Spaying is usually followed by a quick and painless recovery, but as with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. The frequency of complications can vary between veterinary hospitals, kittens and owners. The symptoms of complication can range from simple swelling to bleeding or infection.
Since kittens are very active, they can damage their post-surgical incisions during regular jumping, running and playing. Too much activity can tear the sutures or separate the skin, which may cause bleeding and pain. Keeping an active kitten in a large dog crate for a few days can reduce excessive physical activity. Some kittens may find the incision irritating and excessively lick the area. Licking can open the incision, irritate the skin and introduce bacteria into the surgical site. You can get a special collar from your veterinarian to prevent licking.
Bleeding and Pain
Bleeding from the spay incision is a possible complication for your kitten. Small amounts of blood may appear immediately after surgery, but should not be visible after about a day. If blood is dripping from the incision or your kitten's abdomen is swelling, take her to your veterinarian immediately. Symptoms of excessive pain for your kitten can include one or more of the following: meowing, inactivity, not eating, dilated pupils, fast shallow breathing, not self-grooming and unusual posture. Call your veterinarian if you think your kitten is in pain.
Soft swelling at the incision site, drainage, redness and oozing can be symptoms of a bacterial infection. A listless kitten with a fever should be seen quickly by a veterinarian to treat possible infection. Many veterinarians place kittens on preventative antibiotics after spay surgery. A small amount of redness and swelling is usual. A small, firm swelling under the skin is a normal inflammatory response that some kittens may have to the suture material.
Sometimes anesthesia causes kittens to experience digestive upset after a spay. Vomiting and diarrhea are not uncommon. Your kitten may experience an increase or decrease in appetite, though most digestive symptoms should diminish by 24 hours after surgery. Sometimes canned food is recommended by veterinarians after surgery to entice your kitten to eat and regain energy. Your kitten should be eating within two days of surgery and a typical appetite should return in about a week.
Occasionally complications can arise days, weeks or years after your kitten has been spayed. Days after a complicated spay, ureter injury can lead to problems with urine traveling from your kitten's kidneys to the bladder. Also, problems during a spay can lead to fistula formation or scar tissue intestinal blockage weeks after a spay. Fistulas are abnormal passageways between organs. Hormonal changes can cause a weakened urinary sphincter muscle, which may lead to urine leakage years after a spay.
- East Bay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Spay and Neuter Post-Operative Care Instructions [PDF]
- H.O.P.E. Spay/Neuter Clinic Inc.: Post-Operative Instructions—Cats [PDF]
- The Veterinary Clinics of North America; Small Animal Practice: Complications of Ovariohysterectomy and Orchiectomy in Companion Animals
Based in Michigan, Keri Gardner has been writing scientific journal articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in such journals as "Disability and Rehabilitation" and "Journal of Orthopaedic Research." She holds a Master of Science in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University.