One of the most common questions I get in my veterinary practice is when a dog can be bathed after a spay/neuter. For this reason, I usually recommend the owner to bathe prior to the surgery if they are concerned about odor/cleanliness. However, there are some basic guidelines to when you can clean your dog after a surgery like these.
After a spay/neuter, you can bathe your dog following these guidelines:
- Do they have stitches? Wait until the stitches come out before you bathe. If you bathe while stitches are in, water and shampoo can wick under the stitches into the skin causing irritation and cause issues with healing.
- If they don’t have stitches, wait at least 7 days before you “bathe” your dog. You can technically bathe them at this time but don’t apply shampoo or scrub directly on the area of the incision. The incision isn’t likely to be healed enough to tolerate direct pressure in this manner.
- A full bath can be done a few weeks after a surgery with full application of shampoo and water at that time.
How Do I Clean An Incision Area After My Dog’s Surgery?
Frequently a dog will ooze a bit of fluid from their incision for a day or two after surgery. This is normal. See below for abnormal issues after a surgery.
- For best results, I recommend my dog owners to use hydrogen peroxide and apply it with either a cotton swab or a paper towel. Cotton swabs are great because they allow you to place the liquid exactly where you want it and it’s strong enough to remove any small scabbing or gooey substance. Let the hydrogen peroxide air dry.
- In a pinch, when you don’t have hydrogen peroxide, just use plain water. Don’t add any soap or alcohol as this will inevitably lead to pain and issues for your dog.
When Is A Spay/Neuter Incision Having A Problem?
- Make sure to look at your dog’s incision when you’re picking them up from the vet after surgery. You want a baseline for what it looks like right after surgery.
- You should look at your dog’s incision twice a day (morning/evening) to make sure it isn’t changing for the worse.
- Small areas of redness or bruising are common after a surgery.
- If the entire incision is reddened or swollen, contact your veterinarian.
- If your dog wants to mess with this area constantly, contact your veterinarian.
How To Prevent Your Dog From Having Healing Issues After A Spay/Neuter
The two biggest issues after a routine surgery like a spay/neuter are the following:
- Dog Licking On Incision
- You may see them do it or you might just start to notice that the entire incision area, as well as the surrounding skin, is reddened. This is usually due to the licking.
- If you see this, they must wear some sort of “cone” that prevents the licking.
- Owner not giving the pain medication as directed
- This happens every so often in my practice where the owner will say that the dog felt so good after surgery that they didn’t think they needed the pain medicine. Then a few days after the dog gets home it starts licking at the incision. That’s because the dog is in pain. Surgery hurts. Use the pain medicine as directed.
The bottom line: if you’re worried, call your vet. Consider taking a picture and emailing it to your vet if they have that capability. Stay on top of problems early and your dog will thank you!