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Warning Signs After Spaying Your Dog: What to Look Out For - PawSafe

Warning Signs After Spaying Your Dog: What to Look Out For

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

warning signs after spaying your dog

Watching warning signs after spaying your dog is essential in ensuring a smooth and swift recovery. Spaying is a common surgical procedure involving removing a female dog’s reproductive organs to prevent any future pregnancies. 

While spaying is generally considered to be a safe procedure, it is not without its risks. Some dogs may experience complications after surgery. Even those that don’t have complications must have plenty of rest in their dog calming beds for the body to recover.

If an owner notices any warning signs like weakness, inappetence, fever, swelling, or discharge, it is important to contact their veterinarian right away. Infections can be serious and may require additional treatment to prevent further complications. The book High‐Quality, High‐Volume Spay and Neuter offers insight for this article as well as several dog experts.

Spaying is a common and safe procedure that most responsible dog owners get for their female dogs to reduce dog overpopulation. Some even go as far as getting abortions for their dogs if they rescued them when they were already pregnant (you can read our article to discover more).

Most people get the procedure after their female pup reaches sexual maturity or after their first heat. While spaying is way more complicated than neutering, recovery should be as smooth and free of concerning signs and behavioral changes. 

But first, what is a proper spay recovery before we get into all the warning signs?

What To Expect After Spaying Your Dog

Spaying is not a complicated procedure, and it only takes 20 to 90 minutes, depending on the dog’s size. Afterwards, they may remain unconscious for another 15 minutes, after which vets keep them around for a few hours to ensure they recover from the anesthesia properly.

After you pick your dog up, they may appear groggy and “out of it” for a few hours. Their appetite may also be reduced as well for the first few days. Your dog is usually almost back to normal within a day or two, but full recovery will take about 2 to 3 weeks, during which your vet will give you instructions: such as

  • Reducing activity and how much your dog plays around;
  • Keeping water away from the incision site, meaning no baths or swims for about a month;
  • Preventing your dog from licking the site. This is why they come with a cone around the neck;
  • Giving them pain meds; and 
  • Giving them any other meds as prescribed. 

Now that we’ve seen that it’s usual for your dog to act a bit unusually for a few days, let’s get into signs that should raise your eyebrows.

11 Signs of Infection and Warning Signs After Spaying Your Dog

Spaying benefits cannot be stressed enough. In fact, research has found that spaying intact females reduces the risk of pyometra (a serious infection of the womb) by reducing exposure to progesterone. Several academic sources have also linked spaying to reduced mammary cancer risk.

Now that you’re sure that you never want your female pup to deliver a litter, look out for these warning signs during post-surgery care.

1. Foul Smelling Discharge

Discharge from the incision site, especially if it is pus-like or foul-smelling, is a huge sign of infection. While it’s normal for discharge in the incision area for 24 hours to a few days after surgery, anything extreme in color or smell should be concerning.

This discharge may be green or yellow and may have a thick consistency. If you notice your dog has a discharge with a bad odor, it is essential to contact your veterinarian immediately. Discharge more than a week after spaying is also not normal.

2. Unusual Smelling

Unusual swelling is another immediate warning sign after a dog has been spayed. Swelling may occur around the surgical incision or in other body areas, like the face. If there is excessive swelling, the dog may be in pain or discomfort.

3. Fever

Your dog’s belly and paws may also feel very hot to the touch if their incision site has been infected. Their ears or even head may be hot due to the fever. 

4. Lethargy and Loss of Appetite

It is common for dogs to feel a bit tired and have a decreased appetite for a day or two after surgery. 

However, if your dog continues to be lethargic and refuses to eat for more than a few days, it could be a sign of infection or other complications.

5. Excessive Licking or Chewing

Dogs may lick or chew at the incision site, but excessive licking or chewing can cause irritation and delay healing. It can also be a sign of pain or discomfort.

6. Excessive Bleeding

Excessive bleeding is a serious concern after a dog has been spayed. If a dog is bleeding excessively, it is essential to take her to the veterinarian immediately. Signs of excessive bleeding may include blood on the surgical incision or blood in the urine.

7. Redness

Another sign of infection after spay surgery is redness around the incision site. This may be accompanied by heat and tenderness. It is crucial to monitor the incision site for any changes and contact your veterinarian if you notice any redness or swelling.

8. Loss of Appetite or Vomiting

Dogs may experience nausea and vomiting after surgery due to the anesthesia and pain medications. However, if your dog refuses to eat or drink for more than 24 hours or vomits frequently, it could indicate an underlying issue. This could be due to an infection or other complications.

9. Pain and Discomfort

While some discomfort is normal, if your dog seems to be in severe pain or discomfort, it’s cause for concern. The pain can also cause your dog to have difficulty while urinating.

10. Changes in Behavior

If your dog is restless, agitated, or seems to be in pain, it could be a sign of complications. Other changes in behavior, such as hiding or avoiding interaction, can also be a sign that something is wrong.

11. Incontinence

Incontinence refers to an involuntary passing of urine and is very common in spayed females. This is because estrogen plays a role in controlling a dog’s sphincter muscle, and spaying drops estrogen levels. This is not a sign of an infection after spaying but may occur as a result, leading to urine leaking at random times

Warning Signs in Dogs After Spay Surgery: The Importance of Blood Clotting Disorders

Spay surgery, while generally safe and common, is not without risks. One such concern is the potential for excessive blood loss during or after surgery, particularly in dogs genetically predisposed to blood clotting disorders such as von Willebrand’s disease or hemophilia. Let’s take a closer look at these conditions, their symptoms, and the breeds most prone to these disorders.

Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common inherited blood clotting disorder in dogs. It results from a deficiency of von Willebrand factor, a protein essential for platelet adhesion. This deficiency makes it harder for the body to stop bleeding, leading to prolonged and excessive bleeding. Symptoms may include frequent nosebleeds, gum bleeding, prolonged bleeding from a minor cut, and excessive bleeding during heat cycles or after giving birth. In the context of spay surgery, you might notice extended bleeding from the surgical site or internal bleeding evidenced by pale gums, lethargy, and abdominal distention.

Hemophilia is another inherited blood clotting disorder, although less common than von Willebrand’s disease. Hemophilia results from a deficiency of specific clotting factors, leading to severe and spontaneous bleeding episodes. Symptoms of hemophilia can include blood in the urine or feces, spontaneous bleeding from the nose or mouth, and swollen or painful joints due to internal bleeding. After a spay surgery, a dog with hemophilia might exhibit prolonged bleeding, bruising around the surgical site, and signs of pain or discomfort due to internal bleeding.

Certain breeds are more prone to these disorders. For von Willebrand’s disease, Doberman Pinschers are at a high risk, but other breeds such as the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Shetland Sheepdog, and Pembroke Welsh Corgi have also been identified. Hemophilia A, the most common type, is more prevalent in German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, and mixed breed dogs. Hemophilia B is less common, but more often seen in Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, and mixed breed dogs.

If you have a dog belonging to any of these breeds or you suspect your dog may have a blood clotting disorder, it’s essential to discuss this with your veterinarian before any surgery. They may recommend tests to confirm the presence of these disorders, which can guide decisions about surgical protocols and post-operative care to ensure the safety and health of your dog.

Lastly, always monitor your dog closely after any surgical procedure. If you notice excessive bleeding, bruising, pale gums, lethargy, or any unusual behavior, contact your veterinarian immediately. These could be signs of a serious condition requiring urgent medical attention.

Remember, knowledge is power. By understanding the potential risks associated with your dog’s unique genetic makeup, you can help ensure a successful surgery and speedy recovery.

Long-Term Warning Signs After Spaying

Dog Goes into Heat After Being Spayed?

It is highly unlikely for a dog to go into heat after being spayed. However, in rare cases, some dogs may still exhibit signs of heat after the surgery. 

This could be due to incomplete removal of the ovaries or hormonal imbalances. If a spayed dog shows signs of heat, such as swollen vulva, discharge, or behavioral changes like wanting to mate, it is important to consult a veterinarian.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is a common long-term effect of spaying in dogs. After the surgery, the dog’s metabolism slows down, and if the owner continues to feed the same amount of food, the dog may gain weight. 


Some dogs may become lethargic or less active after being spayed. This could be due to the anesthesia, pain, or hormonal changes. The lethargy should usually resolve within a few days to a week. However, if the dog continues to show signs of lethargy, such as a lack of interest in food or play, it is important to consult a veterinarian.

Changes in Coat

Spaying can also affect the dog’s coat. Some dogs may experience changes in the texture, thickness, or color of their fur. This could be due to hormonal changes or nutrient deficiencies. Providing a balanced diet and regular grooming can help maintain the dog’s coat health.

Possible Joint Issues 

Studies such as UC Davis research have shown that spaying a dog too early, particularly the large to giant breeds, may lead to bone and joint issues. Dogs spayed or neutered before 1 year showed an increased risk of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears, and elbow dysplasia.

A Dog Going into Heat after Being Spayed? A Potential Complication After Spay Surgery

Spay surgery, also known as ovariohysterectomy, is a routine surgical procedure performed on female dogs to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of certain health issues. However, like all surgical procedures, it is not without potential complications. One such complication is ovarian remnant syndrome (ORS), a condition that may arise post-surgery due to the incomplete removal of ovarian tissue.

Ovarian remnant syndrome occurs when a portion of ovarian tissue is unintentionally left behind during spay surgery. This residual tissue can continue to produce hormones, specifically estrogen, which can lead to symptoms typically associated with a dog in heat. While ORS can be challenging to diagnose, understanding the symptoms and available treatment options can assist pet owners in managing this condition effectively.

Symptoms of ORS are generally related to the continued cyclical hormone production from the remaining ovarian tissue. These symptoms can include:

  1. Continued Heat Cycles: The most common sign of ORS is the continuation of heat cycles, including swelling of the vulva, bloody vaginal discharge, and behavioral changes such as increased interest from male dogs, despite the dog having been spayed.
  2. Attractiveness to Male Dogs: Because the remaining ovarian tissue continues to secrete hormones, spayed females with ORS may still attract males.
  3. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections or Pyometra: Hormonal changes can predispose the dog to recurrent urinary tract infections or even pyometra (a severe uterine infection), even though the uterus should have been removed during spay surgery.

If your dog exhibits these symptoms post-spay, a visit to the veterinarian is essential. The vet may use several diagnostic tools, including hormonal tests, ultrasound, and exploratory surgery, to confirm the diagnosis.

If a diagnosis of ORS is confirmed, the primary treatment is a second surgery to remove the remaining ovarian tissue. This is usually a more complex procedure than the initial spay surgery because the remaining ovarian tissue can be difficult to locate and may be adhered to other tissues in the abdomen.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved, so the benefits and risks of surgery should be carefully discussed with your veterinarian. In some cases, particularly in older dogs or those with significant health concerns, hormonal management may be considered as an alternativ-e-archive to surgery

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog After A Spay?

While it is normal for dogs to experience some discomfort and lethargy after surgery, certain symptoms should prompt immediate veterinary attention. These include lethargy, vomiting, bleeding, swelling, lack of appetite, and discharge.

If you notice any of these warning signs, it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately. Your veterinarian can help diagnose and treat any issues that may arise after your dog’s spay surgery, ensuring a safe and healthy recovery.

What Are The Most Crucial Days After A Spay?

After a dog is spayed, it is important to monitor her closely for any potential complications. The first few days after surgery are particularly crucial, as this is when most complications are likely to occur. Here are some things to keep in mind during this time:

Pain Management

Pain management is crucial in the days following a spay. Dogs may experience discomfort, and it is important to keep them comfortable to aid in their recovery. Pain medication, as prescribed by the veterinarian, should be given as directed.

Activity Level

Dogs should be kept calm and quiet in the days following a spay. They should not be allowed to run, jump, or engage in any strenuous activity. This is to prevent any incision site damage and promote healing.

Incision Care

The incision site should be monitored closely for any signs of infection. It is important to keep the area clean and dry and to follow any post-operative care instructions provided by the veterinarian. If there is any redness, swelling, or discharge from the incision site, the dog should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

Appetite and Hydration

Dogs may experience a reduced appetite and thirst in the days following a spay. It is important to encourage them to drink water and to offer small, frequent meals to help maintain their nutritional intake. If a dog is not eating or drinking, it is important to contact the veterinarian.

What Behaviors Are Abnormal After A Spay?

After a dog undergoes spaying surgery, it is normal for them to experience some behavioral changes due to the anesthesia and pain medications. However, some behaviors may indicate that there is an underlying issue that requires medical attention. Here are some abnormal behaviors to watch out for after your dog’s spay surgery:

Lethargy or Weakness

It is normal for dogs to experience some degree of lethargy and weakness after surgery. However, if your dog appears excessively tired, weak, or has difficulty standing up or walking, it may indicate an issue. This could be a sign of postoperative pain, infection, or other complications.

Excessive Panting or Heavy Breathing

Panting is a common behavior in dogs, especially after surgery. However, if your dog is panting excessively or has difficulty breathing, it could indicate an issue. This could be due to postoperative pain, respiratory problems, or other complications.

Excessive Licking or Chewing

Dogs may lick or chew at their incision site after surgery, which is normal. However, it could indicate an issue if your dog is excessively licking or chewing at the incision site. This could be due to pain, infection, or other complications.

Loss of Appetite

Inappetence happens when a dog is in pain or has some kind of discomfort. While it may be normal for 24 to 72 hours after spaying, a dog should regain their usual appetite soon after the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are red flags after spay?

After spaying a dog, there are some red flags that pet owners should be aware of. These include excessive bleeding, severe pain, lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

When should I be concerned about my dog after being spayed?

Pet owners should be concerned if their dog shows any of the red flags mentioned above. Additionally, if the dog’s incision site becomes swollen, red, or emits a foul odor, it may be infected, and immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

What are the most crucial days after spay?

The first few days after spaying are the most crucial. During this time, pet owners should monitor their dogs for any signs of discomfort or distress. It is also essential to ensure that the dog does not lick or chew at the incision site.

What should I watch after my female dog is spayed?

After spaying a female dog, pet owners should watch for signs of infection, excessive bleeding, and pain. Additionally, it is important to restrict the dog’s activity for the first few days after surgery to prevent complications.

How to lift a dog after spay?

Pet owners should avoid lifting their dog by its abdomen or hind legs after spaying. Instead, they should support the dog’s chest and hindquarters and lift it gently.

Complications after neutering a male dog?

Complications after neutering a male dog are rare. However, some possible complications include excessive bleeding, infection, and swelling. If pet owners notice any of these symptoms, they should seek veterinary attention immediately.

Final Thoughts

Spaying your dog is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. While it has many benefits, it also comes with some risks and potential complications. It is important to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate a problem after the surgery.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.