Cat spay healing process

Cat spay healing process DEFAULT

Cat Before/After Care

BEFORE SURGERY INSTRUCTION – the night before your scheduled appointment:

  • Keep your pet safely inside your home.
  • No food after midnight the night before surgery.
  • You may allow your pet to have water.


–The recovery period lasts a MINIMUM of 10-14 days. Monitor your cat’s healing closely.–

You have picked up your cat on the same day as surgery. For the next 24-48 hours your cat may experience: lethargy (sleepiness), appetite loss, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, meowing, or minor personality changes (aggressiveness, sensitivity, crankiness). If these symptoms last more than 24-48 hours after surgery please call our clinic and leave a message.

Check your cat’s incision twice a day for the entire recovery period. There should be no drainage, redness, oozing, odor, or opening of the incision. There are no sutures to remove unless you’ve been told otherwise. Bruising and swelling can occur in the incision area. If you are concerned and we are not in the office with a doctor, please call your own veterinarian.

The incision site must stay dry for the entire recovery period. Do not put hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial ointment, or any product on the incision site unless directed by a veterinarian. Do not bathe your cat. This will cause your cat’s incision to open. Friendly cats must be kept indoors for the entire recovery period.

Restrict your cat’s activity for the entire recovery period.Put your cat in a small, safe room for the recovery period, such as a bathroom or bedroom. The room should be quiet and comfortable. Do not let your cat have free run of the house. Allow your cat to come out of their carrier when they are ready, do not pull your cat out of the carrier.

Other animals need to be kept separate from your cat for the full recovery period. Young children should be kept away from your cat for the full recovery period.

Tonight, feed your cat ½ of what you normally feed them.Your cat may not want to eat for the first 24-48 hours. Tomorrow return to their normal feeding. Your cat’s diet should remain unchanged for recovery period. Give plenty of fresh water for the entire recovery period. Closely monitor their eating and drinking throughout the recovery period.

Female cats may develop a suture site reaction– a lump at the surgery site due to a reaction to the internal sutures. It will go away as the sutures dissolve but it can take up to 6 weeks. If you see a lump and have concerns, please call our clinic for a re-check appointment and leave a message. Male cats have no sutures but should be monitored for swelling and discharge.

Your female cat received a small green tattoo on their abdomen. This indicates that your cat has been spayed.

Your cat has received a non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug, which lasts for 24 hours. This will reduce inflammation which will result in pain relief. Please present your post-op sheet to your full service veterinarian should your pet need to be seen. Do not give your cat human medication like ibuprofen or tylenol – they can be deadly. 

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you purchase an e-collar and put it on your pet for the entire recovery period of 10-14 days minimum. This prevents your cat from licking at their incision. If this instruction is not followed, the incision can be licked open and become infected. Please make sure you purchase an e-collar that fits your pet properly, extending 1 inch past the tip of their nose. We do not recommend soft e-collars or donut style e-collars.

Should your cat experience a complication directly related to surgery, or you are worried about your cat’s healing process, we are happy to see your cat on the next available surgical date for a free re-check appointment. However, we do not have a doctor in the office every day of the week and only have a doctor available for a limited time on each of our surgical days. You must call or email to set up a recheck appointment. Should your cat require additional medication or sedation during that visit you will be responsible for the cost. If there are any questions or concerns related to the surgery, please call our clinic at 860-620-0325 and leave a message or email [email protected]

If your cat can’t wait or if there is an emergency after hours (nights/weekends/holidays) and/or on a non-surgical day, contact your full service veterinary hospital or nearest 24-hour emergency animal hospital and call our clinic on the following business day. You are responsible for all charges incurred at any other veterinary office.

New HOPE Clinic cannot be held responsible for complications resulting from a client’s failure to follow these instructions or for contagious diseases for which your cat was not previously vaccinated. Your regular veterinarian must address any illness or injury that is not a direct result of surgery.

Drop-off / Pick-up Instructions

Monitoring Cats During TNR Spay/Neuter Recovery

Monitor the cats carefully during the first 24 hours after surgery. Check the cats often for their progress. If you notice bleeding, swelling, lethargy, vomiting, labored breathing, or if a cat is not fully waking up, seek veterinary assistance immediately. Lack of appetite is a concern, but be aware that many healthy cats will refuse to eat in a trap.

It’s best if you start taking notes on the general behavior and eating habits of each individual cat during the trapping and holding period prior to surgery. This will provide an excellent baseline to compare against a cat’s behavior during postsurgical recovery. If a cat is not eating after surgery, for example, it’s important to know whether the cat was eating before surgery. Many healthy cats will refuse to eat in a trap, and you may want to shorten the recovery period for them.

The incisions on each female cat should be checked daily until she is released, to ensure there is no bleeding, swelling, or discharge. You may need to prop the trap up between tables, or have a friend hold the trap up, so you can shine a flashlight up on the cat’s belly to get a look at the incision. The photos below show normal spay and neuter incisions.

Normal Spay Incision (Photo by ASPCA)
Normal Neuter Incision (Photo by ASPCA)

When cats are first returned from the clinic, a small amount of blood spotting on the trap lining is not necessarily cause for alarm. If you see pooling of blood, or if bleeding persists, contact the veterinarian.

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Cat incision

Surgery is not a one-day vets-only game. It includes a recovery period at home where healing is paramount to the success of the operation.

Normal Healing

A typical incision should look neat and clean—healthy pink skin with the edges lined up, held closed by a row of sutures (stitches). Incisions can also be closed with the sutures buried under the skin so that they are not visible. When this is done, the skin may be closed with tissue glue. Surgical staples are another option to close an incision.

If your cat’s surgery involved multiple layers of tissue, such as going through muscle and the abdominal wall to perform a spay, each layer of tissue will have its own incision that is closed with sutures. This ensures that each layer is held in place to allow for quick healing. These inner layers will be closed with absorbable suture that will dissolve over time or, in some cases, with a suture type that is safe to leave inside your cat’s body.

For the first few days, the skin around your cat’s incision may look a little irritated due to local inflammation that is part of the normal healing process. Small amounts of clear or slightly blood-tinged discharge may be present, and bruising may appear up to several days after the surgery, particularly in pale-skinned cats.

Don’t be concerned about the length of your cat’s incision. Incisions heal from side to side across the gap rather than from end to end, so a two-inch and a four-inch incision will heal in the same amount of time as long as other factors remain equal. A long incision that has been closed well with the edges close together will heal more quickly than a small wound that is left open.

Cleaning the Incision

If you need to clean discharge from around your cat’s incision, use a clean cloth or gauze slightly moistened with warm water and be very gentle. Avoid alcohol and hydrogen peroxide unless instructed by your veterinarian, as these products can cause discomfort and slow healing.

While the complete healing process can take several months as the skin cells remodel and return to their normal state, the first two weeks are the most important time for incision care. For sutures closed with non-absorbable suture or with staples, you will usually be instructed to bring your cat in for suture removal 10 to 14 days after surgery. This gives the incision time to heal so that the sutures are no longer needed to hold the edges together.

What Can Go Wrong

“The most common complications would be an incision that opens up (a dehiscence) or an incision that becomes infected,” says James Flanders, DVM, DACVS, Emeritus Associate Professor Section of Small Animal Surgery at Cornell. “Although a gap in an incision that occurs a few days after surgery may be due to a missed suture bite on the part of the surgeon, most incision issues in dogs and cats are due to the patients themselves. If there are sutures present in the skin or if there is any discomfort or itching from an incision, then dogs and cats are going to want to chew, lick, or scratch at the incision.”

Incisions may become itchy due to local inflammation during the healing process, nerve regeneration in the skin, or from hair growing back in. If your cat tries to scratch or lick the itchy incision, he can rip out sutures or damage the healing skin. This allows the incision to open, slowing the healing process and promoting infection.

Too much activity can also damage an incision, especially if it is under a lot of tension (such as an incision over a joint or a site from which a large amount of skin has been removed). As the cat runs and jumps, he can put extra strain on the sutures and can cause them to break or to rip through the skin. Even if the incision remains intact, too much activity can cause extra fluid buildup under the skin resulting in swelling.


Dehiscence is when an incision ruptures and opens. If an internal layer of sutures ruptures, you may notice a new bump under healthy normal skin or tenderness in that area. If the external incision dehisces, the incision will be open. Dehiscence can allow fat, muscle, and even internal organs to herniate out of their normal positions.

Depending on the severity of the dehiscence, it may be necessary to put the cat back under anesthesia to repair the incision. Small openings that only involve a few stitches or in an incision that has mostly healed may be able to either be closed with tissue glue or left to heal on their own. An internal dehiscence requires a veterinary examination, but may be left to resolve on its own unless it is complicated by tissue herniating through the opening.

In most cases, dehiscence occurs because a cat has either been allowed free access to the incision and damages it directly, or because the cat has been too active and damages it that way. Dehiscence can also occur if the tissues are compromised and unable to support the tension of the incision—this could happen after a large wound repair if the tissue becomes necrotic, or after the removal of a large mass. This is not common for routine surgeries, and your veterinary surgeon will warn you if there are concerns about the incision’s integrity.


“A normally healing incision will rarely become infected unless a gap is created by the pet or by other trauma,” says Dr. Flanders. Most surgeries are performed in a sterile environment from start to finish, limiting the introduction of pathogens into the surgical site. “Dirty” wounds, such as abrasions from being hit by a car or punctures from a cat bite, are a different story and are highly likely to be contaminated. Surgical procedures done in the mouth or to repair a wound fall somewhere in the middle, and the veterinarian performing the surgery will determine whether or not the wound should be completely closed or if a drain should be placed to allow for drainage (this is common for cat-bite abscesses). If the surgeon has concerns about contamination either before the surgical repair or during the recovery period, antibiotics may be prescribed as a preventive measure.

So how can a standard sterile incision become infected? No matter how skilled the surgeon, an incision is still technically a wound that can allow bacteria to enter the body. If the cat or other pets in the household lick the incision, any bacteria on their tongues can be transferred to the incision and pose a risk for infection. Incisions on feet and legs can come in contact with litter in litterboxes. And of course, if the cat is running around like a maniac and manages to tear a suture, the now-open incision is an even wider entryway for opportunistic pathogens.

Signs of an infected incision include redness, swelling, discharge, and heat. Your cat may act uncomfortable and  limp if the incision is on a leg or hunch his back if it is an abdominal incision.

If you suspect your cat’s incision has become infected, he should be seen by a veterinarian promptly. Antibiotics will usually be started, and a culture and sensitivity may be obtained to guide the correct choice of antibiotics. If an abscess has formed, it may be necessary to flush the wound and place a drain.

What You Can Do

  • Follow post-surgery discharge instructions closely.
  • Restrict your cat’s activity.
  • Use a head cone or other protective device to prevent your cat from damaging the incision.
  • Monitor your cat and his incision.
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Contact your veterinarian promptly if you have any questions/concerns.


A seroma is a pocket of fluid (serum) that can form between tissue layers at a surgery site. These are usually neither painful nor infected, and usually occur because the cat has been too active. They tend to develop within a few days after surgery, but can show up later.

If you suspect your cat has a seroma, he should be seen by your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. In most cases, you will be instructed to get more serious about restricting your cat’s activity and to alternate warm and cold compresses over the area to encourage the swelling to go down and the fluid to disperse. If the seroma is draining through the incision, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent an infection.

Protective Measures

“Unfortunately, there are few places on their bodies that cats can’t reach with their mouths or their feet! This is why it is so common to send animals home with an Elizabethan collar,” says Dr. Flanders. Your cat’s veterinary team will likely go over some options to protect your cat’s incision at the time of discharge, but you can also figure much of that out based on your cat’s anatomy. Any incision on his legs or trunk can be accessed by his mouth. Incisions on your cat’s head and neck may be out of reach of his mouth, but can be reached with multiple paws.

In addition to the standard plastic cone (Elizabethan collar), you can use a soft, inflatable “donut” collar, baby onesie, bandage, or a cat bodysuit to protect the incision, depending on its location. Some cats also tolerate wearing socks or booties to cover their claws and prevent scratching (nail caps will lessen the potential for trauma to the skin from scratching, but do not eliminate the risk of a nail getting stuck under a suture and ripping it out). Unless your cat is under direct supervision, he should be wearing protective gear to keep his incision safe.

Some incisions are more likely to develop complications than others. “The most common incisions are the most common ones to have complications!” says Dr. Flanders. “Spay and castration incision problems pop into my mind immediately.”

Affected cats are usually young and playful, so they want to get back to their active lifestyles within days of having surgery. Overactive cats should be confined to a room without furniture that they can jump on and off of or to a large crate for at least the first week after surgery. They should also be kept separate from other cats to prevent play and roughhousing.

“Also, incisions over joints (like the knee or elbow especially) or areas of motion are an extra challenge to get to heal,” says Dr. Flanders. “There is constant stress on the healing incision so a bandage to reduce motion is often needed along with some careful suturing.” These cats must be kept confined to prevent them from putting excess strain on an already tight incision.

Your cat should also be kept indoors until the incision has healed and any sutures removed. If the incision is located on a leg or paw, paper-based litter such as Yesterday’s News is a good option for the litterbox to limit the risk of litter getting stuck in the incision and causing an infection.

Cat with cone on head

He Hates the Cone!

While it is true that no cat would choose to wear a cone, most of them adjust to it quickly. If your cat panics with the plastic cone on or keeps slipping it off, you can try something else to keep him away from those sutures: a soft cone, inflatable “donut” collar, onesie, bandage, or bodysuit, depending on the location of the incision. Ask the staff at your veterinary hospital for suggestions.

You can take the cone off for mealtimes if needed, but watch him the whole time. Even if he does not appear to be interested in his incision, leaving it unprotected is a risk. He may start to lick and chew at it when the hair starts to grow back and becomes itchy, or may catch a suture with a nail when scratching. If he damages the incision, it means a return trip to the vet, which your cat probably won’t like either.



Cat Neuter Surgery - A walkthrough of the surgical procedure

What to Expect after Neutering or Spaying Your Cat

Spaying or neutering your cat soon? Congratulations! Be sure your plans include a delicate spay or neuter recovery period. It’s during the important neuter or spay recovery time when your attention to aftercare can make the difference between comfort and pain.

The good news is that the post-operative recovery period is typically boring in cats. That is to say, cats almost always recover brilliantly. Most appear never to miss a step after being spayed or neutered.

However, in rare instances, cats can experience serious complications after being spayed or neutered. To be sure, some may be related to surgeon error, but most happen because cats aren’t necessarily happy about having stitches in their bodies, or because they don’t know enough to keep themselves quiet while their insides are healing up.

During the Cat Spay Recovery Time

A day or two of quiet behavior and diminished appetite is the typical feline reaction to having her insides exposed and her crucial reproductive bits removed. In fact, most cats seem more affected by the sedative effects of the anesthetics and pain relievers than by pain. Research into modern cat pain relief techniques confirms this observation.

Common cat spay recovery signs include:

  • Sleeping more often

  • Walking more slowly

  • Jumping less

  • Eating less

  • “Zoned-out” appearance if particularly affected by medications

Less common possibilities may require veterinary intervention. These include:

  • Bleeding

  • Swelling

  • Redness or odor at the suture line

  • Walking with a hunch-back appearance more than a day after the procedure

  • Lack of appetite after the first day

  • Extreme lethargy at any point beyond the first twelve hours

During the Cat Neuter Recovery Time

Most often you’ll see absolutely nothing. Again, most after-effects are medication-related, not neuter-related. After all, feline testicles are tiny little things that tend not to have a lot of nerve endings associated with them – not at the age most kittens get neutered, anyway.

If there are any adverse, veterinary visit-worthy events to observe, they tend to be related to post-operative bleeding. Any bleeding or excessive licking should be cause to bring your recently-neutered cat to the vet for a follow-up visit.

Cat Neutering or Spaying Aftercare

  1. Keep Cats Calm

    The first thing veterinarians will explain is that cats should be kept quiet during the spay or neuter recovery time. That means no excessive running, jumping, or playing. This can be hard to do if we’re talking about a kitten as most kittens are unlikely to respect doctors’ rules. And since they usually feel well enough to do so, they’re likely to return to business as usual once they’re back at home.

  2. Keep Cats Indoors

    Part of keeping cats quiet means keeping them indoors after surgery, particularly after a major abdominal procedure like a spay. This ensures that cats won’t make huge leaps off walls or fences and risk their incisions with mad dashes across the backyard. Seeing them indoors also makes it possible for owners to observe their cats routinely during the healing process.

  3. Consider Keeping Cats Isolated

    The best approach to keeping cats quiet after surgery is to keep recently spayed or neutered cats in one cat-proofed room for a few days. This effectively isolates them from others who might play or harass them during their recovery. It also means you can limit the height of furniture (and of their jumps) by selecting rooms with low-lying furniture.

  4. Monitor the Surgery Site

    Owners should observe the surgery site at least once a day. Make sure it’s not red, swollen, weeping, bleeding, or appears licked at. Any of these findings is cause for a vet visit!

  5. Use the Recovery Collar

    Your veterinarian may recommend a recovery collar to keep your cat from being able to get to the incision site. Use this for the period of time your veterinarian recommends.

  6. Follow All Aftercare Instructions, Including a Follow-up Visit

    Some veterinarians have recommendations regarding keeping the surgery site clean, keeping it coated with ointments (like Aquaphor) or administering antibiotics while other prefer that cats receive no medications or special attention to the wound (apart from simple observation). Be sure to follow all recommendations.

  7. Baby Your Baby During Recovery

    After a neuter or spay, it should go without saying that a little extra attention is in order. Some cats need to be reassured that life will go back to normal after having to spend time at an alien place and that they are indeed adored.


Spay healing process cat

What to Expect After Your Pet is Spayed or Neutered

Spaying and neutering are common surgical procedures that prevent pregnancies in cats and dogs. Spaying is the surgical removal of the ovaries (usually along with the uterus) of female cats and dogs, while neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles of male cats and dogs. These procedures can also help reduce a pet's risk for some medical conditions, behavioral problems, and even certain emergencies.

Post-op care at home following your cat or dog's spay or neuter is critical to promote recovery and to help prevent complications like pain, infection, bleeding, or other issues that can land them back at the vet for emergency evaluation (or even additional surgery). Proper aftercare helps to ensure the smoothest recovery for your pets following their spay or neuter surgery.

What to Expect After Your Cat or Dog is Spayed or Neutered

When you pick your pet up after their spay or neuter surgery, they could still be a little "out of it." So don't take it personally if they don't greet you with the excitement they usually do. Here are some common things to expect after a spay or neuter:

  • Grogginess. It's common for pets to be a little tired the evening after their spay or neuter surgery. But if your pet is super sleepy, not responsive to your touch or voice, or otherwise acting in a concerning manner, it's time to call your veterinarian (or an animal ER if your veterinarian's office is closed for the night).

  • Medications. Though often considered routine procedures, spays and neuters are significant surgeries, and your pet may be prescribed medications to encourage healing and recovery. Your pet may be prescribed veterinary-specific pain medication to manage pain or discomfort after medications administered around surgery wear off. Whatever you do, don't use human pain medications on your pet (even aspirin), as they can cause some severe problems in cats and dogs. Be sure to talk with your veterinary team to ensure that the safest, most effective pain medications are administered to your pet.

  • Monitor eating and drinking. Since your pet had anesthesia, their water and food should be limited immediately upon returning home and in the evening following their procedure. After a few hours, you can usually start by offering them a little bit of water, followed by a small amount of their regular food an hour or so later. This ensures that your pet is able to drink and eat normally following anesthesia and surgery and that they're not likely to vomit and develop aspiration pneumonia or another problem. If they are able to keep these small amounts of water and food down, then you should be able to return to normal water access and feeding the following morning. If not, call your veterinarian.

Spay and Neuter Aftercare for Cats and Dogs

Spay and neuter aftercare for dogs and cats are very similar. Below are some general aftercare tips for both pets:

  • Exercise restriction. Strict activity restriction is necessary following spay and neuter surgeries. Activities like running, jumping, and playing can result in stitches failing, bleeding, pain, and other post-surgical problems. Restrict your pet’s post-spay/neuter activity for 10–14 days, according to your veterinarian’s instructions.

  • Prevent licking and chewing. Elizabethan collars ("cones" or E-collars) are important to prevent your pet from licking, chewing, or scratching their surgical area. If your veterinarian recommends a cone following surgery, be sure to use it as advised to avoid potentially serious problems.

  • Surgical site care. Monitor your pet's spay/neuter incision area daily for signs of swelling, discharge, bleeding, or any other problems. If you're noticing any concerning symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian. Most spay/neuter skin incisions are fully healed within about 10–14 days, which coincides with the time that stitches or staples, if any, will need to be removed.

  • Bathing and swimming. Don't bathe your pet or let them swim until their stitches or staples have been removed and your veterinarian has cleared you to do so. If no visible skin sutures/staples were placed, wait at least 10–14 days until the skin incision is fully healed before bathing or swimming.

Cat Spay Neuter Recovery Aftercare - Female And Male

Here's How to Care for Your Cat after She's Spayed

Some cat owners thrive with multiple cats while others are content with just one, thank you very much. To make sure you don’t end up with a house full of kittens, you’ve decided to have your female cat spayed. 

But then what? 

After the procedure, cat spaying aftercare entails monitoring your cat for several days to make sure she’s recovering correctly. That means keeping an eye on the incision site, too. 

You should ask your veterinarian for a post-operation plan for your cat, but there are some general rules to follow, according to Lori Bierbrier, DVM and the senior medical director of community medicine for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Cat Spay Recovery Basics 

First, Bierbrier recommends readying an indoor space for your cat—away from other animals and people—to recover over the next several days or weeks. She’ll be on pain-relieving medication after the surgery, and the vet may send some home with instructions on how to administer it. 

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa advises feeding your cat a small amount of food the night after the surgery before returning to the regular amount the morning after. Don’t change her diet because effects of the change in food could mask more serious concerns from the surgery. 

You’ll have to keep a close eye on your cat and keep her from running and jumping for about two weeks or however long your veterinarian recommends, Bierbrier says in an email. 

If you have a cat who goes outside, you should keep her inside for 24–48 hours after the surgery, the Iowa ARL says. The anesthesia can deaden reflexes, making the outdoors more dangerous. 

Bierbrier says cat owners should call their vets if their cat experiences decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea after the surgery. 

cat wearing cone or e-collar

Monitoring the Cat Spay Incision

An important part of your cat’s recovery is keeping the cat’s incision healthy, so you’ll want to check it daily. 

Spaying a cat is considered an invasive procedure. Doctors have to cut into the cat’s abdomen to remove her ovaries and uterus before closing the incision with several layers of sutures. 

Because of that incision, you shouldn’t bathe your cat for 10 days after the surgery, Bierbrier says. And your cat licking the incision can cause infections, so you may need an Elizabethan collar—otherwise known as the dreaded “cone of shame”—to keep her away from it. 

“If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your veterinarian,” Bierbrier advises. 

A small lump might pop up near the incision area, but it shouldn’t be worrisome as long as it’s not painful, swollen, red, or discharging any liquid. 

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, here’s what a healing cat spay incision should look: The edges of the incision should be touching each other, and the skin should be its usual color or “slightly reddish-pink.” It may be redder the first few days after the procedure.

Pale-skinned cats may also exhibit some bruising around the incision, but that’s normal. Blood may also seep out of the incision if your cat is active, which is why it’s a good idea to keep her subdued in the days following the surgery.

If you have any concerns about your cat's recovery after she's spayed, contact your vet for advice. They'll be able to help you understand what's normal for your cat after surgery and what may need medical attention.


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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.

-Dr. Katie Marrie


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