What If a Spay Incision Gets Infected?

Most responsible pet owners will choose to have their female dog spayed to prevent her from accidentally reproducing. While spay surgery is considered a normal procedure, there is a certain amount of risk associated with any surgical procedure. Infection can occur with any wound, regardless of whether the wound occurred as the result of surgery or injury.

Sick cat.
Infections can cause serious health problems for your cat.
credit: Rasulovs/iStock/Getty Images

Spay Surgery Basics

When a female pet is spayed, she is put under full anesthesia and the ovaries and uterus are surgically removed. The wound is surgically closed in layers. The interior layers of muscle and subcutaneous fat layer are sewn back together underneath the skin. The sutures used inside your pet are called absorbable sutures and will not need to be removed. The exterior sutures, which are the ones that close the skin itself, are normally done as individual nonabsorbable stitches but staples or surgical glue also may be used. Once the wound is closed, it will appear as a small, thin cut with visible stitches holding the two sides together. There may be slight bruising, redness and some slight discharge.

Identifying an Infection

According to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Florida, you should inspect your pet's surgical incision twice daily. It is normal to see a small amount of blood and discharge coming from the wound during the first couple of days after the surgery as well as a little bit of bruising and swelling. Contact your veterinarian immediately if the drainage or swelling continues or increases after the first couple days. Pay special attention if the incision develops a foul odor, the edges of the wound appear to separate, your pet behaves as if the incision is painful when it is touched or anything else about the wound seems off. There is a good chance the incision has become infected if these symptoms occur.

Treating an Infection

Your veterinarian is most likely to prescribe your pet a round of antibiotics to treat the infection. Make sure you give your pet every dose of the antibiotic prescribed. Do not stop treatment just because the wound looks better. Your veterinarian will need to reassess your pet's condition after all the antibiotics have been given.

Wound Care

It takes between 10 and 14 days for a surgical incision to heal completely. It can take longer if the incision becomes infected because the infection will slow the healing process. While your pet's infection is healing, you should keep your pet inside and away from other animals who might cause damage to the wound. If your dog is trying to chew the incision, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar until the surgical incision heals. If the incision becomes dirty, you should clean it with cool soapy water and a cotton ball and pat it dry. Keep the wound as clean as possible to help prevent further problems.