How To Care For Your Dog After Surgery
- This page contains general guidance about how to care for your dog after surgery, if any of it differs from what your vet team has told you, follow their advice which is specific to your dog and the surgery they’ve had.
- There are a lot of things to think about after your dog has had surgery – rest, food, medication, check-up appointments, their wound… but don’t worry, we’ve got it all covered here for you, and your vet team are on hand to support you throughout their recovery.
Most dogs need rest after surgery, even if it was only a minor procedure:
- Bring them home from the vets straight away without stopping anywhere else.
- Let them rest in a warm, quiet room away from children, other animals, and noise.
- Avoid picking them up or moving them around as where possible.
- Give them their favourite bed or blanket.
- Try to block anything they might jump up onto, such as a sofa or bed - they could hurt themselves if they are disorientated or haven’t fully regained their strength. If necessary, make a temporary ramp or some steps so they can safely get to the places they want.
- Unless your vet says it’s okay to exercise your dog, keep walks to an absolute minimum and always on a lead.
- Only cage rest your dog if your vet has told you to.
- Make sure the cage is large enough for your dog’s bed and food/water bowls, but not large enough for them to over-exert themselves when they’re meant to be resting!
- Put them in a room where you spend a lot of time so they have some company
- Give them some extra TLC if they are comfortable with it.
- Try some low-impact brain games such as a puzzle feeder or toy filled with food.
- Make sure your dog has clean drinking water within reach at all times.
- Unless your vet has recommended a special diet, feed them their normal food (little and often) for the first 24-48 hours, then start feeding them normally again.
- Avoid giving them anything rich or fatty.
- If your dog doesn’t want to eat, try warming the food up for a few seconds in the microwave, or offer them some plain cooked chicken breast or white fish.
- If your dog still doesn’t want to eat, and it has been 24 hours after their procedure, contact your vet.
- If your dog vomits during their recovery, contact your vet.
- Keep your dog on a lead when they go out to the toilet.
- They should wee normally after their surgery, so if you notice them struggling, contact your vet.
- It’s quite normal for them to not poo for a couple of days after surgery, as they will have usually been starved for some time beforehand, and the anaesthetic will slow their guts a bit. If they’re straining, or have diarrhoea, you should contact your vet for advice.
- Make sure you give your dog all their prescribed medication on time use a medication chart to keep track and set alarms to remind you when they’re due the next dose.
- Contact your vet if your dog seems in any pain or discomfort.
- Don’t stop any of your dog’s medication early, even if they seem fully recovered.
If your dog has been prescribed tablets, check our video below:
Stitches and Wounds
If your dog has a surgical wound for you to keep an eye on, they might have stitches on the outside, which you’ll be able to see, or dissolvable stitches on the inside, which you won’t be able to see. Either way, here’s what you need to know:
- You may notice some shaved areas around their wound or on their legs – don’t worry, their fur will grow back in time.
- Fit them with a protective cone inflatable collar, or protective body suit to stop them from licking/nibbling their wound. Otherwise, they may remove stitches, break the wound open and/or cause an infection.
- Make sure they wear it until their wound has healed.
- If they are struggling to eat with it on, you can take it off for meal/grooming times; as long as you’re confident you can put it back on! Alternatively, you could move/raise their food bowl and help them groom by brushing them/washing their face with a damp cloth (if they are comfortable with it).
- We sell a range of protective collars/bodysuits in our PDSA pet store.
- Check their wound a few times a day. If you notice any redness, swelling, bleeding, missing stitches, or discharge – contact your vet.
- Avoid cleaning or putting any creams on the wound, unless your vet team has told you to.
- It’s important to attend all your dog’s check-up appointments, even if they seem fine.
- They might need their stitches removed, or a check to see if they are comfortable enough to stop taking pain relief.
- If your dog’s check-ups are by telephone, you might need to send your vet some photographs of their wound. Check out our tips on how to take good photos for your vet.
When to contact your vet
Contact your vet immediately if your cat has any of the following symptoms:
- How long should a dog wear a cone after being neutered/spayed?
- My other dog is trying to lick the dog’s wound – is this okay?
- Why is my other dog frightened of the dog that’s had surgery?
- My dog has a mild cough after their surgery – is this normal?
How long should a dog wear a cone after being neutered/spayed?
Your dog will need to wear a cone for anywhere between 7-14 days, depending on the type of stitches used, and how quickly their wound heals. If you are unsure, contact your vet team for advice.
My other dog is trying to lick the dog’s wound – is this okay?
No, dog mouths are full of bacteria so you’ll need to stop your other dog from doing this. You may need to use a body suit, or keep them separate when you aren’t watching them.
Why is my other dog frightened of the dog that’s had surgery?
This is likely to be because your dog that had surgery will smell different than they did before. Dogs are big on scent so your dog will be feeling confused and worried about why their friend doesn’t smell familiar. Their fear should pass within a few days, until then it might help to use a pheromone diffuser to make them feel more at ease.
My dog has a mild cough after their surgery – is this normal?
This is quite common because the endotracheal (windpipe) tube used to help them breathe during surgery can irritate the throat. However, if it’s getting worse, or continues for more than 24 hours, we would recommend speaking to your vet.
Published: January 2023
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.