As adorable as puppies are, hearing the pitter-patter of little paws is a pleasure best left to professional dog breeders. Across America, too many healthy dogs are put down every year because homes for them simply don't exist. Having your dog spayed, preferably before her first estrus cycle, is beneficial for her long-term health as well as your peace of mind. After you bring her home, keeping a close eye on her for a couple of weeks will ensure if any post-operative complications develop, your veterinarian can nip them in the bud.
About Spaying Surgery
Ovariohysterectomy, the clinical name for the complete surgical removal of a female dog's internal reproductive organs, is major surgery. After your dog has been spayed, she won't be able to conceive puppies and will never have the estrus or heat cycle that would otherwise occur twice a year. The age when dogs first come into heat varies with size and breed. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, 6 months is the average age when heat cycles begin, but spaying can be performed on puppies as young as 2 months. If your dog has experienced heat cycles or had puppies, the surgery can be more difficult, and take longer than the average of less than half an hour. Some vets offer the option of laser surgery but it's more expensive and, according to Norma Bennett Woolf, editor of Dog Owner's Guide, some clinical evidence suggests that tissues don't heal as quickly afterward.
Gradually Return to Normal Feeding
The vet might want your little lady to spend the night at the clinic for observation, or he might give you the green light to take her home the same day. If the latter, don't be surprised if she acts a bit woozy, because the effects of anesthesia linger for about 24 hours. An upset tummy is common after sedation. The Tampa Bay Humane Society recommends not giving your dog anything to eat or drink, except possibly a couple of ice cubes, for at least four hours after surgery. After that, offer her small amounts of water and regular food, gradually increasing the quantities for 24 hours, when feeding can return to normal. If she refuses to eat, try whetting her appetite with something irresistible.
Limit Her Physical Activity
After a day or two of rest and relaxation, your pup might be raring for a romp in the park, but you have to remain a steadfast party pooper. For seven days after the surgery, she should avoid all strenuous exercise, including jumping in and out of cars, on and off furniture, and tearing up and down stairs. During the second week, if everything seems fine, gradually increase her activity allowance. However, one special circumstance calls for exceptional vigilance: If your dog's spaying was performed during an estrus cycle, intact males will be able to pick up on that come-hither scent for as long as two weeks. Since accidental mating could cause your dog serious injury or even death, keeping her quarantined indoors, and under your strict control outdoors, is important.
Monitor Your Dog's Incision
Since your dog's incision won't heal properly if she keeps licking or biting at the site, the vet may have advised that she wear an Elizabethan collar for 10 to 14 days after surgery. She might fix piteously pleading eyes on you in hopes of melting your cold heart into removing that E-collar but resist -- this device was invented to save dogs from themselves. Examine the incision at least twice a day. During the first day or two after surgery, a little seepage of blood or bloody discharge, along with minor swelling or bruising, is normal. Don't let her go swimming for 10 to 14 days and if the incision gets dirty, clean it gently with cool, soapy water on a cotton wad or soft cloth and pat it dry.
When to Call the Vet
Your dog's recovery from spaying surgery should be rapid and uneventful. Anything that deviates from what your vet has told you to expect, for instance excessive pain, signs of inflammation at the incision site or continuing refusal of food or water, warrants a call to your vet. Don't administer any medications, especially pain killers meant for human consumption, unless they've been prescribed by your vet.