Dog Surgery Aftercare FAQs

Knowing what to expect after your dog's surgical procedure and how to take care of your pup can make this time less stressful for both you and your furry friend. Today, our Jacksonville vets answer some of the most frequently asked questions about taking care of dogs after veterinary surgery.

Taking Care of Your Dog After Surgery

Following your dog's surgery, your vet or veterinary surgeon will provide you with a list of post-operative care instructions. It is important to follow these instructions carefully in order for your dog to recover as quickly and smoothly as possible. However, beyond the instructions provided by your veterinarian, you probably have a range of questions regarding your dog's at-home care and recovery. 

Here, our some of the questions most frequently asked by our patients regarding at-home post-surgical care for dogs. 

FAQs About Surgery Aftercare For Dogs

What are the after-effects of general anesthetics?

Most veterinary surgical procedures require the use of a general anesthetic. General anesthetics knock your pet out to prevent them from feeling any pain during the surgery, but it can take some time for the effects of the general anesthetic to wear off. Some of the anesthesia after-effects may leave your dog feeling a little sleepy, or shaky on their feet. These side effects are normal and with a little rest should disappear very quickly.

A few other side effects that you may notice, include more subdued behavior than usual, appearing as if they are feeling a little bruised or sore, and a temporary lack of appetite.

What should I feed my dog after their surgery?

General anesthesia can make your dog feel a little queasy and make them lose their appetite. When it's time to feed your dog after their surgery, try offering your furry friend a light meal (1/4 or 1/2 of their usual meal) such as chicken and rice, which can be easier to digest than regular store-bought dog food. You can expect your pet to regain their appetite about 24 hours after their surgery, at which time they should gradually return to eating their regular diet.

It's important to note that feeding your dog a nutritious diet while they are recovering, as well as on a regular day-to-day basis, is a key element of caring for your pet's overall health. If you don't know which foods are best for your dog, speak to your vet. Your vet will be able to recommend a food with all the key ingredients your dog needs to achieve optimal health, and they will be able to calculate the right number of calories to feed your pet in order for them to maintain a healthy weight.

What should I do if my dog still isn't eating after 24 hours? 

If your dog's appetite doesn't return within 48 hours contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can also indicate pain or infection.

What can I give my dog to help them manage their pain after surgery?

Following your dog's surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you which medications they prescribed to help manage your dog's post-surgery pain. They will tell you the exact dose your dog needs, how often you should give your pup the medication, and how to administer it. It's important that you follow your vet's instructions in order to effectively prevent any unnecessary pain while your dog recovers, without causing any side effects. If you are unsure about any of the instructions, ask your vet for clarification.

The post-operative medications vets prescribe most often are antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication to relieve post-op discomfort. If your dog is anxious or high-strung, your vet might also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep your pup calm during their recovery.

We don't recommend home remedies, but if there is a remedy that you would like to use to help your pet feel better, call your vet to ask if the ingredients are safe for your four-legged friend. Never give human medications to your pet without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that can help humans feel better are toxic to dogs.

How can I make my dog more comfortable during their recovery?

After your dog's surgery, it's important for them to have a comfortable and quiet place to rest, away from children and other pets. If your dog normally curls up on a small bed to sleep, you might want to invest in a larger bed so that the incision site isn't pulled. To help your pup feel better after surgery and to assist them in their recovery, ensure your dog has enough space to stretch out, so they aren't putting extra pressure on any bandaged or sensitive parts of their body.

How can I restrict my dog's movements following their procedure?

Regardless of the surgery, your vet will probably recommend limiting your dog's activities and movement for a certain period of time after the procedure. Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and could even reopen the incision site.

Most surgeries don't require significant confinement like ‘crate-rest’, and most dogs cope well with being kept indoors for several days (with only essential trips outside for potty breaks). In many cases, the most difficult part is preventing your dog from jumping up on their favorite furniture or climbing stairs. Preventing these behaviors for a few days may require confining your dog to a safe and comfortable room when you can't directly supervise them.

How do I take care of my dog's incision site?

It can be challenging to prevent your dog from biting, chewing, or scratching at their bandages or incision site. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar (available in hard and softer versions) is an effective way to prevent your pup from reaching the wound. Dogs can often adjust to wearing a cone collar within a couple of hours, but if your dog is struggling to get used to wearing a cone, there are other options available. Ask your vet about effective and less cumbersome options such as donut-style collars, or post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet shirts).

When will my dog need to have their stitches removed?

Your vet will most likely need to remove your dog's stitches or staples 10 to 14 days after the surgery. Depending on the type of surgery your dog has had, your vet might use stitches that are placed inside your dog's wound, that dissolve on their own as the incision heals. Your vet will tell you which type of stitches they used to close your pet's incision.

Regardless of the type of stitches your veterinary surgeon uses, you will still have to prevent your dog from licking the wound in order to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.

How do I take care of my dog's bandages after their surgery?

It's essential to keep your dog's bandages dry at all times so their incision heals quickly. Whenever your dog goes outside, you need to cover the bandages with a plastic bag or cling wrap to prevent them from getting damp or wet. Remove the plastic covering as soon as your pup comes back inside. Leaving the plastic over the bandage could make sweat collect under the bandage and cause infection.

Will my dog need to see the vet for follow-up appointments?

Your pet's follow-up appointment gives your vet the opportunity to monitor your pet's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes more serious.

It is also essential that your dog's bandages aren't left on for too long following the procedure. Not changing the bandages at the right time could result in pressure sores or even affect the blood supply to the area. The professionals at your pet's veterinary hospital have been trained in dressing wounds correctly. When it comes to keeping your dog's healing process on track, it's a good idea to let the professionals handle bandage changes.

Why is my dog shaking or coughing after their surgery?

Have you noticed your dog shaking or coughing after their surgery? If your dog had a tube placed in their trachea (windpipe) when they were receiving the anesthesia, it might have caused mild irritation and a slight cough. A mild post-surgical cough will usually clear up over the next few days. Contact our Jacksonville vets if your dog's coughing continues or gets worse.

If your dog is shaking after surgery, it's most likely from the anesthesia or pain control medication. Have your dog frequently eat small amounts of food, then hold them in your lap or sit next to them while speaking to them, giving lots of reassuring pats. This extra love and attention should help.

What are the signs of an infected incision site?

If you notice any of the following signs of an infected incision site, call your vet immediately:

  • Redness
  • An unpleasant odor
  • Oozing
  • Swelling
  • Pain or heat to touch

 In order to prevent infections (or other complications), call your vet immediately if your dog's bandage falls off or if blood starts seeping through the bandages.

How long will it take for my dog to recover after their surgery?

Dogs typically recover more quickly from soft tissue operations such as spaying, neutering, or abdominal surgeries than procedures that involve bones, joints, and ligaments. Many soft tissue surgeries are about 80% healed after 2 to 3 weeks, with complete recovery taking place after approximately 6 weeks.

On the other hand, surgeries that involve bones and ligaments usually take much longer and are usually 80% healed after about 8 to 12 weeks. However, it could take as long as 6 months for your pet to recover completely following surgeries such as ones used to repair a torn cruciate ligament (CCL). 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Don't hesitate to contact our Jacksonville vets with any questions you may have regarding your dog's surgery or at-home postoperative care.