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What Should a Spay Incision Look Like? – All You Need to Know

Female dog undergoing spay incision surgery

When your female dog reaches the right age, you should consider getting it spayed. However, as a responsible owner, you should know the entire spay incision healing process before sterilizing your dog.

After your female dog undergoes the spay procedure, the spay incision must be observed for several days. With this, you should initially know how an incision appears to make sure it is healing properly.

If your dog recently had a surgical incision, you will find this article helpful. This will discuss what your pet’s incision should look like and help you provide post-operative care to your dog.

What Should a Healing Spay Incision Look Like?

What does a healing spay incision look like

A dog spay incision should appear as a closed, straight line with pinkish skin surrounding the incision edges. Mild swelling and bruising around the incision site can also be observed. As the incision heals, the wound should appear smaller with minimal swelling and redness.

Within the first 12 hours of your dog’s surgical incision, it may be lethargic and unable to stand. Your pup may also experience a loss of appetite.

Clear or pinkish discharge from the incision line may also be observed after the first 24 to 48 hours of your pet’s surgery.

The healing period for spay incisions typically lasts for two weeks. During this time, pet parents should monitor the incision for signs of infection.

It’s also important to assist your dog and prevent them from licking the incision area. Your veterinarian will also give you instructions for giving pain medication and managing incision care.

To help you prepare, take note of what you should expect during your dog’s recovery period in this section.

1 to 3 Days After Surgery

After the first few days of having the surgery performed, redness and bruising will be less noticeable in the incision site. Scabs may already form over the small incision and around the stitches or sutures.

For more active dogs, firm swelling may develop around the incision due to excessive movement. But in most cases, this is caused by your dog’s overactive immune system.

Discharge should not be observed after the third day. If this persists, you should call your veterinarian immediately.

Your dog should also not feel any pain and may walk and move normally. However, you should still limit aggressive play and strenuous activity to prevent the wound from opening.

1 Week After Surgery

After a week, the incision should continue healing. Redness and swelling should be completely gone. However, running, jumping, climbing, and rough play should still be discouraged.

Your dog will have fully regained its appetite and energy, so it’s best to gradually bring it back to its daily routine.

If surgical glue was used to close the incision, you should keep the incision site dry since this adhesive will cast off on its own. Bathing them can also cause infection.

Make sure that the incision edges are still closed and that the external sutures are intact. Using an Elizabethan collar or E collar to prevent licking and chewing on the incision site is also recommended.

2 Weeks After Surgery

As the wound heals further, the skin stitches or staples will require removal two weeks after the surgery.

At this point, your dog’s incision is fully healed, and you can take them to the veterinary clinic for removal of the skin sutures, which may leave a dog spay scar.

Given that there is no discharge, pain, excessive swelling, or any signs of an infected incision, your pup should be ready for suture removal.

If your veterinarian performed internal sutures where the stitches are buried beneath the incision, the internal stitches should dissolve completely on their own.

To make sure that the incision is healing properly, refer to this video about the day-to-day dog spay recovery process:

Dog Spay Recovery Progress day by day & Helpful Tips

How Long Does It Take for Spay Incision to Heal?

Surgical incisions in most pets are completely healed after 14 days or two weeks. As mentioned in the previous section, your dog’s skin sutures can be removed around this time.

In some cases where your dog’s activity is more frequent, some skin stitches may be missing, and some tissues may be protruding from the wound. This will ultimately cause delayed healing.

Additionally, if your dog has a large incision, it will take a longer period for it to be fully healed. If this is the case, you may still need to put an Elizabethan collar on your dog for several weeks.

How to Tell If Your Dog’s Spay Incision Is Healing Normally

Detail on female dog belly spay incision healing process

As owners, you should continuously monitor your dog’s incision as it heals. You will know if it is healing normally if signs of redness, slight swelling, and bruising improve after the first few days.

Any pain or discharge from the surgical site should not be present, and the incision should remain visibly closed as the incision heals.

Moreover, your dog’s loss of appetite and energy should only last for a short period. If they have regained their vitality after the third day, this is a sign that your dog isn’t experiencing any feelings of discomfort.

With proper post-operative care and support, you can expect the dog spay incision to fully heal within the expected period. Otherwise, veterinary attention is required.

How to Know If Your Dog’s Spay Incision Is Healed

You can tell that a spay incision has completely healed when the redness is gone from the incision site. The wound has completely closed, so staples or sutures aren’t needed to hold it together.

You shouldn’t notice any light red tenderness on or around the incision area, and it should be free of any discharge.

Dogs shouldn’t also feel discomfort on the surgical site when moving and should be more playful than before.

When to Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Spay Incision

Mixed breed dog spay incision healing

Spaying dogs is a safe and common procedure performed under general anesthesia. Veterinarians also use different methods to close a spay incision. However, complications can still happen after the operation.

Even if you follow post-operative instructions, some dogs may react differently after getting spayed.

If you notice that your pet is experiencing any of these post-operation symptoms, contact your vet immediately:

  • Pale gums
  • Poor appetite (more than 24 hours post-op)
  • Persistent vomiting and diarrhea (more than 24 hours post-op)
  • Lethargy (lasting for more than three days)
  • Shaking, hiding, and drooling (lasting for more than three days)
  • Depression
  • Continued discharge or bleeding from the incision
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Labored breathing

These signs are not normal and should be a cause of concern for dog owners. That’s why it’s important to get pet insurance in case of a medical emergency.

Signs of Spay Incision Infection and What to Do

It’s also possible for dogs to have a spay incision infection that could delay healing and require further medical treatment. One of the most common signs of infection is excessive and foul discharge from the incision.

As you monitor your dog’s healing progress, you should watch out for other telltale signs of infection. Your veterinarian or veterinary staff should brief you about this after the operation.

Similar to human wounds, you can spot an infected spay incision when the following signs are observed:

Seroma or Fluid Buildup 

As the spay incision goes through its healing period, you may notice a lump near the incision site. This lump, called seroma, is a pocket of fluid that develops with the incision’s scar tissue.

In most cases, seroma may only lead to mild or moderate swelling and should not cause pain to your dog. Although this is common, it can still put your spayed pup at risk for infection.

When your dog is overly active, the lump may become red and oddly shaped. When it opens up and bleeds, you should take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Pain in the Incision Area

It’s normal for your pet to feel irritated by the spay incision as it heals. However, if you notice that your dog is in pain accompanied by excessive barking or yelping, it can be a sign of infection.

If it’s been only a few days after the operation, you may try to manage their discomfort by giving them vet-prescribed pain medications, such as Torbugesic or Rimadyl.

However, if the pain persists for a week, you should consider talking to your veterinarian.

Excessive Bleeding or Discharge

For the first 24 hours after the surgery, you may notice blood or pinkish discharge from the surgical site. This may even be observed within 48 hours post-operation.

However, it is not a good sign if the bleeding continues for several days. Your pet could have an infection or other complications. In this case, it’s best to rush your dog to the vet clinic.

Erythema Multiforme

The skin around a spay incision is typically light red or pinkish. This indicates that your pet is still in the early stages of healing. After several days, you should observe that the skin is beginning to lighten.

However, some dogs can develop excessive redness of the skin, reddish bumps, and blisters around the spay incision. This disease is called erythema multiforme, which is an immune-related condition.

Although rare, it is still possible for your dog to have this after the spaying procedure. Make sure to call your vet if you suspect your pup has this condition.

Abnormal Heat

It is quite normal for your spay incisions to feel warm. However, if it is significantly warmer than the rest of your dog’s body, it could indicate an infected incision.

If your dog’s spay incision is unusually hot after 24 hours of surgery, reach out to your veterinarian to know what to do next.

Foul Odor

When you check your pet’s incision daily, you shouldn’t smell a foul odor coming from the incision site. If there is an unpleasant smell, this could indicate unusual drainage that may signal infection.

If this happens during the late stages of healing, you should get the attention of your veterinarian immediately.

Make sure to keep the incision site clean and dry at all times. Such preventive measures should be taken to avoid infections and other medical complications.

What to Expect From Your Pup After Surgery

Close up of dog spay incision surgery

After the surgery, your pup will feel extremely lethargic. They will be reluctant to drink and eat dog food and treats, but this should only last for 24 hours.

If your dog is crying, shaking, hiding, or unresponsive when you call their name, it could be a sign that they are in pain. Call your vet to learn how to deal with this scenario.

Since your pup will be lying down most of the time, it’s important to prepare a comfortable bed where they can rest and recover.

After three days, your dog will be more lively than usual. You can gradually start giving them normal food and plenty of water.

However, playtime should still be restricted. If your pup is particularly rowdy, you will need to control their movement to prevent the incision from opening. Jumping and running around should be strictly avoided.

To keep them stimulated, you can opt for puzzles, chew toys, and other items to play with.

If your canine has a normal, healing incision, it should be fully recovered and back to normal after two weeks.

Caring for Your Dog’s Incision

Once you take home your pet after the procedure, it is your responsibility to care for your dog’s incision. Make sure to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully until the incision is healed.

Whether the vet performed internal or external sutures, post-surgery care should be the same. You should restrict your dog’s activity by discouraging horseplay and supervising them around other dogs.

It would be beneficial to put them in temporary confinement. Keep them inside their crate in an isolated room with their toys and easy access to food and water.

Inspect the incision twice a day and change the bandage as necessary. Clean any drainage as instructed by your vet. If they need antibiotics or painkillers, give them on the right schedule and dosage.

Applying topical ointment like hydrogen peroxide is prohibited since this might delay healing. Most vets recommend using Elizabethan collars to prevent your dog from licking the incision.

Most importantly, do not bathe your dog or let the incision site get wet. Keep it clean until it’s time for your veterinarian to remove the stitches.

If you are unsure about after-care instructions, ask your vet for advice and clarify the protocols in case an emergency arises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Female dog spay scar incision

What Age Should a Dog Be Spayed?

A female dog should be spayed once it reaches 6 to 9 months old, given that you have a toy or small dog breed.

However, if you own a large breed, you should consider getting them spayed between 16 and 18 months old.

Since larger dogs mature slower, they are at higher risk for certain diseases if spayed too early.

What Happens If a Dog Jumps After Being Spayed?

If your dog jumps immediately after the operation, the incision might get swollen or, in worse cases, open up. If the dog’s spay incision broke open, it could lead to bleeding.

If this happens, you should take your dog to the vet immediately. However, if your dog jumps a week after the surgery, there should be no cause for concern as the incision has already begun healing.

How Long After Being Spayed Can a Dog Jump?

Your dog can jump and play normally after 7 to 10 days post-operation. By this time, it is already at the late stages of the spay incision healing process.

It won’t be painful for your dog to run around and play with other dogs at this point. However, they should still be supervised at all times.

What Happens If a Dog Licks a Spay Incision?

Dogs may instinctively want to lick the incision as the wound heals and fur starts to grow back. If they lick the area excessively, the stitches might get pulled out.

When this happens, the wound becomes more prone to infection. Making your dog wear an E collar or a neck brace is a great barrier option.

Are Healing and Care the Same for a Neutered Dog?

Although spaying is an abdominal procedure and is considered more complicated than neutering, the recovery period for both procedures is the same.

General post-surgical care is also similar unless the veterinarian gives specific instructions for better recovery.

How Long Should Your Dog Wear the Cone After Surgery?

As a general rule, a cone or Elizabethan collar should be worn by a spayed dog within 10 to 14 days after the surgery or until the vet advises you to remove it.

Once the incision heals, you will be asked to return to the clinic for the removal of the sutures or staples. It should be safe for your dog not to wear the cone once this happens.

Final Thoughts

Spaying your female dog is an important procedure that prevents the overpopulation of dogs and unwanted pregnancies.

Moreso, it helps your pup from developing unwanted behavior and health issues, such as breast cancer and urinary tract infections.

If you currently own a dog that needs to be spayed, you should know what a dog spay incision looks like. You should also learn how to take care of your dog after getting the procedure to prevent an infected spay incision.

Aside from monitoring your dog, you should also give them plenty of love and attention as they go through recovery. With this in mind, you should have no problems dealing with your spayed dog.

Did your dog get a spay incision recently? What was the experience like for your pet? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.