Surgical Preparation for Spaying

In preparation for surgery, the animal's abdominal fur is clipped, and the skin is scrubbed with povidone-iodine (i.e., Betadine, a potent antiseptic) or chlorhexadine (an antiseptic commonly found in animal shampoo).

Spaying Anesthesia

Spaying is performed under general anesthesia, which means that the pet is unconscious while the surgery is performed. The animal is usually given an intravenous injection and then is intubated (a tube is inserted through the nose or mouth into the airway). Intubation maintains a patent airway and allows mechanical ventilation throughout the procedure.

Anesthesia is generally safe, but poses a slight risk for complications or death. The drugs that are used are safe well-known drugs that are also used in people and the animal is closely monitored throughout the entire procedure (e.g., EKG, blood pressure monitor).

Spaying Surgery

Spaying is done through an incision in the abdomen, and takes from 15 minutes to an hour to perform, depending on the size of the animal, the experience of the surgeon, and other factors. Surgery on overweight animals is usually more difficult to perform because of the layers of fatty tissue. It may take longer to perform the surgery on a pregnant animal or an animal in heat because of the increased blood supply to the reproductive tract.

Sterility is essential to prevent infection. The surgeon scrubs his or her hands and forearms and puts on a sterile gown and gloves. The instruments and tools used before, during, and after the surgery are sterilized.

Spaying Complications

Possible complications include bleeding after the surgery and incomplete removal of the ovaries.

Recovery following Spaying

In some cases, the pet is able to go home right away, and in other cases, it must stay in the hospital overnight. This policy varies among veterinary hospitals. Whether the animal stays in the hospital, or goes home, the incision should be kept clean and dry and should be checked twice daily for sign of infection, swelling, redness, and discharge.

The pet's activities should be limited for the first week or so following surgery. Dogs should be walked on a leash and not allowed to run or roam. Pets should be protected from stressful environments (e.g., excitement, extreme temperatures). After the first week, animals can resume normal activities.

Pets can resume usual meals the day after surgery. Pet owners who are concerned about their pet's appetite or weight should talk to their veterinarian.

If your pet has external sutures or staples, they are removed by the veterinarian 10 to 14 days after surgery. If medications are prescribed, label directions should be followed carefully. Call the veterinarian if there are any problems or questions.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 28 Feb 2001

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015