Sunday, June 30, 2013

Helping your dog recover from a spay surgery

Sinead the Boston terrier asleep in her bed
Sinead shows off her new scar. 
A little more than a week ago, I took Sinead in for her spay surgery. It's nerve-wracking to sign up a small dog for a major surgery, and I had all of the expected jitters. I worried that her anesthesia wouldn't go as planned, for example, or I envisioned her cowering in the back of the cage for hours, wondering if I'd ever come back to rescue her.

In the end, my fears were a little unfounded, as the surgery went well, she seemed emotionally healthy and her veterinarian felt confident that she'd recover without any complications at all. In order for that good recovery to come to pass, however, I had some special precautions of my own to take, and the expectations were a little difficult to deal with.

Spay surgeries are, as we all know, major abdominal surgeries. There are exterior stitches to deal with, but there are also internal stitches that should stay in place. Unfortunately, both sets of stitches are subject to a significant amount of wear and tear when dogs do routine things their owners wouldn't think about correcting, including running, jumping and tugging on toys. All of these actions require the use of the abdominal muscles, and as a result, dogs who engage in these activities can pop their stitches before their owners even know what's going on.

Additionally, Sinead's exterior stitches are designed to dissolve on their own, but they're also water-soluble. This means licking the stitches could allow them to break down sooner than they should, and lying in the damp grass could also result in suture failure.

During the recovery process, people are told to keep their dogs calm and confined for 7 to 10 days. Like most dog owners, I thought these directions would be impossible to follow. Sinead is a busy puppy with a lot of energy, and unless she burns off that energy, she's a biting, crazy fiend. I couldn't figure out how to keep her quiet for even one day, much less a whole week.

Thankfully, she does know a few basic commands and she listens relatively well, so I came up with some compromises. For the past week, she has allowed me to carry her up and down the stairs to the basement, so she won't be flying around instead of resting. She's also stopped jumping up on the furniture, for now, and is asking for help to move both up and down. The running part is harder, but I'm not throwing toys for her to catch or allowing her to chase the dog, so her running time is dramatically reduced.

On the wet grass/lying in the grass portion of the problem, I got lucky as it's been dry and hot here. Sinead hasn't spent time outside in the wet grass mainly because the grass hasn't been wet. Whew! For additional stitch protection, I did get an e-collar, just in case I saw her chewing on her stitches or otherwise doing something she shouldn't, but it doesn't seem as though she was tempted to dig. In fact, I never saw her lick her stitches even once. Again, I got lucky.

Instead of allowing for crazy play, I've been working on obedience training commands like "sit" and "heel." She's enrolled in a class, and she'll need to demonstrate these rules next week, so the timing is good. But also, learning makes her use her mind, and this tends to wear her out just as much as does a spin around the yard.

At this point, her stitches are almost gone and the incision is healing beautifully with no complications. I may not be a model dog mother, as I didn't keep the little one totally confined, but I think the outcome worked out okay for both me and my little dog.

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