How soon can I walk my dog after neutering?

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Once your dog is neutered (whether it be spayed or castration), he or she will naturally need time to rest and recover before they can go back to their usual daily activities. This time will vary slightly, according to the type of surgery your dog has had and your individual dog’s requirements. You should always follow your vet’s advice on this, but Dr Gemma Cliffin has some general guidelines to be mindful of, too…

How much exercise can my dog have after neutering?

The first 24 hours

The usual advice is to keep your dog completely rested for the first 24 hours after surgery. This is because it takes your dog time to recover from the effects of a general anaesthetic, and it’s likely that they will feel the most sore during this initial post-surgery period. If your dog is particularly active or boisterous then it might be necessary to take them out to the garden to toilet on a lead to prevent any over-exertion.

Day 2 to 3

After 24 hours, you can begin short, lead-only walks with your dog if they are willing and able. It’s best to keep these walks to 5 or 10 minutes in length initially, and walk on flat terrain that’s easy for your dog to navigate. It’s better to do a couple of short walks with your dog each day, rather than one long walk.

Some dogs will take longer to recover than others, so if your dog doesn’t seem keen on a walk at this point, then it’s fine to allow them to rest for longer. However, if your dog seems particularly lethargic or unwell, be sure to contact your vet to get them checked over.

Day 3 to 10

Your dog will usually have their first post-operative check with your veterinarian around two to three days after surgery.

At this point, as long as the vet says your dog is healing as expected, you can usually begin to increase the length of their daily lead walks. Depending on your dog, the type of surgery they had, and their healing progress, it’s still best to keep these walks to 20 minutes or less.

It’s really important to keep your dog restricted to lead-only exercise for at least the first 10 days after surgery. Even if your dog is normally very good off the lead and walks beside you, it’s better to err on the side of caution and keep them on the lead to prevent any strenuous exercise. Even a quick dash after another dog could be enough to tear the stitches and result in a second surgery.

Why do I have to rest my dog after neutering surgery?

There are several reasons why your dog’s exercise should be restricted for the first 10 days after neutering. And if it isn’t, your dog could be at risk of some potentially serious postoperative complications…

Surgical site ‘breakdown’

This is where the wound edges partially or fully separate due to a premature breakdown of the stitches, either at the skin layer or —more seriously — the muscle layer of the surgical site. This can happen when a stitch snaps under excess pressure, or because the muscles tear due to exercise.

This is of particular concern after a female dog has been spayed (ovariohysterectomy), as the incision will have been into her abdominal cavity. That said, it could still be very serious in a male dog that’s been castrated.

If the muscle layer of the wound breaks down, this is an emergency. Reason being, there’s a risk that your dog could herniate some of their internal organs or tissue, which could be life-threatening. If this were to happen, your dog would need a second surgery to re-stitch the wound.

Haemorrhage

This is a particular risk in female dogs after spaying. Exuberant exercise could make ligatures (internal stitches used to tie off blood vessels during surgery) more likely to slip and result in internal bleeding. This could also result in a second surgery for your dog.

In male dogs, bleeding after surgery could result in a hematoma (a collection of blood in the tissue) within the scrotum. Hematomas usually resolve with time, but if they become very large, they could restrict the blood flow within the scrotum, causing death of the scrotal skin.

Surgical site infection

While the surgical wound is fresh, there’s a risk that bacteria could enter and start an infection. This is a potential risk after any surgery, but it’s more likely to occur if your dog’s allowed to exercise and get his or her wound dirty. If you notice any sticky or discoloured discharge from your dog’s surgical site, contact your vet right away.

What can I do with all my dog’s pent-up energy?

Occupying your dog while they’re in recovery after surgery can be tricky! Here are some top tips to help you keep their minds tired, even if their body is not…

  • Use puzzle feeders and snuffle mats to slow down their eating and occupy more of their day with finding food. Make sure they’re options that don’t involve too much movement – a mad chase after a puzzle ball is a bit too active!
  • Try ‘Dog TV’ to give them something to do that doesn’t involve moving too much
  • Spend 10 minutes a couple of times a day trying to train a new trick – preferably one that doesn’t involve running or jumping! Giving paw, looking shy, and ‘speak’ might be good options!
  • When you take them out, encourage them to stop and sniff more than usual – called a ‘sniffari’. This occupies their mind without allowing them to exercise too much!

Conclusion

Usually, your dog will have a final post-operative check with your vet around 10 days after surgery. At this point, all being well, your dog will be signed off and can resume his or her normal activity level. It’s important to always follow your vet’s advice with regards to post-operative care and exercise, as they will tailor any instructions specific to your dog’s needs.

Although it may be tempting to let them have a short spell off-lead, some pretty serious complications could occur if you do. Resist the urge and, before long, your dog will be back to enjoying their daily exercise as normal!


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