This article was updated on January 5th, 2023
As a veterinarian, I have neutered hundreds of dogs. Neutering (and spaying) goes a long way in preventing unwanted pets and decreasing the stray dog population. It also helps prevent certain health conditions and can cut down on the amount of roaming a male dog feels the urge to do.
Even with all of these benefits to neutering dogs, it’s not completely without its complications. One of those main complications is infection. If you have recently had or are planning on getting your dog neutered, knowing the signs of infection and other complications will help you get your pup medical help when he needs it.
What to Expect After Your Dog is Neutered
Neutering dogs is such a common and routine procedure that it’s easy to forget that there’s some aftercare involved. Most of that aftercare is monitoring by you.
- Grogginess: If your pup goes home the day of his surgery, he may be a little groggy until the anesthesia wears off. Give him a quiet place to sleep and offer small amounts of water. Most dogs will be 100% normal by the next morning.
- Restrict exercise: The last thing you want is your dog to tear out his stitches by being too active. Keep your pup from running and jumping for 10-14 days. For really rambunctious dogs, this means leash walks only.
- Check the incision: Get to know your dog’s belly by checking the surgery incision at least twice per day. Incisions should be pink and slightly raised. The skin may be a little puckered. Tell your vet about any redness, swelling, lumps, gapping, bleeding, oozing, or foul smell that you find there.
- No baths, licking, chewing, or scratching the incision until it’s completely healed. Provide pain medication as needed.
It may help to have a kennel or small room set up for your dog to relax in for these two weeks. Most dogs will feel ready to go by the first or second morning, but you’ve got to fight the urge to let him loose. Having a confined area made up for him will help you both remember to rest, relax and heal.
Most dog’s neuter incisions will be healed in less than two weeks. Once you and your vet are comfortable that everything is stable, your pup can return to his normal activity level and routine.
Signs of Infection After Neutering in Dogs
Fortunately, infections are rare following a normal dog neuter, but anytime there is a break in the skin, there’s a chance for an infection. Infections happen when bacteria that are normally kept outside of the skin get in through a scrape, puncture, or cut and set up shop below. If they aren’t caught by the immune system they can reproduce and create an infection.
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
The best way to prevent an infection post-neutering in your dog is to keep the incision clean and dry. Going outside on rainy days or having a free-reign dirt bath is definitely out, as well as chewing or licking the incision. Prevent this by using an e-collar. Most importantly, monitor the incision. Noticing signs of infection when they first start will go a long way in clearing it up quick. Some of those signs of an infected incision include:
- Oozing blood or pus
- Foul odor
- Incision not healed after 14 days
You can also view our pictures of dog incision infections and pictures of dog spay incision infections.
Dogs may also show changes in behavior. Most of these signs are normal within the first 24-48 hours post-surgery, but are considered abnormal if your dog is past that two-day mark.
- Loss of appetite longer than the first 24 hours
- Pain (shaking, trembling, hiding) that lasts longer than one week
Complications That Can Result From Neutering Dogs
Dog neuters are about as routine as a surgery comes and veterinarians have them down to a science. But even with the greatest medical advances and technique, dog neuters aren’t without potential complications. While few and far between, some of those complications include:
- Anesthetic issues: All dogs handle anesthesia a little differently. Some will blow through it and others will take their time to get over it. If your pup is still groggy or sick 24 hours after surgery, they could be having a hard time with the anesthesia.
- Scrotal bruising and swelling: Older dogs especially have a hard time giving up their testicles making the vet put a little extra effort in during the neuter. This can lead to some bruising or swelling of the scrotum just behind the incision. Minor changes can be managed with a cold pack while major swelling or bruising should be checked out by a vet.
- Internal bleeding: If blood vessels aren’t ligated properly during the procedure, it can lead to some bleeding inside. Dogs may become lethargic and have pale gums. Seek vet help immediately.
- Self-inflicted injuries: Some dogs aren’t going to want to leave that incision alone and can re-open it or cause infection by licking or chewing it. Using an E-collar can prevent this as well as monitoring it for any changes. If your dog re-opens the incision or causes any pain, swelling, or discharge, see your vet.
- Infection: Bacteria love to grow where they’re not supposed to. That includes freshly cut skin. Further irritation by licking, dirt, or moisture can make that bacteria grow into a full fledged infection that can not only make the neuter incision look bad, it can make a dog sick all over. See your vet to help get this under control.
How to Treat an Infected Dog Neuter at Home
If you notice any changes in your pup’s neuter incision, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. If the symptoms are mild, they may recommend that you try a few things at home before taking your dog in to the clinic.
- Clean the incision gently with a warm washcloth. You don’t want to soak it, just gently remove any discharge or crusts. If your dog is willing, leave the warm compress on there for a few minutes. Doing this several times a day can help clean up very superficial infections.
- Double up on the barriers. If your dog is somehow Houdini-ing around his E-collar, add a light wrap over the incision. Some dogs may require a pair of boxer shorts or a T-shirt worn backwards with the legs through the armholes and the shirt tail tied around his chest to cover the incision.
- Consider a crate. Some dogs just can’t stay still, no matter how small the room or short the leash. Putting your dog in a crate that allows him just enough room to stand and turn around may make all the difference in letting a neuter incision heal.
- Apply a little triple antibiotic ointment to the incision if directed by your vet. Of course, you’ll then need to cover it or slip on an E-collar so it can’t be licked off right away.
At-home treatments are for mild, superficial infections only where there is a little redness and drainage. You’ll want to consult your vet before attempting any at-home treatments for a neuter infection to be sure you don’t need professional help.
When to Contact a Vet About Complications After Neutering a Dog
Superficial infections can often be treated at home. By superficial, we mean a little redness and oozing. However, if that little redness turns into something more, see your veterinarian.
- Swelling, lumpiness, or a foul odor from the incision, as well as if your pup is suddenly lethargic and not wanting to eat more than a couple of days after surgery, you’re looking at a veterinary appointment.
- Also check in with your vet if bruising shows up that wasn’t there right after surgery or if the incision gaps open from more than a couple of stitches coming out. You’ll also want to get a checkup if the skin isn’t healed within two weeks.
- Any vomiting or loss of appetite after that initial 24 hours post neuter may be a sign of something more serious that you’ll want to consult your vet.
Any time you feel that something is off or you’re concerned, don’t be afraid to call your vet. It’ll be good for both you and your dog to play it safe and worry about nothing rather than not get help with something is really wrong.
Dog Neuter Infection FAQs With a Vet
How can I tell if my dog’s neuter is healing poorly?
A normal neuter incision is going to be pink and slightly raised for the first few days. After that it will slowly heal back together in two weeks or less. Poorly healing incision may become red, swollen, or have a weeping discharge. They may fail to properly heal in that two-week mark or they may gap apart between the stitches.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
When should I neuter my dog?
The age-old answer to when to neuter a dog was at six months of age. However, new research has shown that some breeds of dogs are less at risk for developing certain types of cancer and orthopedic issues if they are neutered later in life, around nine months old. Your best bet is to speak to your veterinarian about your specific dog to determine the best age for neutering.
When is it too late to neuter a dog?
It’s never too late to neuter a dog. Older dogs can still benefit from neutering, however, some of those benefits decrease as a dog ages. You’ll want to make sure to get an older dog a thorough exam and pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure he is healthy enough for anesthesia.
Can I put anything on my dog’s neuter incision?
Neuter incisions are best left uncovered, clean and dry. Don’t put anything on it unless instructed by a veterinarian.
Can I put Neosporin on my dog after neutering?
Chances are your dog’s neuter incision won’t need Neosporin if you keep it clean and dry and keep them from licking it. Only use Neosporin if instructed by a veterinarian.
How can I tell if my dog’s neutering stitches are intact?
A normal incision may have a little gapping between stiches, but anything more than a slight gap can indicate that stitches aren’t intact.
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