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What to Expect When Your Pet is Spayed or Neutered

Reproductive surgery is an effective method of preventive care, protecting your companion against unwanted litters as well as serious diseases. Here, our Deer Park vets share important information about what to expect from spay or neuter surgery for cats and dogs and how to help your pet recover.

Dog & Cat Spaying & Neutering

It is estimated that 6.5 million unwanted animals enter US shelters every year. One essential way to help reduce the number of unwanted pets is to bring your companions to be spayed and neutered at our veterinary clinic.

There are several terms used when discussing surgeries used to sterilize pets, so let's begin by clarifying what we are discussing in this article. Getting your pet 'fixed' means that your pet (male or female) is going to be operated on to prevent them from being able to produce babies. Getting a pet fixed can involve either spaying or neutering surgery depending on the sex of the animal.

  • Spaying- involves removing a female pet's reproductive organs via either an ovariectomy (removing only the ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (removing both uterus and ovaries). After the vet has spayed your female pet, her heat cycle will be eliminated and she will not be able to have babies.
  • Neutering- is also known as castration and involves a vet removing both testicles, along with their associated structures. Your neutered pet will not be able to reproduce. Though alternative options, such as vasectomies for male pets (where the tubes that conduct sperm from the testes are severed) are available, they are not usually performed.

At what age should you bring your dog or cat in for spaying or neutering?

While the typical age for pay and better surgery for cats and dogs was between 6 and 9 months of age, this timeline can vary. It can be different for each pet so check with your Deer Park vets to learn when the best time to have your pet spayed or neutered is.

What are the risks of spay or neuter surgery for pets?

Some recent studies appear to show that spaying or neutering pets at that age may, in some pets, lead to an increased risk of conditions such as joint disorders, cranial cruciate injuries, and some cancers. These increased levels of health risks appear to be related to how sex hormones affect each animal's musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and immune systems develop, and the age at which different breeds reach sexual maturity. 

What to Expect During Recovery After Spay or Neuter Surgery

When your female dog or cat is spayed, their uterus and ovaries are removed through a small incision in the abdominal wall so that your pet is no longer able to become pregnant.

Typically when a male pet is neutered the testicles are removed to prevent the production of sperm. This means that they will no longer be able to father puppies or kittens.

Following these surgeries, your pet will need a little extra love and attention to ensure that they recover well.

Incision Site

It is very important to prevent your pet from licking or chewing at their incision site. Your vet may recommend an e-collar or recovery suit (surgical onesie) to block your pet from being able to reach the area.

Female pets will have a mid-line incision in their abdomen, male dogs have an incision just above the scrotum and male cats will have two incisions, one on either side of the scrotum.

It is important to check your pet's incision site daily. There should be no sign of redness or oozing, and swelling should be minimal. In some cases, males may appear as if they still have testicles. This swelling is normal and should gradually reduce throughout the recovery period.

If you see any signs of infection contact your vet right away or bring your pet to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic if they are displaying serious signs of complications.


Most pets will have internal absorbable sutures, with the outer layer of skin held together with water-soluble surgical glue. Do not wash the area, or apply any ointments. Follow the post-op instructions provided by your vet.

If your pet happens to have external sutures or staples they will need to be removed at the end of the recovery period. It's a good idea to book your pet's follow-up appointment when you pick them up on surgery day.


Every pet is different and some pets are more energetic than others, nonetheless, as challenging as it may be it's important to limit your pet's activity for about 14 days following their surgery.

Stretching and strenuous activity could cause the wound to open, disrupting the healing process and possibly leading to infection. So, that means no running, jumping, playing or swimming. Dogs should be kept on leash when outdoors and cats should be kept inside.

Baths are also not allowed during this 14-day recovery period.

Female pets that were spayed while in heat should be kept well away from male animals that could still be attracted to them.


Your animal will be given general anesthesia as part of the surgical process. When your pet first comes out of surgery the after-effects of general anesthesia can leave them feeling a little nauseous and lethargic.

Expect your dog or cat to gradually recover their normal appetite about 24 hours after surgery. Begin by offering smaller portions at first before moving to full-size meals.

If after 24 hours your pet is still lethargic or has symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, call your vet immediately for further instructions.

What are the signs of potential complications?

While spaying and neutering surgeries are standard and relatively safe to perform, there are risks involved with any procedures. You're pet's incision site will be a little red (same as surgery day or less) but should not get worse. If your pet's incision site does not show signs of healing, contact your vet right away.

Symptoms that can indicate a problem are:

  • Lethargy or lack of normal energy more than 24 hours after surgery
  • Discharge or bleeding from the incision site
  • Pale gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble urinating
  • Heavy breathing, panting
  • Open incision site
  • Pet sitting or lying in an unusual position
  • Restless behavior
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Constant or repeated whining
  • Relentless attempts to lick or chew incision site
  • Hiding or other unusual behavior

How long does recovery take after spay or neuter surgery?

Every pet is a little different and your pet's recovery time will depend upon several factors including their age, size, and overall health. Generally, cats and dogs are good to resume their normal activities after about two weeks of recovery time. Your vet may recommend a follow-up appointment before allowing your animal to resume strenuous activity.

Be sure to follow the post-op instructions provided by your vet and contact your veterinary clinic right away if your pet is taking longer than expected to recover from their surgery.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog or cat ready for their spay or neuter surgery? Contact our veterinary team to book spaying and neutering at our clinic in Deer Park.

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