Neutering aftercare - what you need to know about caring for your dog after neutering surgery.
When your dog goes home after neutering surgery, there are some basic exercise, feeding, bathing, pain relief and wound care considerations that should be followed to improve your pet's healing, health and comfort levels.
1) Feeding your dog immediately after neutering:
After a dog has been desexed, it is not normally necessary for you to implement any special dietary changes. You can generally go on feeding your pet what it has always eaten. Some owners like to feed their pet on bland diets (e.g. boiled skinless chicken and rice diet or a commercial prescription intestinal diet such as Royal Canin Digestive or Hills i/d)for a few days after surgery in case the surgery and anaesthesia has upset their tummies. This is not normally required, but is perfectly fine to do.
Unless your veterinarian says otherwise, it is normally fine to feed your pet the night after surgery. Offer your pet a smaller meal than normal in case your pet has an upset tummy from surgery and do not be worried if your pet won't eat the night after surgery. It is not uncommon for pets to be sore and sorry after surgery and to refuse to eat that night.
If your pet is a bit sooky and won't eat because of surgery-site pain, feel free to tempt your pet with tasty, strong-smelling foods to get him to eat. Skin-free roast chicken often works well and is not too heavy on the stomach. Avoid fatty foods such as mince, lamb and processed meats (salami, sausages, bacon) because these will cause digestive upsets.
Be aware of your pet's medications and whether they need to be given with food. Many dogs go home on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Carprofen (tradenames include: Prolet, Rimadyl, Carprofen tablets); Firocoxib (tradenames include Previcox) and Meloxicam (tradenames include Metacam). These drugs need to be given with food. Do not give these drugs if your pet is refusing to eat.
Most dogs that are neutered are not normally off their food for more than a day. You should contact your vet if your pet does not eat for more than 24 hours after surgery.
2) Exercising your dog after neutering:
It takes 10-14 days for superficial skin sutures to heal after surgery. It is therefore recommended that running-around exercise be avoided or minimised during this period to allow the skin the best chance of staying still and healing. Quiet, on-lead walking is normally fine.
3) Wound care after neutering surgery:
Normally you do not have to do anything special with your pet's surgical desexing wounds (e.g washing and bathing them) after surgery. The most important thing that you do need to do is monitor the wound to ensure that it remains looking healthy and clean.
Check the suture line daily. Look out for any signs of redness, swelling and wound pain (surgical wounds should not normally appear painful or red beyond the first 3-5 days after surgery). Look out for obvious signs of infection (e.g. a yellow or green pussy discharge) or signs that the wound is breaking down (the wound will split and contain cheese-like white or yellow necrotic tissue inside it if it is breaking down). If you see any of these signs, take the pet to your vet for a check up.
If the wound site gets dirty (e.g. covered in mud or faeces), you can clean it with warm salty water, saline or a very dilute betadine solution (betadine solution in water made up to a weak-tea colour concentration) to remove the contamination. The wound and sutures should then be dried thoroughly to stop bacteria from wicking deep into the surgical site. The wound should then be closely monitored over the next few days because wounds soiled in dirt or faeces are at high risk of becoming infected, even if they are bathed.
Do not let your pet lick its wounds! This is a major cause of wound breakdown - the pet licks the wounds making them wet and infected or the pet actually pulls out the sutures, resulting in the wound breaking apart.
At the very first sign of wound licking, go to your vet immediately and get an Elizabethan collar (E collar) for it. The collar will stop the pet tampering with the stitches and hopefully prevent wound break down. If the dog starts licking in the middle of the night and you can not get an E collar, you can cut the circular bottom out of an appropriately-sized, clean plastic flower pot (leave the drainage holes intact); place this over your pet's head and neck like an Elizabethan collar and thread the pet's collar or a stocking through the pot-plant drainage holes to secure it to your pet's neck. Be careful to place it so that your pet can not choke and go and get a proper E collar from your vet in the morning.
Wound licking can also be reduced by putting bitter apple spray, methyl phthalate solution or another commercial bitterant solution onto the pet's suture line. Woundgard is one commercial product that serves this role (there are many other products that serve a similar function).
4) Bathing or washing your dog after neutering:
Because it takes 10-14 days for sutured (stitched) skin wounds to heal and seal closed, it is advised that the animal not be bathed or allowed to go swimming for the first 14 days after surgery. Wetting the sutures before this time may allow bacteria to enter the surgery site and set up an infection which could result in wound breakdown (bacteria are carried deep into the skin by the wicking capillary action of water traveling along the sutures).
5) Suture removal after neutering surgery:
If your dog had superficial, non-absorbable skin sutures placed in its skin to close its desexing wound, these will need to be removed once the incision line has healed. Sutures are normally removed 10-14 days after surgery. They can be removed at home, but ideally they should be removed by a veterinarian (the vet can determine if the wounds have healed up before removing them). Vet clinics do not normally charge a fee for suture removal.
6) Pain relief after neutering:
In my experience, most dogs do not seem to show all that much pain after neutering surgery. Many try to go for walks and "play ball" the very next day! If your pet is in pain, however, there are ways that you can help.
Go to your vet for some analgesic pills. Most vets send their neutering patients home with a few days of pain relief as a matter of course, however, some vet clinics do not. If you haven't been sent home with any pain relief for your pet and your pet shows signs of pain after surgery, you can return to your vet clinic and request pain relief pills. If your pet is very old or it has compromised kidney or liver function, certain pain medications may not be recommended and other pain relief solutions may need to be found.
DO NOT self-medicate your pet with human pain-killers. Some human pain relief drugs are toxic to pets.
Keep your pet confined and quiet. Pets that are allowed to run around after surgery are more likely to traumatize and move their sutures, leading to swelling and pain of the surgical site. Reducing activity means less pain.
Consider placing hot and cold compresses on your pet's surgical site to reduce pain and swelling. Placing a dried-off ice pack wrapped in a tea towel (never put ice directly against the skin) on the pet's surgery site for 10 minutes and then placing a hot water bottle (also wrapped in a tea towel) on the site for another 10 minutes and then replacing the cold pack and so on (i.e. alternating hot and cold packs) can go a ways towards reducing surgery site pain and swelling.
CAUTION - Only do this if you have a very nice tempered dog - remember that pets in pain can bite and you may well upset the animal more by handling his wound, even though you are only trying to help him. Do not push the issue if he gets grumpy.
7) Monitor your pet's general demeanour and well-being after neutering:
Your pet should be back to normal within 1-3 days after surgery. He should be eating, drinking, urinating, defecating and wanting to play and interact just as much as he did prior to the surgery. If your pet is depressed; not eating; not drinking; drinking excessively; not defecating; defecating black, tarry stools; not urinating and/or shows any signs of vomiting a few days after surgery, this is not normal. You need to take your pet to a vet clinic.