14 Days: Tips for helping your pet heal after spay/neuter surgery by Dr. Katie Marrie

FOURTEEN DAYS!?!? FOURTEEN DAYS!?!?  Yes, we know fourteen days is a VERY long time to… keep your puppy or kitten restricted, not give them a bath, check their incision site twice a day, and keep on that Elizabethan collar! We just wanted to let you know that there is method to our madness (and demands).

Most average cats and dogs take fourteen days for their incisions to heal. Side note: that’s about how long it takes for people to heal, too. It’s good to remember that if a person had a surgery like your pet just had, they would be restricted from activity for about a month! Although two weeks seems like forever when you have a rambunctious puppy or kitten, it is very important to follow our directions for the full two weeks. If your pet is not completely healed and you allow for unrestricted activities, it could result in a complication that could cause you to have to restrict them for even longer! I like to follow the old expression “better be safe than sorry” whenever possible (and I wish you would too!).

I don’t want to scare you, but sometimes the truth can be a little scary. One of the main reasons you need to keep your pet restricted is too much activity and movement at the surgery site results in the sutures popping open. If the sutures open completely in female pets, there will be nothing to keep the intestines and other organs from coming outside of the body. I think it goes without saying that this could result in the death of your beloved pet. For male pets, excessive movement can result in bleeding that will fill up the empty scrotal sac. This can even result in rupture of the scrotum if enough pressure builds up – also extremely painful as you guys can imagine!

Why no bathing? This is kind of a tricky one especially if you just adopted your pet from the shelter and they really need a bath or if you forgot to put a towel in your carrier and your cat peed or pooped and ended up rolling around in it during the car ride. If you bathe your pet after surgery you can introduce bacteria into the surgery site, which you do not want to do. If you must, you can get water-less shampoo at the pet store – just make sure you don’t use it anywhere near the surgery area.

You need to check your pet’s incision twice a day. This is super important because you never know if something abnormal is occurring unless you really check it out.  Get your pet to roll over and get in a good tummy pet. You want to check for redness, swelling, and discharge. There may be a SMALL amount of bruising, redness, or swelling as your pet heals. However, if you don’t check it twice a day, you won’t know if there is a steady change in the appearance of the incision. If there is a dramatic change in the incision, you need to bring your pet back the clinic for a recheck.

We recommend Elizabethan collars (aka e-collars or cone) for all of the dogs and cats that have surgery with us. It is easy enough for you to remind yourself not to scratch at something that hurts or itches, but unfortunately our pets are not capable of this! The e-collar is a great way to prevent your pet from hurting himself or herself. It does take a few days for pets to get used to the e-collar, but if you keep it on all they time, they will get accustomed to it even faster. Keep it on whenever you cannot DIRECTLY supervise your pet. That means when you’re sleeping, not at home, or when you are busy making dinner or watching television and your pet isn’t directly in your line of site. It is amazing how quickly they can bite and chew at sutures and remove them if you aren’t able to stop them immediately. Try to remember the last time you had a cut that was healing and how itchy it started to get around 5-8 days later. This is the MOST important time to keep that e-collar on!

So, let’s recap. After your dog or cat has had surgery (no matter how old or young they are) you MUST keep them restricted for fourteen days. That means no running, jumping, playing, walking off leash, or being unattended without restriction (i.e. if you can’t watch your pet to make sure they are not doing those activities, they should be in a crate or very small room). It is NEVER a good idea to put your pet in the backyard unattended after a surgery. No bathing of your pet and keep the e-collar on at all times. Last and not least, check out that incision twice a day to make sure it is healing properly. If you have concerns about your pet’s surgery, you can bring him or her back for a free recheck during our regular clinic hours. Please call 310-574-5555 to find out when it the best time for us to see you back at the clinic.

If you are considering whether or not to spay/neuter your pet, please read our blog Why Should I Spay/Neuter My Pet? to learn about the health risks associated with NOT spaying and neutering your pet, as well as the benefits of spay/neuter. https://snpla.org/blog/why-should-i-spay-or-neuter-my-pet

-Dr. Katie Marrie