After being spayed or neutered, your dog should be taking it easy so that the wound doesn’t become infected and re-opened. But what many owners don’t realize is that there are also veterinary guidelines around cleaning and bathing your dog.
In this guide, I will how long you need to wait before giving your dog a wash after spaying or neutering, and then how you can clean them properly after stitches come out. Here’s the short answer first though.
How long after spaying can I bathe my dog? Most vets recommend that you don’t bathe your dog for 10 to 14 days after spay surgery (or neutering surgery). This also includes getting any water on your dog’s wounds when swimming, paddling, or even rainwater.
Why you should not bathe your dog after spaying or neutering
Keeping the spay or neuter wound dry provides the best environment for the healing process to take place. So, while it can be tempting to give your dog a quick bath to freshen her up, it might actually end up taking longer for the wound to heal.
This is the same reason why your dog might wear a cone (also known as an Elizabethan Collar). The cone fits around your dog’s neck to prevent them from licking the wound. Licking and pawing will slow down the healing process by pulling at the stitches and causing infections.
The old myth of saliva being helpful or having anti-bacterial properties just isn’t true!
Now few dogs relish the opportunity to wear these collars and most will attempt to remove them when they are first out on.
However, if they do get access to the wound, then it could result in the need for another operation to repair the damage they can cause within seconds. It usually only takes a day to two of wearing the collar for them to be able to relax, eat and play with no problem.
It’s generally recommended to leave it on all the time rather than keep taking it on and off. Do though be ready for bashed legs and furniture as they learn to maneuver around with the collar on!
If your girl becomes very anxious when wearing the cone, there are now post-surgery bodysuits specially designed for dogs. But, do be aware, that for a very persistent dog, these can be ripped or torn off very quickly if you’re not there to supervise.
We know that those fourteen days can seem like forever. But, if you stick to the guidance provided by your vet then you’ll soon be back to your regular grooming routines, and she’ll be able to once more run around and have fun.
There might also be bacterial elements and dirt in naturally occurring water, which is why you should not let your dog paddle outdoors either.
Now, with regards to cleaning before spaying, you might want to consider some pre-op preparation. This way you might actually reduce the need to bathe your dog after spaying.
If your dog has a longer coat, then do consider getting them booked in with the groomer a few days before the surgery. They can carry out what’s known as a ‘sanitary trim’ which will give your dog a trim of all the hair around the genital area keeping it nice and short and so less likely to need washing during the recovery period.
Do avoid having the area completely shaved as this can result in the skin becoming very itchy as the hair begins to grow back in and that’s the last thing that you’re going to want to happen!
Do that, it you will still have to wait as long after spaying to bathe your dog, but the necessity will be reduced.
How do I clean my dog after being spayed or neutered?
It’s not too unusual for dogs to have a bit of an upset stomach after an anesthetic and that might mean that a clean-up is needed, especially for long-coated dogs. It’s also totally natural for there to be some bloody discharge around the vulva area.
This means that you need a way of keeping your girl nice and clean and fresh smelling without getting the wound wet.
The best way of cleaning your dog after being spayed is by using either natural baby wipes or specially designed dog wipes.
Handy Hint: You can see which wipes I recommend for a dog in this guide to dog-friendly wiping and cleaning.
Even then it is recommended that you don’t attempt to clean the wound in case you interfere with the healing process or accidentally introduce bacteria to the area.
It’s especially important not to apply any cream, ointment, disinfectant, or other substance to the wound unless you were instructed to by your vet.
It’s also very important not to use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol as these can actually damage the skin cells and in turn, delay the healing process.
If you are tempted to clean the area due to a nasty smell, then you should get in touch with your vet straight away as this can be a sign of an infection.
Likewise, there shouldn’t be any excessive swelling, pus, or discharge.
It is normal though for there to be a little redness, a small amount of blood seepage for 24 hours or so, and sometimes some bruising which tends to be more noticeable on lighter colored dogs.
Handy Hint: Do you have a dog that goes mad of aggressive after bath time? It could be that they get the zoomies after a bath for one of these 5 reasons.
Can I groom my dog after being spayed or neutered?
Not only is grooming needed to keep your dog’s coat in perfect condition, but it can also be an excellent opportunity for bonding time between you and your dog. This means that grooming is definitely something which needs to continue while she is recuperating from the operation.
But what about grooming a dog after being spayed?
Well, as you can imagine, extra care will be needed when grooming around where the wound is to make sure that no additional tension is placed on the stitches.
If there is a mat or tangle close to the incision, then this might be one of those times when the best option is to cut it out.
If you use any kind of grooming sprays, make sure to keep those away from her tummy area. Many are alcohol-based which will sting and can slow down the healing.
Can I bathe my dog after removing stitches?
Now, most spays no longer have external stitches which need to be removed. It’s more common for the vet to place the stitches underneath the skin’s surface, which means that you don’t need to return to the vet’s office for their removal.
If, however, the closure is achieved with non-dissolving stitches or staples, then your vet will usually remove them at the 2-week point.
If there are no stitches to be removed, then you can now bath your dog.
Do be aware though that your girl has had major surgery and so might still feel a little sore around the wound even two weeks later so make sure it’s a nice and gentle washdown.
If stitches have been removed, then some vets will ask you to wait another couple of days before she has a bath, again just to make sure that there is no risk of infection entering the healing wound.
When, finally, she can have a bath use non-scented hypoallergenic shampoo so that its nice and gentle on the incision site.
How long after spaying can my dog go swimming?
If your dog loves to go swimming in a local lake or they enjoy a hydrotherapy session, then they’re probably keen to hit the water as soon as possible.
The time scale on this one depends on two things, firstly needing to wait for the wound to heal and secondly slowly easing your dog back into her exercise schedule.
With any major surgery, it’s important to take things steady, to begin with. So, if your dog is the type to leap into the lake at the earliest opportunity, then it may mean on-leash walks for the first two weeks.
Handy Hint: Did you know that there are lots of hidden dangers at the beach for puppies and dogs?
Once you have the okay from the vet, then you can let her have short swimming sessions to build her stamina back up to pre-op levels.
Do check the wound site after a few minutes of swimming just to make sure that everything is holding in place and make sure she has a quick wash down with clean water to get rid of any chemicals or bacteria in the water.
When your female dog is spayed, their reproductive organs are removed to prevent the possibility of her becoming pregnant. Although this is a standard operation which our veterinarians perform every day, it is still considered to be a major procedure.
This means that it can be a difficult time for your dog. Coping with the after-effects of a general anesthetic along with the discomfort from the wound, your girl will need plenty of care and attention as she gets back to her regular routine.
Part of that routine is bathing and being cleaned, so just exercise a little patience. It won’t be too long after spaying that you can bathe your dog again.
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