Learn how to prepare a dog for neutering surgery and how to make preparations at home to help a neutered dog recover following the operation.
When neutering a dog, it’s important to make preparations for the surgery and the recovery process. Neutering is often the first pet surgery experience for an owner, and the situation is made less frightening with proper preparations.
Prepare a Dog for Neutering Surgery – No Food or Water After 8 p.m.
The day before the surgery, the dog’s food and water intake will need to be limited. Pets cannot eat or drink after 8:00 p.m. the night before surgery (or any other procedure involving general anesthesia.) If a dog drinks or eats after 8:00 p.m., this puts him at risk of vomiting while under anesthesia. The vomit can be inhaled into the lungs (aspirated), creating a potentially deadly situation.
So dog owners must pull up food and water bowls at 8:00 p.m.; this allows the food and water to move into the lower portion of the digestive tract before surgery.
If there are other pets in the household, owners may wish to separate the dog who will be neutered, isolating him to a bedroom or other area; this will enable the owner to leave the food and water bowls down for other pets in the household. For cats, placing food and water bowls on a counter or table can be helpful, since the dog cannot access the bowls.
Preparing a Room for the Neutered Dog’s Recovery Period
When the dog returns home from the vet clinic — usually about 8 hours after surgery — he will be groggy. Some dogs vomit after surgery due to the general anesthesia.
Other dogs get aggressive, especially with other pets. The following preparations will be required to help a dog recovering from surgery:
- Be ready to carry/help the dog – Large dogs should not be permitted to jump in/out of the car; they will need to be lifted or assisted by “towel walking.” A large towel can be slung under the dog’s stomach for towel walking. This may be necessary to help the dog climb stairs too. Always walk behind the dog and be ready to catch him, as balance is affected by general anesthesia.
- Clear the house of other pets – When the dog arrives home, other dogs in the household will want to greet him. During the hours after neutering surgery, the dog will be irritable and easily overwhelmed. To avoid dogfights, arrange to have the house cleared of other pets (and children) so the pet can be taken directly to his recovery room.
- Set up a crate or recovery room for the dog – The dog will need a quiet area where he can sleep and rest after neutering. This area must be away from other pets and children. A dog crate is ideal for limiting activity during recovery. Otherwise, a bathroom or a small room with a dog bed works well. If necessary, place a drop cloth on the floor to make it easy to clean up accidents or vomit (common while a dog recovers from anesthesia). Avoid rooms with a couch or bed – the dog should not be tempted to jump, as this can injure the incision. A dog may also fall when jumping due to poor balance after surgery.
Pet owners should also be prepared to bring the dog outside frequently during the night following surgery. Puppy pads should also be provided overnight. Dogs receive IV fluids during neutering surgery, and this fluid will need to come out! Sometimes, dogs urinate during sleep immediately following surgery, so an extra pet bed can be helpful if this occurs.
Prepare for a Dog Who Won’t Eat After Neutering Surgery
Many dogs refuse to eat in the hours and days following a neutering operation. A dog’s refusal to eat is usually a side effect of anesthesia; this can also occur due to discomfort.
To make matters worse, when a dog doesn’t eat during the neuter recovery period, bile and stomach acids accumulate, causing an upset stomach and vomiting. Also, when a dog doesn’t eat after surgery, he is more apt to develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). These factors make the pet even less likely to eat, and this can hamper the dog’s ability to heal after neutering.
The following items should be purchased in advance, so they’re on-hand during a neutered dog’s recovery process.
- Nutri-Cal Gel for Hypoglycemia – Purchase Nutri-Cal from the veterinary clinic. This can be given to a dog who won’t eat after surgery to help prevent hypoglycemia.
- Bland Food for a Dog With an Upset Stomach – Purchase rice and ground beef or skinless chicken. Small portions (1/4 to 1/6 of the dog’s regular meal size) can be given to a dog 4-6 times per day. This is often more appealing than regular dog food, and it’s less likely to upset the dog’s stomach.
- Iams Savory Sauce or Similar – Pouring a bit of savory sauce or “dog gravy” over the pet’s food to make it more appealing. If a dog usually eats dry food, adding in some canned food can help too.
Buy an E-collar for the Dog’s Surgery Recovery Period
In addition, not all dogs are sent home wearing an e-collar (also known as an “Elizabethan collar,” “surgery collar” or “lampshade collar.”) Some dogs will not bite at the neutering surgery site immediately after the operation due to the effects of anesthesia and due to pain at the site. But after a day or two, the dog may start biting at the incision site. For this reason, it’s wise to ask for an e-collar before leaving the vet’s office. E-collars and inflatable surgery collars can also be purchased at pet supply stores like Petco or PetSmart.
Do not wait until a dog starts biting at the incision to buy an e-collar; it needs to be on-hand and immediately available when this behavior begins to prevent the dog from removing the stitches!
Knowing what to expect and having the proper materials on-hand can make the post-surgery experience much more comfortable for dog and owner.