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Pictures of Normal Dog Spay & Neuter Incisions and Scars

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This article was updated on April 7th, 2023

Spay and neuter surgeries are some of the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians, and the most effective way to prevent unwanted puppies. But even though they may be considered routine and your vet likely performs them every day, it can be a nerve-racking experience for pet parents. Knowing more about these surgeries, what to watch for, what normal spay and neuter incisions and scars look like, and how to care for your dog can help put your mind at ease.

What is a spay or neuter surgery?

Spaying and neutering your dog is an important way to prevent unwanted puppies as well as increase your dog’s lifespan and decrease their risk of certain medical conditions and problem behaviors. These procedures involve surgical removal of the reproductive organs – the ovaries and uterus in females and the testicles in males. Female dogs who are spayed will not have heat cycles or be able to get pregnant. Male dogs who are neutered will not be able to get a female pregnant.

These surgeries are performed under anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian. There may be slight differences in how and when your veterinarian performs these surgeries, but general information about spays and neuters can be found here. Your dog will be asleep and feel no pain during the procedure, and their vital signs will be monitored closely by a skilled assistant. Dogs are generally sent home the same day with pain medications and detailed follow-up instructions.

What a normal spay incision or scar looks like in dogs [with pictures]

A dog is spayed through an incision into the abdomen. After surgery, you will see the healing incision on their belly, starting right below the umbilicus (belly button). The hair on their belly will also be shaved. The length of the incision may range from less than one inch to much longer, depending on many factors, including the size, breed, and age of your dog. After the ovaries and uterus are removed, the incision will be closed with suture in several layers. The top layer, which is your dog’s skin, is most often closed with an absorbable suture that is placed within the skin. The sutures will not be visible and will dissolve over time. In other cases, an incision may be closed with external sutures or staples, which will need to be removed in approximately 14 days.

Let’s explore what a normal spay incision should look like. After surgery, the skin around the incision will be normal or slightly pink in color, and the edges should be touching each other. A slight amount of blood may seep intermittently from the incision within the first 24 hours, but should not be continuous or excessive. Over the next couple days as the incision begins to heal, it may become slightly more red. A small amount of bruising and scabbing is also normal in the days following surgery.

The image below depicts an incision immediately after surgery:

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Below is an incision that was closed with external sutures:

dog leg wound after surgery with incision after cyst removal
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The incision below is almost fully healed. There should be no sign of discharge or swelling, and the incision should be fully closed and painless to the touch.

normal spay incision on a dog's belly

Spay incision recovery timeline: day by day

These images below show a normal progression of healing for an incision / scar after a spay surgery.

Day 1-2: Immediately after surgery, the skin may be slightly pink and there may be a small amount of blood seeping intermittently from the incision. This should be minimal and not last for more than 24 hours. As you can see here, the edges of the incision are touching, and there is no suture material visible.

Day 4-5: As the incision continues to heal, a mild amount of scabbing, bruising, and scabbing may be seen.

Day 10-14: By day 10-14, the incision should be fully healed. The incision here is barely visible, with no noticeable redness, swelling, or discharge.

What a normal neuter incision or scar looks like in dogs

As the testicles are external, a neuter is a less invasive surgery than a spay. The testicles are pushed up and removed one at a time via an incision above the scrotum. The incision size is usually around one inch in length, but will depend on your dog’s size, age, and breed. Like with a spay, the suture material is usually buried within the skin where it will dissolve over time. The scrotum is not removed, but the saggy skin will usually shrink over time. A small amount of bruising and swelling of the scrotum is to be expected; however excessive swelling may be a sign of a scrotal hematoma.

The picture below shows a post-operative neuter incision with mild swelling and bruising of the scrotum:

Neutering incision on a dog

Possible complications after spay or neuter

After a spay or neuter surgery, dogs may experience some of these common issues:

1. Pain

Although your veterinary team will do their best to keep your dog comfortable by providing pain medications before, during, and after surgery, your dog may still experience some discomfort and pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe pain medications and/or anti-inflammatories. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if a dog is in pain – they may also be anxious or dealing with side effects from anesthesia or another type of surgical complication. If you have any concerns or notice the following signs, it is best to contact your vet.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

2. Side effects of anesthesia

Most dogs are still groggy when they get home after surgery. Be sure to keep your dog quiet and confined so that they cannot injure themself. Your vet will instruct you on when you should offer them a small meal. They should start feeling better within the next couple days, at which point it may be difficult to keep them quiet. Young healthy dogs usually bounce back quicker. Read our article: Dog Not Eating After Surgery- What to Do.

3. Appearance of the incision

It’s normal for the incision to be a bit swollen or bruised after surgery. Intermittent seeping of a small amount of blood within the first 24 hours is also normal, especially in dogs who are more active. However, if the swelling doesn’t go down or if you notice discharge, excessive bleeding or bruising, or signs of infection be sure to contact your veterinarian.

  • Bleeding: Excessive bleeding can be a complication of surgery or due to a clotting disorder. It is important to contact your vet if the incision is still oozing after 24 hours, if bleeding is excessive, if your dog’s gums appear pale, or if they are lethargic or weak.
  • Swelling: Excessive swelling may be a sign of a suture reaction or a seroma (fluid pocket at the surgery site). Large breed mature male dogs often develop scrotal hematomas after a neuter, in which the scrotum swells and fills with blood. In severe cases, another surgery may be needed to address this. Icing the area may help reduce swelling if tolerated.
  • Bruising: In most cases a small amount of bruising is normal. This may be especially evident in light colored dogs. If bruising is excessive it may be a sign of a difficult surgery or underlying issue.
  • Infection: Infection can occur if the incision site isn’t kept clean and dry, or for other reasons. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor. Some dogs may try to lick or chew the incision site, which can cause irritation, infection, and delay the healing process. View our article about spay incision infections.
  • Dehiscence: If you are concerned that the incision is opening up contact your vet right away.

4. Decreased bowel movements

Due to the effects of anesthesia, many dogs may not poop for several days after surgery. As long as they are not straining and are doing well otherwise, there is no need to be concerned. Read our veterinarian FAQ about constipated dogs after surgery.

5. More serious complications

Vets agree that the benefits of spaying and neutering outweigh any associated risks, however, every surgery comes with risks and possible complications. More serious complications from spay and neuter surgeries include a reaction to anesthesia, excessive bleeding, infection, and herniation.

How to help your dog recover faster from a spay or neuter surgery

1. Follow your veterinarian’s post-op instructions: Your veterinarian will provide specific instructions on how to care for your dog after surgery, including medications, feeding, and exercise restrictions. Follow these instructions carefully to ensure your dog’s smooth recovery. Your vet will also let you know if and when a recheck appointment is recommended.

2. Limit your dog’s activity level: Keep your dog calm for 10 to 14 days after surgery. Avoid activities such as running or playing that could strain the incision, and only take your dog out for short walks on a leash to go potty. Swimming and bathing should also be avoided during this time frame. If you have an especially energetic pup, ask your veterinarian about prescribing a medication to help keep them calm and quiet.

3. Check the incision regularly: Look for signs of redness, swelling, or discharge, which could indicate an incision infection. Contact your veterinarian if you see any abnormalities.

4. Prevent licking: Prevent your dog from licking or chewing the incision site by having them wear an E collar at all times when unsupervised.

5. Always contact your vet with any questions or concerns.

cone on a dog


  • Dr. Liza Cahn, Veterinarian

    Dr. Liza Cahn is a veterinarian who graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Dr. Cahn has five years of experience working as a veterinarian in small animal practice in Washington and California. She loved working with dogs and cats and educating owners on all aspects of veterinary medicine, especially animal behavior and dermatology. She has since transitioned to remote work to be able to spend more time at home with her husband, two young kids, and two cats, and is thrilled to be able to combine her love for veterinary medicine and passion for writing. Dr. Cahn has an active veterinary license in Washington State.

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