Hello. My two-year-old female dog was spayed four days ago. Immediately after surgery I noticed a rash about 1 inch above the incision (not touching the incision). Is this normal? How do you care for the wound and the area aound the wound? Can I use hydrogen peroxide?

Su
Miami, FL

I suspect that your dog is suffering from clipper burn–the equivalent of razor burn in people.

Surgical procedures must be performed in a sterile manner. That means that the surgeon and the surgical area of the patient must be prepared in a fashion that eliminates as many bacteria as possible. Hair, it turns out, harbors massive amounts of bacteria. Hair is the enemy of sterility in surgery.

Surgeons scrub their hands with antiseptic solution. They don masks to prevent breathing or sneezing bacteria into the surgical site. Surgeons also wear surgical caps to keep their bacteria-ridden hair from falling into the sterile area.

Surgical patients have their hair removed with clippers (or, rarely, razors) in order to create a sterile area. The skin is then scrubbed with antiseptic solution before an incision is made.

Some animals, like many people, are sensitive to clipping or shaving. In these individuals hair removal can lead to irritation of the skin. I suspect that is what is happening with your dog.

The worst clipper burns I have seen have occurred in male dogs after neutering. The procedure requires that the scrotum be clipped. Unsurprisingly, this area is very sensitive and highly prone to clipper burn.

Most cases of clipper burn subside after several days. It is important to keep your pet from licking the area–this can exacerbate the irritation. A dreaded cone collar may be necessary to protect the site.

I do not recommend using hydrogen peroxide because it can be irritating to the skin and make the problem worse. However, ointments containing cortisone often help to alleviate the pain, burning, and redness that accompany clipper burn.

I’d recommend that you have the vet who spayed your dog take a look at the site. He or she should be able to help with the problem.

Photo: no sign of clipper burn on Recy.