Spaying is the most common abdominal surgery performed on dogs, with most recovering just fine. Still, the operation is major surgery and complications can arise. Make sure to keep a careful eye on your dog while she recuperates and seek immediate veterinary attention if needed.
Among the most common problems occurring in the recently-spayed dog concerns loose sutures or stitches. That's why vets recommend using an Elizabethan collar on your dog for about a week, until her incision heals. Yes, your dog hates this "cone of shame," but it prevents her from licking or chewing the incision. After you bring her home, check the incision a few times daily. If it appears inflamed or swollen, or any pus is seeping out, contact your vet immediately. While slight bleeding for a day or two after surgery is normal, call your vet if there's significant bleeding. In a worst-case scenario, the incision opens and your dog's intestines protrude. If that happens, get her to an emergency veterinary hospital at once.
Seromas and Abscesses
Dogs might develop lumps or swelling at the site of the incision. It's important that your vet examine your dog and make a diagnosis, because these lumps have varying causes. A seroma may form underneath the sutures, filled with watery, reddish fluid. Keeping your dog quiet, as the vet recommends, lessens the odds of seroma formation. Your vet makes a diagnosis by taking a fluid sample. If pus rather than liquid emerges, your dog has an abscess, which means infection-causing bacteria have invaded the incision. Dogs with abscesses often are in pain, compared to those with the normally pain-free seromas. While a seroma might resolve on its own, abscesses require drainage and your vet will prescribe an antibiotic regimen.
Hernias occur when the sutures in your dog's abdominal wall collapse. This can result in fat, intestines and even internal organs falling out of the abdomen and protruding beneath the skin. If the hernia consists only of fat, it shouldn't cause your dog pain or serious consequences. If your dog appears in pain from the lump, suspect that the protrusion consists of intestinal parts or even organs (commonly the bladder) get her to the vet immediately. Your pet might require emergency surgery to save her life.
Other Post-Spay Complications
It's not unusual for dogs to suffer from constipation after spaying. If she doesn't move her bowels by the fifth day post-surgery, ask your vet whether you might give your dog a stool softener. Your vet can recommend a specific brand and dosage. If she doesn't have a bowel movement with a few days after consuming the stool softener, take her to the vet. Some female dogs develop urinary incontinence problems after spaying. If dribbling or more serious incontinence doesn't resolve itself within a few days after the surgery, contact your vet.
By Jane Meggitt
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.