Often dog owners who just recently got their female dog spayed may get alarmed from seeing some droplets of blood from their dog's spay incision area. Is this a medical emergency? Is my dog bleeding internally? Did my dog break a stitch and needs surgery again? Normally, after noticing the presence of blood, owners will call their vet for advice, but for a weird twist of fate, for some reason such bleeding occurrences seem to always take place during the weekends, holidays or during after hours, when the vet's office has closed.
Not as Bad as Thought
Owners tend to panic at the site of a bit of bleeding from the spay incision site because it seems to come from such a vulnerable site (one that was just surgically operated on!) and then come those terrible thoughts such as internal bleeding or internal organs popping out of the stitches.
While such concerns are reasonable, the good news is that more likely than not, if the blood loss is minimum, such as limited to a drop or two of blood -tinged fluid which resolves within minutes, there should not be reason to over worry.
Sure it's something worthy to inform the vet'office as soon as they open, but if you keep an eye on your dog, and know what to watch for, there are chances that things aren't desperate as thought.
"Within the first few days after surgery, the edges of the incision will normally swell and become red. The wound may look bruised and may have minor blood tinged fluid seepage."~Dr. Dawn Ruben
A Matter of Licking/Scratching
A drop of blood oozing is most typically the result of a dog who gets her stitches aggravated by excessive licking of the area. What has likely happened is that the dog may have just ruptured a small blood vessel causing the minimal blood loss.
If this the case, keeping an eye on the suture area is recommended to ensure the bleeding has come to a stop.. and of course, it's imperative to prevent the dog from further licking.
Most dogs will have tendencies to lick their suture area because they have a strong instinct to lick wounds. And many owners see no harm in letting their dogs do do. It's one of those myths difficult to debunk that a dog's saliva helps wounds heal. Excessive licking can aggravate the incision and can cause an infection by introducing bacteria to the incision site. On top of that the dog can pull out the stitches! Now, this can turn into an emergency, not good!
For a good reason, veterinarians send dogs home wearing that lamp shade collar pictured above, better known as an 'Elizabethan collar' or "cone of shame" if you will.
The application of bitter apple spray, a sour product sold in retail pet stores sprayed around the suture area (not directly on top) may discourage licking since most dogs wholeheartedly hate its flavor--but not all.
Some dogs may not lick their spay incision area, but may feel compelled to scratch at it using their hind legs. To discourage licking or scratching the spay incision area, some dog owners find it helpful to let their dogs wear a pair of boxers. Simply insert your dog's back legs through the leg holes and voila's you dog's spay incision area should be covered.
Make sure though that the waist band is not rubbing against the incision so not to impair healing. Keep your dog still under close supervision as most determined dogs can still find their way to the incision, no matter what!
"A small amount of blood seepage is normal immediately after surgery. Should you notice any continued drainage or swelling, contact a veterinarian. Do not allow pet to lick and chew at the incision. If this occurs, an Elizabethan collar MUST be applied to prevent it."~Spay Neuter Network
A Matter of Movement
In some cases, the bleeding may be the consequence of an over indulgent owner who has not allowed the dog to rest properly and stay contained as the post surgery discharge instructions have recommended. Moving around may put pressure on the stitches causing problems.
Yes, stitches may be sturdy, but if your dog happens to move in such a way as to exert excess tension to the area, this may slow down the healing process and the incision may swell or start bleeding. In overly active dogs, the incision may even risk opening.
This is why your vet's discharge instructions discourage excess activity. No running, jumping, playing with other dogs for at least a week. So when it's potty time, take your dog out on a leash, and when at home, keep him away from furniture he may want to jump on. Your vet may recommend keeping your dog in a small room under supervision or in a crate for some cage rest.
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"In some cases, a small amount of blood may seep intermittently from a fresh incision for up to twenty-four hours, especially if the animal is active." ~VCA Animal Hospital
Presence of Seroma
If there is just a small amount of bloody discharge coming from the dog's spay incision area, it could likely be a normal seroma, explains veterinarian Dr. Joey. The formation of a seroma tends to occur when there is some empty, space between the layers of skin and abdomen.
Generally, most seromas tend to reabsorb on their own and you will see the swelling reduce gradually over the course of a few days. The inflammation that triggers the formation of the seroma is also seen as a result of activity during the recovery process or dogs licking the incision site.
Hot or warm compresses to the area may be helpful as these encourage blood flow, allowing the body to reabsorb the extra fluid faster. The increased blood flow to the area, courtesy of heat, encourages the body to reabsorb the extra fluids faster and the warmth often feels soothing to the dog.
Here's what you can do. Place some warm compresses to the area once or twice daily to reduce the seroma. Simply wet a washcloth, place it in a Ziploc bag and heat it for a few seconds in the microwave. Make sure it is not too hot and place it on the incision for about 5 to 10 minutes until the cloth cools down. Do this once or twice daily.
You may then want to inform your vet about the bleeding and possible seroma as some vets will want to prescribe a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. At home, the antibiotic ointment Neosporin can be applied to the incision site; however, an antibiotic given by mouth is preferable to prevent infection, further adds Dr. Joey.
Tip: Never clean your dog's spay incision with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol! These products damage cells and may considerably delay the healing process.
Did you know? A hematoma is the accumulation of a pocket of blood, while a seroma is the accumulation of a pocket of clear, serous fluid seen when small blood vessels are ruptured causing blood plasma to seep out along with the fluid secreted by injured cells.
What to Worry About
Of course, not all forms of bleeding from a female dog's spay incision site are nothing to worry about. Problems appear to start when the blood leaking is straight red (frank blood) and significant (more than a drop or two) and when the bleeding does not stop.
These bleeding episodes are not self-limited and often can be indicative of some serious trouble!
In most cases, the collection of blood in the abdomen is noticed immediately after surgery, and is therefore not a delayed event that takes place once the dog is home, unless the dogs has been super active, explains veterinarian Dr. Joey.
However, there have been cases of serious bleeding from surgical complications, which is why it's very important to report to the vet.
One main concern is a condition known as DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) a serious blood clotting disorder particularly common in great danes. This condition can be promptly diagnosed by the veterinarian with a D Dimer test. Tell-tale signs of this condition are the following: seepage from the incision, distended abdomen, presence of petechiae (pinpoint bruising), unexplained bruising, pale gums and lethargy. The blood loss is most likely gradual, starting light and then getting gradually heavier.
Ingestion of rat poison may also cause significant bleeding into the abdomen. At times, something may also go wrong during the surgery, with sutures that hold an artery getting loose or slipping off, explains veterinarian Dr. BJ Hughes.
Fortunately according to Ace of Spays bleeding during or after surgery whether internally or from incision or from the vulva is a pretty much rare happening (1/1000 repaired surgically).
Keep an Out Eye for These
There are several things that may go wrong with your dog's spay incision that require urgent veterinary care, but light, short-lived bleeding is fortunately in most cases not an emergency. See your vet at once though if there is excessive redness or swelling, blood seeping in large amounts or intermittently for over 24 hours, a foul odor, missing stitches or a wide gap over 1/4 of an inch with the edges of skin no longer together, and of course if your dog appears in pain, listless and lacks an appetite.
It's a good idea to keep an eye on your dog's gums as they can give you a good indication of your dog's blood supply. In a normal healthy dog, the gums appear to be of a healthy bubble gum pink, however, in a dog losing too much blood they may appear as pale, grayish or bluish gums. This often signals a medical emergency, even though it is much better to have a dog seen before such signs appear.
If your dog therefore has pale, grayish gums or any of the symptoms discussed above, please see your vet at once!
Did you know? The average time for a spay incision to heal is 10 to 14 days and a permanent scar should form within 14 to 21 days. As time goes by though, the scar becomes barely visible making it challenging at times for shelter worker to know whether a dog is spayed or not.