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How to take care of your dog before and after Spay/Neuter

Many owners, especially first timers have no idea how to take care of their dogs after spay/neuter operation, owners that do not know what to expect could easily be traumatize by the experience along with their dog. This is why we have decided to come up with a tutorial on how to take proper care of your dog during the healing process. Before deciding on spaying/neutering your dog, it is good to first read up the pros and cons of doing it, don't spay/neuter your dog just because other people do it, check it up, study about it and take some time to decide.

Amber at 6 months old

If you do not know, spay/neuter is one of the simplest operation procedure to be done on dogs, it is simple, fast and healing process usually takes a short period of time, about 7 to 10 days. Just like human's operation, anyone will feel weaker than they really are right after any surgery, so don't be surprised if you see your dog looking weak after spay/neuter.

Once you have decided to spay/neuter your dog, it will be wise to plan your schedule and also prepare the things that you might need.

First of all you got to choose a good vet, we always recommend owners to start finding a permanent and reputable vet before they trust them with any operation procedure. This can be a simple $30 check up or vaccination, what you want to see is whether or not you are comfortable with the particular vet - talk to them, ask questions and decide for yourself. It is also important to choose the location, having a vet that is near your place might save your dog's life in time of need, not only that, you will also save a lot of time traveling to and fro, the trip will also be much more comfortable for your dog too. If your area does not have a good vet, we will then recommend you to risk the distance to see a good vet than to consult one that is easily accessible but will not benefit your dog.

Now you should have already booked an appointment with the vet you trust, this is the time to prepare the stuff you will need when your dog comes back from the operation. Below is a short checklist, it is not a must but having/preparing them will definitely aid your dog during healing process.

Things to have 
• blanket/pillow (for comfortable rest)
• e-collar (if you do not want to purchase from your vet)
• comfortable dog carrier (carrier is better than hand carry)
• treats (to reward your dog)
• 1-2 days off from work (to take better care of your dog)
• camera (record healing process)

Things to adjust 
• have the blanket/pillow near your dog's resting area
• place the water nozzle slightly below normal height so that your dog can reach it even when lying down.
• prepare a fenced area/cage (for resting during the first 2 days)

Understanding the process 
The process of spaying/neutering is relatively simple, having a rough understanding of how the procedure works will give you better assurance so that you can be prepared on what to expect. Both spaying and neutering process is slightly different but the target is the same, to remove just the reproduction organs. We will briefly explain to you the process below using simple terms.

Both spaying and neutering process requires anesthesia, during anesthesia your dog will not feel any pain or remember anything that happens during the operation. Before anesthetizing your dog, the vet will advice you not to let your dog eat or drink the night before, this is to prevent vomiting during the surgery.

For Neutering - Male 
The vet will first administer the dog with a small dose of anesthetics, then a small incision will be done near the dog's testicles, after which testicles are removed through the small incision and the vet will suture the incision. After the operation all it takes is to wait for the dog to wake up on its own, the vet might need a couple of hours to monitor and see if there are any side effects, if everything is fine, the owner can then proceed to collect their dog back.

For Spaying - Female
Spaying a female dog is more complicated, because of the blood vessels connecting to the reproductive organs. If the female dog is spayed before its first heat, the blood vessels are smaller and operation will be much easier. First the dog needs to be anesthetized, then incision will be done near the abdomen of the dog. Next the vet will need to clamp down the blood vessels before removing the ovaries and uterus, and finally, suture the incision and wait for the dog to wake up. The vet might need a couple of hours to monitor and see if there are any side effects, if everything is fine, the owner can then proceed to collect their dog back.

Taking care 
Now when your dog wakes up from the operation, it will look weak, and sometimes in pain, this is very normal and should be expected. The vet will prescribe you a couple of medications and also an e-collar, do follow the instructions given.

At this point of time you should already have the things prepared to welcome your dog. Once your dog is home, let it rest in the resting area, don't call or make it walk, your dog is very tired and uncertain of its situation, be sure to have the e-collar on to prevent your dog from licking it's wound.

Do expect your dog to look and act differently for the first few days because of the discomfort on the wound, it may yelp at times or just hide at a corner. This is very normal, and no you should not cuddle your dog when this happens, you can hold its body firmly to calm it down - holding onto a dog actually gives them a better sense of protection compared to hugging/carrying. Hugging/carrying your dog will not only cause your dog to exaggerate the pain, you might also hurt and open up its wound. No matter how sad your dog may look, it is still wise to do the right thing by helping to speed up the healing process than to do things that are only there to let you feel good instead.

Meals will be hard to finish for your dog, at least for the first 2 days, we recommend full monitoring and hand feeding if there's a need. Hand feeding should only be done if your dog cannot reach the food by itself, you can feed a couple handful and then try guiding your dog to its bowl. If it still finds it hard to reach then feel free to hand feed all the way. Do not turn this into a routine, make sure you hand feed sparingly or else you might be training a dog to demand hand feeding every single meal in future.

Amber's first night after spay

 Do remember, don't make your dog exercise or even walk at least for the first 2 days, you do not want the wound to end up opening all over again! Only after 2 days of progressive care then you can proceed and try walking your dog around the house, do it slowly, use some treats. Never allow your dog to run or jump, if this happens then don't give any treats and leave it alone to rest, come back only when it is calm. You should always check for any openings of wound now and then, do also check if there's any bleeding or pus, if there are anything that looks unsure, call your vet.

Keeping record
It's great to keep record of your dog's healing process, the easiest way is to take pictures of the wound every day, doing so can let you compare the progress, to see if there are anything different, if the wound is actually getting worst etc.

Most vets will provide your dog with an antiseptic solution, every time before you wipe your dog with the antiseptic solution, take a picture. If at any time there is something that looks off, call your vet and ask about it, by day 4 the wound should look good, there might be some bruises but the wound should look closed and not the other way round.

You may think that during healing process your dog will need to skip training, this is not true, you can too continue training as long as it does not hurt your dog's wound in any ways.

Why many dogs become worst unlike in books/websites that say that most dogs had proven to be more well behaved after spaying and neutering? That is because owners spoilt their dog during the healing process! By training we do not mean asking your dog to run about or to do tricks and tough commands, training can simply be maintaining your leadership position - firm tone, rules, calm mind and also resisting unneeded affections. Actually, during healing process is the best time to teach a dog, because it has less energy and most likely be more calm (unless owners excite them), it is one of the best time to get your dog used to things it didn't like in the past.

We will categorize on what you can train on a day by day basis below, this will give you a rough idea on the limits.

Day 1 to 2 
• maintain a calm tone, don't do things like "aww", "poor thing", "I love you" etc, this only makes your dog feel even more depressed.
• no hugging

Your dog is at it's weakest point here, so don't force it to do anything. Try to control your emotions instead, showing sad expressions or crying does not benefit your dog in any ways. You should still continue to do what you have to, eg. Holding onto your dog if it is startled, hand feeding. Try to act as if there is nothing wrong in front of your dog but yet caring for it deep down inside, this is what we call love.

Day 3 to 6 
• let your dog roam around while being monitored
• put on the leash and walk your dog in the house
• try to train your dog on things it does not like
• carry it downstairs if you can cope

Your dog should be out of its painful state, it should start wandering around and might attempt to interact with you. Remember, there should not be any rough plays/exercise at this point of time. You can now start to make use of this chance to train your dog on things that were hard to teach before, eg. wearing clothes, grooming. A lot of owners that followed our advice found their dog learning really fast during this period of time, you should limit physical corrections and focus more on treats and light commands. For play bites, saying "No/OFF" and leaving your dog alone works for most people. For clothes, get those that can be worn OVER your dog's body, don't get those t-shirt kind for now. And for grooming, just brush and comb your dog as per normal, never skip grooming, most dogs react better to grooming during healing process, and after they recover it becomes a habit - to be calmer during grooming sessions.

Don't walk your dog outside yet, but carry it down instead, this can help them relief some stress. Carry it to the nearby park, let them see some people, smell some stuff. If you have a dog that is too heavy to carry, you can use a stroller, if not just skip this step for now.

Day 7 - 10
• continue step 1 and 2 above
• start walking your dog nearby
• compare the pictures

Still, no running for now even though your dog looks completely healed. Wait till the vet says okay then you can do it, even though you might see the incision wound healing up, sometimes the suture inside might not be fully healed yet. You can slowly walk your dog outside as per normal, don't let it lie down for now, dirt might be caught up on the wound.

If you had been taking pictures of the healing process, compare them, you should be seeing a fully closed wound with just a light scar that will clear up after a month or two.

Be proud of yourself, you have done a good job!


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