For dogs, pet de-sexing is practically the definition of routine surgery. In fact, barring some limited exemptions, it's mandatory in Australia. The surgery itself is brief (your dog will typically go home on the same day), and the required recovery time is minimal. During this recovery time, dog owners should monitor the site of the surgery. While complications are rare, it's necessary to be prepared. How would you know if your dog's de-sexing wasn't as straightforward as expected?
It's helpful to know how your vet closed the surgery site after de-sexing. Yes, this involves sutures (stitches), but it's not always a case of just stitching the incision closed. Your dog might actually have multiple layers of sutures.
To de-sex a male dog, the vet isolates the spermatic cord and the blood vessels that supply this cord. This is achieved using dissolving sutures, which are biodegradable and are safely absorbed back into your dog's bloodstream. Once your dog's testicles have been removed, the incision is often closed using intradermal sutures, which are located beneath the skin, and are also dissolvable.
Female dogs must have their uterus and ovaries removed, which is more invasive than the removal of the testicles. The blood vessels that provide blood flow to the uterus and ovaries are isolated (also using dissolving sutures). Additional dissolving sutures are often placed in the muscles surrounding the reproductive organs, followed by a layer of intradermal sutures. The wound is then closed using traditional sutures, placed in the skin.
Monitoring the Site
Unless the sutures are dissolving, your dog will require a subsequent appointment to remove their sutures, but your vet will schedule this when discharging your dog. It's now important for you to pay attention to the site of the surgery, allowing for the early identification of any complications. What are you looking for?
What to Expect
Your dog's groin might be swollen and inflamed as it heals. The sutures themselves will either be invisible (with intradermal sutures) or difficult to spot with sutures placed in the skin, owing to the inflammation of the site. Your dog will be curious about this alteration to their anatomy and may lick or otherwise interfere with the site of their de-sexing surgery. Intradermal sutures cannot be touched, but any sutures on the surface of the skin could be irritated. Ask your vet about an Elizabethan collar (also known as a cone of shame) if your dog appears to be too interested in their groin.
Beyond that, you simply need to periodically inspect the site of the surgery throughout the day. Any inflammation will progressively subside. If it worsens or is accompanied by bleeding and discharge (generally pus), then this is a sign of postoperative infection, which requires immediate attention from your vet. The same goes if the wound appears to be opening, suggesting your dog is straining their sutures.
It's unlikely that your dog's recovery time will present any complications, thanks to the layers of sutures they've received. Be vigilant about inspecting the site of the surgery though, so you can take action in the unlikely event of a complication. For more information, contact local clinics that offer pet de-sexing services.