantic young woman last week when I was at work. I got on the phone with her and she blurted out, “My dog jumped after being spayed yesterday! Is she going to be OK?”
In the first two weeks after spay surgery, the stitches holding the body wall and skin can break when a dog jumps or plays rough. This can be disastrous if the injury goes undetected by the pet owner. Fortunately, broken stitches are fairly uncommon in young dogs, small dogs and dogs with small incisions. Vets plan for the antics of a hyper young puppy and use strong suture material and good surgical techniques to prevent the wound from opening.
Large dogs, obese dogs, older dogs, and dogs with other diseases that make tissues weak have a higher risk of wound-healing complications. Read on to find out what to look for if your dog jumped soon after a spay (or neuter) surgery.
Why Your Dog Should Not Jump Right After Being Spayed
There are a few reasons vets worry when someone reports that their dog jumped after being spayed, and they all have to do with sutures or stitches. When a dog or puppy is spayed, there are at least four places where sutures are holding internal blood vessels closed to keep them from bleeding until they heal. These are not usually affected much by jumping.
There are also a few layers of sutures holding the body wall closed until it can heal. The most important layer in the body wall closure is the connective tissue that runs right down the center of the muscle layer called the linea alba. Your vet will use a strong suture and the linea alba is strong.
However, a dog who is jumping vigorously could cause too much stress on these structures causing the stitches to break or tear through the tissue.
What to Look for If Your Dog Jumped After Being Spayed
So what will you see if your puppy or dog jumped after being spayed? Hopefully nothing unusual! Make sure you look at the incision closely right after you pick up your dog from the clinic to see how it should look.
If your dog has jumped or done some other vigorous activity, look at the area to see if there is a gap in the skin. Gently feel the incision to see if there is a lump or anything soft under it. Be careful since the area might be painful during the first few days after the surgical procedure.
For male dogs who jump or play rough after neutering, you probably won’t see anything unusual right away. Within a few hours to a day, you could see redness at the incision, swelling of the scrotum or increased discharge of fluid from the incision.
If You See a Swelling or Lump After Spaying
It’s not always easy to tell if a swelling is a big problem or part of normal healing. If you notice any sort of lump under an incision, please get your veterinarian to check it.
One of the most common things we see is a suture reaction that makes a raised bump of tissue with perhaps some extra oozing. This is pretty normal and resolves in a few weeks without treatment.
Occasionally, that lump is caused by the sutures in the body wall breaking and letting abdominal contents push out under the skin. Due to the scar tissue formed by the healing body, it can be difficult to tell if this has happened. Let your veterinarian check it out and decide what to do next.
How to Stop a Dog from Licking a Healing Incision
Use one of the many kinds of devices available as a barrier to licking. I know everyone hates these things, but they work!
If your dog is very active, hyper, or wild ask your veterinarian to send an Elizabethan collar (a.k.a cone of shame, E-collar or lampshade ) home for recently spayed dogs. Put it on as you’re directed to do and stay with her until you’re sure she won’t try to get it off.
Actually, I think it’s a good idea to take one home with you even if you don’t think you’ll use it. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Pet her and give her treats, reassuring her the cone is OK and won’t hurt her. Distract her with a toy, a good TV show or even by singing her a song. Remember, she doesn’t understand why any of this is happening and it’s your job to help her through this.
If you’re sitting right near your dog, you can leave the device off as long as you’re ready to stop her from licking. If you have to leave her alone, definitely put it back on.
Sleep Next to Your Dog
You might have to sleep next to the dog and stop her from licking for the first night. This might not be a great idea if you’re a heavy sleeper!
Emergency Homemade E-collar Alternatives
OK, so let’s say you didn’t think to ask for a protective cone when you picked up your dog from being spayed. Now it’s 11 p.m. and she’s starting to lick her surgery site.
It’s worth a try to put a t-shirt on your dog, tied in a knot to make it snugger around her waist. You could also try an elastic (Ace) bandage around her belly, but these tend to slip a lot. These are only mild deterrents, so be ready to move on to more aggressive anti-lick methods.
I’ve seen clients use great ingenuity to help their dogs when they didn’t have a cone at home. One guy cut a hole in the bottom of a large plastic flower pot and used it in lieu of an E-collar. If you would need to attach something like this to a snug, heavy collar with something like paracord or baling twine.
Remember that any E-collar-like device usually needs to reach at least to the tip of the nose and maybe even a little further if your dog is very flexible.
Here’s a great video on how to make an E-collar from corrugated cardboard and duct tape:
Rolled Towel Around the Neck
Another trick I’ve seen work in a couple of cases is a thick rolled towel placed as a “donut” around the neck, not too tight, and secured ends with duct tape. You can buy devices like this, too, and they work well for some dogs, but some can still reach their belly.
Buy a Collar Online
Here are a few no-lick devices you can buy from Amazon.com. If you’re smart, you’ll buy one of these before your dog comes home from surgery.
My dogs do really well with the inflatable donut-style one shown below. Some dogs can still get around those, so you might need the second one which is the soft cone type.
How Long Should a Dog Wear a Cone After Surgery?
If your dog is a dedicated incision-licker, have them wear the protective cone for the full 14 days until the pet’s incision is healed. At that point, it will be less likely that the skin incision would pop open when your dog licks it.
Every dog is different, so you’ll have to experiment with taking the “cone” off after surgery. Choose a time when your dog is calm and when you will be able to watch her closely for at least an hour.
Take the cone off when you’re sitting right next to your pup and see if they act like they’re going to lick the incision area. Even if they don’t lick while you’re watching them, you should still put the cone back on when you’re not able to monitor for licking.
Use Pain Medications After Spaying
Make sure to give your dog any pain meds you were sent home with according to the label directions. Dogs usually ignore their incisions if their pain is controlled adequately. If you didn’t get any pain meds, call your vet and ask if they can dispense some.
We often send dogs home with an NSAID like Rimadyl (carprofen), but there are several good prescription options for pain control. Don’t be tempted to use aspirin or leftover human pain meds (unless directed by a vet) because they can cause more harm than benefit! Call an emergency veterinary clinic for advice if you can’t get a hold of your regular vet.
Finally, if you’ve tried everything and your dog is still trying to lick or seems restless and uncomfortable go to the nearest emergency clinic for help. It might cost you some money, but avoiding a more serious situation from your dog licking her surgical incision will cost a lot more!
What If Your Dog Is Bleeding or Oozing from an Incision?
A little oozing of straw-colored or blood-tinged fluid from the surgery site can be a normal part of healing, but it’s best to get it checked in case something more serious is happening.
Keep your dog as calm as you can and call your vet or closest emergency veterinary clinic right away. Take her to the clinic as soon as possible to be checked.
Act with greater haste if there are more than a few drops of fluid or blood coming from the incision. You can apply moderate pressure over the area with a clean cloth while someone else drives you to the clinic.
Don’t apply anything other than warm water on a washcloth to dab away any fluid leaking from the wound. Don’t scrub the skin and don’t be tempted to apply ointment or anything else as it could make the wound weaker.
What If the Stitches Come Out?
Most vets place dissolvable stitches that are hidden under the skin after sterilization surgery. This helps a lot because there are no scratchy strings to bother your dog and make them want to lick the area.
These hidden stitches can still come out, especially if your dog is too active or is licking the incision. If this happens you would see a gap in the skin incision.
The most important thing to do if you think the stitches have come out is to prevent your dog from licking or chewing the area more. They might make the body wall stitches break and that’s a much bigger problem. You can duct tape a towel or place an elastic bandage around the belly of a female dog while you drive her to the clinic.
It’s harder to cover a male dog’s incision, but there is a bit less concern for boys because there is no body wall incision in a standard neuter surgery. Just keep him from licking it while you drive him to see the vet.
You need to take him or her to the vet right away to be checked and possibly have the sutures replaced. We often prescribe antibiotics after this happens since the wound is usually contaminated at this point. Make sure you use an E-collar afterward to prevent it from happening again!
How Long to Keep Your Dog from Jumping/Playing After Spay
Even though skin is pretty well healed after 14 days, the abdominal wall incision is still fragile at that point. Keep your dog from strenuous jumping for at least a month after she is spayed.
Male dogs can return to normal activity after 14 days after a standard neuter surgery. If your male dog had abdominal surgery to remove an undescended testicle, wait at least a month before you allow him to jump vigorously.
Full wound strength should be achieved by 42 days after surgery in normal cases. Dogs who have complications in their healing process might need to wait longer than a month before they engage in roughhouse play and jumping.
Help for Dogs Who Are Too Active
Some puppies and dogs are naturally very active (hyper?). It can be a real challenge to keep these guys and gals calm for a full 14 to 30 days after surgery.
If your dog is already used to staying in a crate you can have her stay there after her surgery. It’s not a solution for every dog as some still thrash around even inside a crate. If your dog is not used to a crate, use great care in putting her in one after surgery. She or he could get so distressed they actually become more active trying to get out of the crate.
Calming Techniques to Help After Surgery
Try to engage your dog in quiet activities that keep the mind but not the body occupied. I like giving puppies a Kong toy with frozen stuffing. Just take their normal food and mix in a little water to soften it a bit, stuff it inside the Kong toy and freeze it. It will provide at least an hour of entertainment while your pup tries to lick the frozen food out of the toy.
Another go-to for calming dogs is to play calming music while they rest in their crate or bed. I love the series “Through a Dog’s Ear” because it’s made especially for dogs but it’s also nice for humans listening.
I’ve also used and recommended over-the-counter calming supplements containing L-theanine. We have some clinical evidence that this nutritional supplement has a calming effect on dogs. It is also well-tolerated and unlikely to cause unwanted side-effects.
My favorite dog calming supplement is Composure Chews. My dogs did great with Composure when they were young. I’ve used them in the clinic for nervous dogs and have many clients who report good results with them.
Dogs who are high-strung or just love jumping and running might need a prescription sedative. Your vet can prescribe something like trazodone or acepromazine to help your dog relax. These are relatively gentle sedatives and can be used for multiple days if needed.
Hernia After Dog Spay
Thank goodness it doesn’t happen often, but we occasionally see dogs who develop a hernia after being spayed. The most dangerous time is the first 6 weeks after the surgery while the wound is still healing.
A hernia can be very small or very large. Let your vet check any lumps your dog develops on her belly to see if it’s a hernia.
I once saw a female dog who showed up several months after her surgery with a pretty large hernia. I suspect it started small and grew larger as time went by. We were able to fix the hernia with another surgery and it didn’t happen again. Fortunately, this kind of thing doesn’t happen much!
How Long Will My Dog Be in Pain After a Spay Surgery?
It’s impossible to give one answer about how long a dog will be in pain after being spayed. I’ve seen some dogs who don’t seem like they’re ever in pain from being spayed.
Others are guarded about their belly area for a couple of weeks. If I had to give one answer, I’d expect most of the post-surgical pain to be resolved within a week.
Male dogs are less likely to show obvious signs of pain after neutering. They might be a little cautious about the surgery area for a few days.
How Long Can I Walk My Dog After Spay or Neuter?
During the first two weeks after surgery, it’s best to minimize all activity. That includes exercise walks. But realistically, it can be hard to keep a hyper young dog confined for two weeks.
If your dog can walk on a leash without jumping, you can take her for a walk soon after surgery. Start with a 10-15 minute walk and build up gradually over two weeks.
Don’t let your dog run, jump, roll or engage in any vigorous physical activities during your walks even if they are on a leash!
When Can I Bathe or Swim My Dog After Surgery?
Keep your dog from getting their surgical site wet for 14 days after surgery. That means no swimming! Do a sponge bath instead of a full bath, if necessary, to avoid getting water in the incision.
Dog Neuter or Spay Recovery Time with Dissolvable Stitches
The recovery time for a dog with dissolvable stitches is the same as for any other kind of stitches. It takes at least two weeks for the incision to heal enough to resume activities.
The amount of time it takes for stitches to dissolve depends on the kind of suture material your vet used. Some dissolve in a few weeks while others take several months.
There are even suture materials that never dissolve but can be left in place without causing problems. Unless your dog is having a significant suture reaction, don’t worry too much about the dissolving sutures.
- Do your best to keep your dog calm. Avoid strenuous activity like jumping for 14 days after spaying or neutering.
- Most dogs don’t have major problems after jumping once or twice after their procedure. If your dog jumped after being spayed, check the incision for swelling. Go to the vet clinic if you’re not sure if there is a problem.
- Some dogs lick their surgical incision more than others. Adequate pain control helps minimize licking. Be ready to use an “cone” for up to 14 days after the surgery to prevent licking.
- Slow, controlled walks about 10-15 minutes are usually OK in the first few days after surgery. If your dog jumps a lot on walks, skip it until she/he is fully healed at 14 days. Ask your vet for advice on your particular dog.
Last update on 2021-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API