Quick guide to spay and neuter : What to expect before, during, and after your dog’s surgery

When we found sweet, beautiful Despi she was hungry, homeless, and pregnant. Expectant pooch moms are often dumped on the streets by owners who don’t want to deal with puppies. Spaying is a one-time, easy, healthy solution to the problem. Click pic for more about Despi.

by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~

We found Plato, Periklis, and Ajax in a trash bin. Luckily they survived, but every year countless millions of infant pups and kittens suffer horrific deaths when they are cruelly disposed of by owners who have not spayed/neutered their companion animals. Click pic for more about these 3 babies.

Spay and neuter are cornerstones of companion animal welfare and rescue efforts. These surgical procedures prevent unwanted births and thus can drastically reduce the numbers of homeless, neglected, and abused animals in our communities.

But many folks don’t quite understand what spay and neuter are, how they are performed, or what to expect once the procedures are done for their animals.

The following quickie guide to spay and neuter is a sneak peek excerpt from RescueDiva.com’s upcoming e-book Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend, by Shelley Frost and Katerina Lorenzatos Makris.

Julia Jr. and Penelope (now Raza) got pregnant in an animal shelter where there was not enough money for spay/neuter. Our vet was able to safely spay them, but of course it would have been best if they’d had the surgery prior to pregnancy. The good news is that they sailed through their procedures, found loving homes, and are now living happily ever after with their forever families. Click pic for more about them.


As the wise old saying goes, charity begins at home. One of the best things you can do for your own dog or cat, as well as for other companion animals around the world, is to make sure you don’t add to the problem of pet overpopulation. Here’s how…

A simple operation

Spay or neuter all dogs and cats in your care. For females it’s called “spay,” and for males it’s called “neuter.” These are safe and straightforward surgeries that alter the reproductive organs to prevent breeding. In this way, you can ensure your pooch or kitty won’t create more puppies to stand in the long line of those already waiting for homes.

Also, spay and neuter greatly reduces or eliminates the risks of several different types of cancer, infections, and other health problems that often afflict both males and females. (For more on this topic please visit this page again soon for our upcoming article, “What to say to people who don’t believe in spay and neuter.”)

You might believe that if you take the right precautions, you can avoid spaying or neutering your pets. Yet unless you live in an underground bunker, you can bet that your unaltered animal will foil your most clever attempts to keep him or her from breeding. When it comes to the mating urge, they are ingenious at defeating our best efforts.

During surgery the vet keeps your dog safe and comfortable with intravenous anesthetic, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Our boy Agapi was a street dog who probably fathered hundreds of unwanted puppies despite the fact that he was starving and ill. After Dr. Amanda Micheletti helped him get healthy, he was ready for neutering. Click pic for more about Agapi.

The easiest, healthiest, and only certain way to prevent a contribution to companion animal overpopulation is to take your pets in to your vet for this beneficial procedure.

In the following guide to spay/neuter, we focus on dogs.

When to spay/neuter?

Dogs may be spayed or neutered as young as two months. Some vets feel it’s best to wait until six months. If your female is already in estrus or “heat,” your vet might recommend waiting a few weeks before spaying her. Sometimes spaying can be done even during pregnancy to prevent the births of unwanted puppies. Senior dogs might be eligible for spay or neuter, but first a veterinarian will need to give a thorough exam and blood test to make sure.

As with all major surgery, spay/neuter carries risks, but the vast majority of dogs sail right through and go home on the same day.

Pre-surgery and surgery

The vet gives you pre-surgery instructions, including feeding restrictions. Follow these instructions carefully, because failing to do so can endanger your dog’s life.

Typically, you drop your dog off early in the morning. The vet does an examination and sometimes a blood test to make sure the animal is healthy enough for surgery. The pooch receives a sedative, a painkiller, and an intravenous anesthetic. A breathing tube provides oxygen and anesthetic gas.

After shaving and cleaning an area on the belly, the vet makes an incision. For spaying a female, the vet goes into the abdomen to remove the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. For neutering a male, the vet brings the testicles through the incision and removes them. Sutures on the incision might be internal and invisible, or external and visible.

The vet will coat the incision area with antiseptic to prevent infection, then it’s your job to report any lethargy or decreased appetite beyond the first two days, missing stitches, excessive swelling or redness, oozing, pus, bleeding. But such complications are rare with spay/neuter done by qualified vets.

The dog receives injections of an anti-inflammatory, a painkiller, and a long-acting antibiotic. For a few hours, while recovering from anesthesia, the patient remains in the vet hospital for observation and aftercare.

After surgery

Your vet should give you detailed instructions for home aftercare. These include:

~ Make sure the dog has peace, quiet, and warmth on the day of surgery and the day after. He or she will probably be sleepy. Don’t let people or pets intrude on the patient’s rest.

~ Offer food when the vet has said it’s OK. Your vet might instruct you to wait a few hours, then begin with just a small meal to prevent nausea. You might feed either the regular fare, or perhaps something soft like canned dog food, a stew run through the blender, or kibble moistened with broth, but don’t expect much eating. At first you might only be able to tempt your pooch with a bit of mild broth.

Post-surgery keep your dog in a quiet, safe place where you can monitor her. You might need to confine the patient to a separate room or a crate, to prevent running and playing, especially if you have other dogs. We found former foster girl Jorja (now Granger) on the streets during a harsh winter. If she had gotten pregnant she would have had a tough time keeping her babies warm and fed. After her spaying she found a fabulous forever home where she runs and plays all she wants–almost constantly! Click pic for more about Jorja/Granger.

~ Offer water at the time when the vet says it’s permitted, then keep plenty of water available thereafter.

~ Restrict activity for 7 to 10 days—no running or rough play. You might need to give sedatives from your vet, although it’s best to avoid them if possible.

~ Don’t let the dog disturb the wound or sutures. You might need to use an “Elizabethan collar” to prevent licking or chewing.

~ Call your vet if you see: lethargy or decreased appetite beyond the first two days, missing stitches, excessive swelling or redness, oozing, pus, bleeding.

~ Follow the vet’s instructions for post-operative checkups and suture removal.

~ For females, rare long-term side effects include urinary incontinence, which can be treated with medication or surgery.

~ For males and females, some folks believe that spaying and neutering can cause weight gain, but improper feeding and inadequate exercise are the worst culprits. So make sure to provide a healthy diet, sensible portions, and lots of walks and playtime for your pooch.

Our foster boy Chance was up and at ’em right after his neutering, despite having a tooth removed at the same time. The vast majority of dogs recover quickly and easily after spay/neuter. (It was broken by his abusive previous owner who used to punch him in the mouth.) Click pic for more about Chance.

Congratulations! By spaying or neutering your pets you have reduced their future health risks and made sure they won’t add more puppies or kittens to the crowd of billions of animals already out there needing homes. 🙂

Read more about my Your Adopted Dog coauthor Shelley Frost:

Animal Heroes: Shelley Frost and JP Novic soar with ‘CAPE’ of animal protection and education

Rescue teamwork: How a starving, pregnant Greek cat hit the springtime adoption jackpot

Animal Film Festival in California’s scenic Gold Country offers clear air, fresh perspectives, new friends

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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Her fiction includes 17 novels for Simon and Schuster, E.P. Dutton, Avon, and other major publishers (under the name Kathryn Makris), as well as a teleplay for CBS-TV, and a short story for The Bark magazine. She has written hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, Animal Issues Reporter.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner).

Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).



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