What If a Spay Incision Gets Infected?

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Infections can cause serious health problems for your cat.
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Getting a dog or cat spayed is a common procedure that most cat or dog owners undertake. Not only does it help prevent unwanted litters but it also has general health benefits for your dog or cat as well. Despite its common nature, some complications can occur. An infected spay incision requires immediate veterinary attention. It is not only painful for your animal but it can lead to more serious health problems if it is left untreated.

What is spaying?

Spaying is a surgical procedure that removes a female dog or cat's ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Removing these organs makes her unable to become pregnant and bear litters and eliminates her heat cycle and breeding instinct behavior.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are other long-term health benefits to neutering aside from not having any unwanted puppies or kittens. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are cancers that about 50 percent of dogs and about 90 percent of cats experience. The heat cycle can be difficult in pets because it can increase their anxiety and also make them unpleasant to be around, as female cats will howl yearningly, and female dogs may bark and become agitated.

Spay surgery basics

When a female pet is spayed, she is put under full anesthesia, and the ovaries and uterus are surgically removed. The layers of skin, muscle, and fat need to be closed up surgically after the surgery. According to Northwest Veterinary Hospital, the surgery is done by making an incision through the skin, fat, and muscle of the abdominal wall, locating the ovaries, sealing off the blood vessels supplying blood to that area, and then removing the organs.

When you see your cat or dog after her spay, the incision should look like a clean, straight wound. The edges of the wound will likely be sealed with glue to keep them together, but they could also be stitched or stapled. The skin will be slightly swollen and slightly red or pink around the edges. Pinkness, swelling, and some bruising is normal, but it should not be oozing pus or blood, be excessively hot, or be overly swollen. These are signs of an infected spay incision.

Infected spay incision

A lump, the spay incision leaking fluid, or a bad smell are also signs of a dog or cat spay infection. This infection can be compared to a human infection—if the wound looks like what you would consider to be an infection in a human, it is probably infected for your dog or cat as well.

The telltale sign of an infected spay incision is if the wound is weeping more than a normal amount. A few drops in the first few days is no cause for concern, but more than that—and especially when accompanied by a bad smell—means your vet should be contacted right away.

Avoiding an infected spay incision

The best way to ensure that your dog or cat's spay incision will not become infected is to follow the post-surgery directions your vet gives you. The most important thing to do is to limit your pet's activity. According to the Steel Valley Spay Neuter Clinic, your pet should be confined for 24 hours. It is extremely important that your cat or dog not be allowed to lick, bite, scratch, or rub the spay site.

Maintain the bandaging on the spay site and if necessary, use a collar or body suit to prevent your dog or cat from accessing the wound area. Limit the amount of water and food your animal is given. This is to minimize stomach upset due to your pet potentially feeling nauseous from the anesthesia.

Caring for a spay incision

Check the incision site twice a day. Some minor swelling is expected and you may even see a cat or dog spay incision lump. Remember that serious signs include a spay incision leaking fluid along with severe redness or discharge as well as if the incision opens.

If your pet's spay incision does become infected, keep your pet inside and away from other animals who might cause damage to the wound. If your dog or cat is trying to chew the incision, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar until the surgical incision heals because licking, scratching, or biting will slow down the healing process. If the incision becomes dirty, you should clean it with cool, soapy water and a cotton ball and then pat it dry. Keep the wound as clean as possible to help prevent further problems.

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