Spaying Your Dog: Dog Spay Surgery From Start To Finish

Everything you need to know about this important procedure for your female dog.

Female dogs are usually spayed before their first heat cycle. pyotr021/iStock/Thinkstock

You recently brought home a wonderful female puppy, and now you need to bring her to a veterinarian for spay surgery. What will happen during the procedure? How long will your puppy be gone? And most importantly, will she feel pain?

We’ve enlisted several animal welfare organizations — including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Veterinary Medical Association — to answer all the questions you may have about this important procedure. For additional information, please talk to your veterinarian. (If you have a male dog, click here for information on neutering.)

Shih Tzu

When should I spay my female dog?

  • Before her first heat cycle at 4 to 6 months of age, however dogs of any age can be surgically altered. Some veterinarians perform juvenile or early-age spa between 8 to 16 weeks of age. Read more about that here.

What are the benefits of spaying my dog?

  • Helps prevent unwanted litters.
  • Decreases your dog’s chance of developing mammary cancer, which is fatal in 50 percent of cases.
  • Eliminates the chances of other reproductive cancers and deadly uterine infections.
  • Eliminates messy heat cycles and associated negative behaviors such as yowling, anxiety and urination in unacceptable places.

What happens during the surgery?

  • Your veterinarian sedates your dog and puts her under general anesthesia.
  • The attending staff monitors your dog’s breathing and heart rate.
  • The surgeon makes a small incision in your dog’s belly area and removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.
  • The veterinarian closes the incision with surgical glue or sutures.

Is the surgery painful?

  • Your dog feels no pain while under general anesthesia during and immediately following the procedure.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about pain medication for post-operative discomfort.

Are there any risks associated with spay surgery?

  • While spay surgery can be considered major surgery because it involves entering the abdomen, veterinarians consider the procedure very safe and even routine.
  • Your veterinarian takes many precautions to ensure your dog’s safety during the procedure.
  • Pre-anesthesia blood work assesses your dog’s liver and kidney function because these organs break down and remove anesthesia from the body after surgery.

Is it expensive to spay your dog?

  • Many veterinarians offer spay services as part of a puppy vaccination package.
  • Some offer a spay day with reduced fees for those who demonstrate need.
  • Many shelters and humane organizations provide spay vouchers or other funding to those in need.

When can my dog come home?

  • Many vets will keep dogs for an overnight stay but some may go home the same day.
  • If you need to work and can’t stay with your dog when she gets home, ask your veterinarian about an extended stay for observation.

How can I help my dog once she comes home?

  • Keep her quiet and restrict unnecessary activity.
  • Prevent excessive licking of the incision.
  • Monitor food and water intake according to your veterinarian’s instructions.

What symptoms should prompt me to call my veterinarian?

  • A reopened incision.
  • Abnormal swelling of the incision area (some swelling is normal).
  • Dark red or purple discoloration.
  • Bloody or thick discharge from the incision.
  • Foul odors from the incision area, which could indicate an infection.
  • Continued lethargy or if your dog doesn’t seem to get better after a few days.

When can my dog resume normal activity?

  • Most dogs are awake and alert soon after surgery.
  • Some will eat the same day as surgery.
  • Most resume normal activity within 3 days.

Spay and neuter surgery is an important part of responsible pet ownership, and an investment in your dogs long-term health. Have additional questions? Talk to your veterinarian today.

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