Spay, Neuter & General Surgical Discharge Instructions

Know more about discharge instructions below.

Surgical Discharge Instructions

Your pet has undergone surgery and will need continued care at home. Your job during the recovery period at home is just as important as the surgical procedure just performed.

Discharge Video Instructions

If your pet was spayed/neutered or had abdominal surgery, this ASPCA video with post-op instructions is very helpful. For more information on surgery in pets please visit Your Pet’s Surgery: An Expert Guide to What to Expect written by the contributors of Petful – an online information service about pets with articles written and approved by veterinarians. This is a comprehensive article detailing both pre and post-surgical pet care. You can also visit the article Post-Operative Care for Pets written by Veterinary Partner powered by VIN.

Post-Operative Care FAQs

What should I do when my pet arrives home after surgery?

Home care after surgery mainly involves the restriction of physical activity. After arriving at home, keep your pet warm and comfortable by providing a soft clean bed, ideally in a quiet and draft-free room at a comfortable room temperature (68-75°F or 20-24°C).

Dogs should remain indoors overnight, going outside only for short leash walks as needed to urinate and defecate.

Cats should remain in a small room [area] limiting objects to jump on/off from for the first 1-2 days with access to food/water and a litter box.

Pets do not understand the seriousness of surgery or significance of the recovery period. Most pets will naturally become very active within 12-24 hours after surgery. Confinement and close supervision is important This means:

❖ No jumping or running
❖ No stair climbing
❖ No playing with other pets
❖ No ‘rough-housing’

Some level of activity restriction is necessary during the entire recovery period (1-2 weeks).

“Avoid running, jumping, and other strenuous activity that could cause strain on the incision and incisional dehiscence (opening).”

For dogs, a short leash is recommended when eliminating and returning indoors immediately for the first 2-3 days. Carry your dog up and down the stairs to get to your yard. Afterwards, only very short, slow leash walks as instructed by your veterinarian.

“If your pet is left alone, cage confinement or a small room (pantry, closet, laundry room) is ideal .”

If your pet is left alone, cage confinement or another small warm and safe area is recommended. Excessive physical activity can lead to injury or serious complications. Meaning additional expense to you and added discomfort and risk for your pet.

When can I feed my pet?

After arriving at home, you may offer your pet half of its normal meal. If they eat and still seem hungry, offer the rest of the meal an hour or later. Some pets experience nausea after general anesthesia, and dividing the meal into smaller portions may decrease risk of nausea and vomiting.

Unless otherwise instructed, your pet’s access to water should not be restricted.

Appetite should steadily improve over the next 2-3 days, if appetite is decreased or your pet completely stops eating, please contact the hospital.

Consider hiding medication(s) (pills/capsules) in tasty treats such as a small piece of hot dog, a meatball, lunchmeat, creamy substances such as braunschweiger (liverwurst) or a soft cheese (cream cheese, Velveeta, brie) bread, or canned food. Commercial products such as Pill Pockets or similar also exist. See below for additional information.

Pilling Dogs and Cats by Veterinary Partner

Why Is It so Difficult to Give Pills to Dogs? by Petful Giving Oral Medications to your Dog by WSU

Video of How to Give Your Dog a Pill

My pet seems very sleepy and acting weird. Is this normal?

Your pet was given a general anesthetic or sedative. These drugs can take a number of hours to wear off and may cause some patients to appear drowsy or even disoriented (wobbly) for the next few hours. Please plan accordingly for navigation in/out of vehicles, on/off furniture and around stairs. Over the next 24-48 hours, your pet’s behavior should gradually return to normal. If abnormal behavior continues past 48 hours, please reach out to the hospital.

Your pet may also vocalize, (whining/whimpering/groaning/howling) as a result of medications used during anesthesia and pain management (dysphoria). These are normal behaviors however, if you feel that your pet is in pain or you are concerned, please reach out to the hospital.

My dog has developed a slight cough since the operation. Should I be concerned?

Your pet may have had a tracheal (windpipe) tube placed during anesthesia to administer oxygen and anesthetic gas. Tube placement can cause mild irritation to the throat. A minor cough (dry hacking) or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) can be seen. The cough & dysphagia should diminish over the next few days. If either condition persists or worsens, contact the hospital.

How should I care for the incision?

Do not bathe your pet or allow the incision to get wet for at least 2 weeks. Do not allow your pet to lick or chew at the incision.

Monitor the incision daily for signs of redness, swelling, bruising, discharge, or excessive licking.

Mild redness and swelling are part of the healing process and should be expected for the first few days after surgery. After the first 2-3 days, the swelling and redness should subside and the incision should look better each day. Moderate swelling on or around the incision site is abnormal, and may be an early sign of infection. For routine elective surgeries, any discharge from the incision site is abnormal unless your veterinarian performed a SCROTAL NEUTER.

Because SCROTAL NEUTERS are usually left open or contain 1-stitch, it is not uncommon to see occasional [bloody] drainage/dripping/spotting or noticing a “gap” in the incision.

“Never put anything on the incision unless you are specifically told to do so by your veterinarian.”

Never use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on the incision. These chemicals are toxic to healing tissues, will cause inflammation and delay healing.

My pet hasn’t had a bowel movement or now my pet has loose stool, what should I do?

It is not uncommon for pets not to pass stool for the first few [1-3] days following anesthesia.

Anesthetic and pain medications used can cause slowed intestinal motility/transit time. As long as your pet seems comfortable, normally eating and drinking, and not showing signs of distress – let nature “take its course”. If your pet is actively straining to have a bowel movement for a long period and cannot pass stool, or is passing blood, please contact the hospital.

On the other hand, your pet may experience loose stool or diarrhea. This can be from stress caused by going to the hospital. Some of the medications sent home can also cause loose stool.

A bland diet, adding fiber, probiotics, and binders can often help. If the loose stool persists more than a day or two, or if your pet also vomits or has a decreased appetite, contact the hospital.

When can my pet resume normal activities?

It depends on the surgical procedure performed. It is important to limit your pet’s activity in order to prevent incisional dehiscence (opening).

For most procedures, your dog’s activity should be restricted for AT LEAST 1-2 full weeks. It is also essential to avoid swimming (or baths). Moisture can introduce bacteria into the incision leading to infection.

Cats should remain indoors limiting access to jump the entire recovery period – AT LEAST 1 full week after surgery.

Will my pet receive medication after surgery?

After surgery, your pet will be sent home with medications. Please READ DRUG LABELS

CAREFULLY and specific discharge instructions carefully. Administer all medication as instructed. If you are having trouble treating your pet, please contact the hospital for advice.

Your pet should gradually improve each day. If your pet’s condition changes or suddenly worsens, please contact the hospital.


Cats can be very “tricky” to medicate. Liquid vs pills or capsules tend to be easier to administer. Consider hiding medication(s) (pills/capsules) in tasty treats such as a small piece of hot dog, a meatball, lunchmeat, creamy substances such as braunschweiger (liverwurst) or a soft cheese (cream cheese, Velveeta, brie) or canned food. You can also try crushing the pill, opening the capsule, or mixing the liquid medication with liquids you cat enjoys such as tuna or clam juice.

Commercial products such as Pill Pockets or similar also exist. See below for additional information:

Pilling a Cat by Veterinary Partner (includes pictures & videos) Medicating Tips & Tricks Video by Fundamentally Feline

How to Give Medicine to a Cat by Petful

Medicating & Pilling Cats by Homeless to Housecats

Why has my pet's foreleg been shaved?

This is typically where the anesthetic or sedative was administered or an IV catheter was placed. The catheter site may be bandaged; if so, remove the bandage after arriving home unless otherwise instructed.

What should I do to keep my pet from licking or chewing the incision or stitches?

Basket Muzzle
❖ Surgical Recovery Suits

Heywean; IDOMIK & others on Amazon

❖ T-Shirt or other DIY alternatives to cover the incision site
❖ Sedatives & Anti-anxiety Medication

Your pet instinctively may try lick / chew or scratch at the surgical site. If you have been given an Elizabethan-type protective collar (often referred to as a “cone” or E-collar), it is important to use it. If you have not been given an E-collar and your pet licks / chews the incision, please contact the hospital and request one.

“If your pet does succeed in removing any stitches, please call the hospital as soon as possible.”

Not surprisingly, many pets find these collars dislike the e-collar and will attempt to remove them. Most pets will settle down and tolerate wearing the collar. It is better to keep the collar on all the time, rather than to take it on and off.

It only takes a few seconds for pets to remove their stitches or damage the surgery site. Mild licking can result in an infection requiring antibiotic treatment. Persistent licking can cause serious incisional injury and may require a costly surgery to repair the damage.

“Persistent licking can cause serious injury to the incision and may require a costly surgery.”

If your pet does succeed in removing any stitches, please call the hospital as soon as possible.

What should the incision look like, and when should I be concerned?

The incision should normally be clean and the edges should be together (except scrotal neuters). Skin surrounding the incision should be a normal or slightly reddish-pink color. In pale-skinned dogs, bruising is often seen around the surgical site. Bruising may not appear for a few days after the operation and, in some cases, can seem excessive in comparison to the incisional size. Some bruising is normal and usually resolves in 5-7 days. A small amount of [blood-tinged] fluid may seep intermittently from a fresh incision for up to 24-hours, especially if the animal is active.

Please contact your veterinarian if your pets surgical site experiences EXCESSIVE:

❖ Opening or Gapping around skin edges
❖ Discharge / Drainage – continuous, intermittent or excessive blood/fluid draining/ seepage for more than 24 hours.

=> Small amount of crusting is normal

❖ Redness & Swelling especially when painful to the touch or growing in size
❖ Bruising
❖ Unpleasant odor and discharge (pus)

When do the stitches need to be removed?

In most cases, In most cases, your veterinarian uses sutures that do not require removal. These sutures are placed under your dog’s skin and will dissolve in the coming weeks. These sutures are placed under the skin and will dissolve in the coming weeks.

If skin stitches are present – most sutures are removed 7-21 days after the operation; the actual time depends on the type of surgery performed. You will be instructed if and when your pet should return for suture removal.

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s stitches, please contact the hospital.

Following post-operative instructions is to help your pet return to a normal pain-free normal-life as soon as possible.

SPAY & NEUTER Discharge Instructions

INCISION CARE: A mild amount of redness, bruising, swelling or blood-tinged discharge is normal during the first
few days of recovery.

  • No suture removal necessary. ABSORBABLE sutures were placed and will dissolve over time
  • Do not bathe your pet during the recovery period (10-14 days)
  • Keep pets indoors so they can stay clean, dry, and warm
  • Do not clean or apply anything to the incision unless instructed by the veterinary team.
  • Monitor your pet’s incision closely at least 7-10 days. When looking at the incision, be sure to note the color of the skin at the incision line, the amount of swelling, and if there is any clear or colored discharge (oozing of fluid).
  • Take a photo of the incision on the first day home so you can compare objectively in the future by looking back at the original photo for comparison.
  • Color: The incision edges, the skin may be pink to light red initially. Fading back to the normal skin color will happen over time. Initial bruising is light red and will change to differing shades of dark purple and yellow as it heals.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling can be expected at an incision site immediately postoperatively. If the swelling gets worse, please contact us.
  • Discharge: A small amount of light red incisional discharge is expected. Increased discharge or discharge that is dark red, yellow, white, green, or smells bad requires an immediate recheck – either with us or an emergency hospital if it is after hours.
  • SCROTAL NEUTERS are left open to drain [or may contain 1-stitch]. Heal is by second intention [close up naturally]. Scrotal incisions help minimize the chance of fluid accumulation (blood or serum) within the scrotal sac – which can be painful and require medical intervention. It is not uncommon to see occasional [bloody] drainage / dripping / spotting or noticing a “gap” (small opening) in the incision.


An E-Collar and/or a surgical recovery suit must be worn for the next 7-14 days.


  • Limit exercise/play/activity with pets or people while your pet recovers (usually 10-14 days).
  • Limited leash walks are ok – keep the walks short and controlled over the first 2 weeks.
  • SEDATIVES can be very helpful to keep your pet calm. If you would like sedatives provided, please ask. Supervise your pet while outdoors, and it may be helpful to your pet on a leash.


  • Your pet can have normal access to water.
  • To avoid nausea, feed 1/2 of your pet’s normal amount and type of food after coming home and your pet has settled.
  • A slight decrease in appetite may occur, but normal food intake should return within 24-36 hours after returning home.


Some of the more common, yet normal post-procedure behaviors and potential complications of anesthesia are:


Your pet was placed under general anesthesia – a series of injectable medications and an anesthetic gas was used. An endotracheal tube (ET) was placed in your pets’ trachea (windpipe) and they were maintained on anesthetic gas during the procedure. Use of an ET tube may cause some minor irritation to the throat. It is not uncommon for the pet to experience some mild coughing for the next couple of days. If you feel that the coughing is severe or does not resolve on its own, please reach out to the hospital.


Your pet may be tired and slightly disoriented once home from the procedure – please plan accordingly for navigation into/out of vehicles and around stairs, etc. Your pet may also vocalize, (whining/whimpering/groaning/howling), as a result of the medications used during anesthesia and for pain management afterward. These are considered normal behaviors however, if you are concerned your pet is in pain or uncomfortable, please contact the hospital.


It is not uncommon for a pet to not have a bowel movement for the first few days following anesthesia. Anesthetic agents and pain medications used will often cause the motility and transit time of the intestines to slow down. As long as your pet is comfortable and not showing signs of distress – let nature “take its course”. If your pet is actively trying to have a bowel movement and cannot pass stool, please call the hospital.



  • The incision has signs of excessive redness, swelling, bruising, discharge (dripping or malodorous fluid), and if any sutures are missing.
  • Seems agitated or uncomfortable for more than 2 hours
  • Has difficulty breathing, orthopnea or cannot settle down
  • Begins squinting the eye(s) for more than 1 hour at a time.
  • Begins bumping into objects acting non-visual
  • Develops any [new] wounds or large bruises on the body
  • Refuses to eat or drink for more than 12 hours.
  • Does not defecate for more than 3 days.
  • Has diarrhea for more than 24-36 hours.
  • Vomits more than 3 times in 12 hours.
  • Seems weak, listless, has difficulty getting up or walking.
  • Has a rectal temperature >102.5-103F for >12 hrs
  • The incision has a foul smell

Discharge Video Instructions

Be sure to read Surgical Discharge Instructions for Pets or Post Operative Care for Pets for more detailed information on how to take care of your pet after anesthesia & surgery.  You may also find the following ASPCA video instructions on surgical recovery [spay/neuter/abdominal procedures] helpful:

ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance: After Surgery – YouTube (1:44 min)
Spay/Neuter Clinic Flow: Post-op Instructions for Clinics – YouTube (4.20 min)
Ask a Vet: All You Need to Know About Spay/Neuter Surgery • MSPCA-Angell
Spay/neuter post-surgical care and recovery instructions | Animal Humane Society
Spay – Ovariohysterectomy
Spay – Ovariectomy
Castration – [Scrotal] Neuter