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Caring For Your Pet After Surgery: What to Expect & How to Help 

Caring For Your Pet After Surgery

Surgery is finally over! I am sure you’re keen to get your pet back on its four legs. 

Generally, post-surgery care involves lots of rest in a cosy environment, pain management using vet-prescribed meds, and a good diet. You’ll also need to monitor your pet after surgery to ensure they are recovering properly and speak to your vet about any concerns.

It is not unusual for pet owners to worry about their pets, especially if their furry friends grunt, pee, or lose their appetite. Lethargy, dizziness, and loss of appetite are common 24 hours post-op, but some symptoms may be more than they seem.

Here’s a guide to help you cope with the what’s, when’s, and how’s of your pet’s post-surgery care. What should you expect? How can you help? And when should you call the vet? Let us answer those questions.

What to Expect After Your Pet’s Surgery

You should expect your pet to be lethargic, groggy and unwilling to move around post-surgery. You should also expect that your pet will try and lick the surgery site, which is something you need to be vigilant in monitoring.

Post-surgery may be difficult for your pet, and their behaviour will stray from your pet’s typical actions.

For instance, your pet may be dazed after anaesthesia. Expect wonkiness or sleepiness. It may even seem like they’re recovering from a hangover! 

They also won’t be too active and appear sore and lethargic. Therefore, your pet will need your assistance to pass urine or stool. 

Except for rabbits that don’t change their diet pre- and post-op, cats and dogs normally won’t eat much for about 24 hours after their surgery. This lack of appetite is common post-surgery and is usually temporary.

Many pets, especially dogs, will have an urge to lick or chew the surgery incision site. This is one of the most common post surgery behaviours, and one that you need to watch for the most. Dog surgery stitches getting infected is very common when they aren’t monitored, especially if they aren’t wearing a cone. 

If your pet continues to demonstrate lethargic behaviour after 48 hours, consider seeking help from your vet, as your pet may need extra help or care.

Caring for Your Pet Post Surgery: Our Top Tips 

Every pet is different, and that goes the same for their recovery. However, here are some general tips for caring for your pet after surgery:

1. Keep Up With Pain Management 

The two most common things that your vet will prescribe your furry friend are antibiotics and pain relievers. These will ensure that your pet can keep up with pain management.

Post-op, before discharge, the vet should explain your pet’s medications. Make sure you note the what, when, and how often. Doctors—including vets—are notorious for their penmanship, so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand anything.

Aside from antibiotics and pain medication, your pet may also be prescribed sedatives or anti-anxiety medications. 

Never give too much, too little, or too late. You may set alarms on your phone or leave a note on the fridge, so you’ll remember when to give your pet the right medication. Your pets can’t verbalise their pain, so make it easy for them and make sure you follow their medication schedule.

2. Create a Comfortable Environment 

Many people recommend creating a comfortable bed or room for your pet the night before surgery. This is so your pet can return and tuck themselves into a cosy nook post-op.

A big bed or blanket will help them position themselves well or stretch without putting any pressure on their wound. If they are under crate rest, make sure that the cage is big enough to accommodate their cone.

An area where they are not disturbed by kids or noises is also ideal to sleep and rest as required. However, if you can, try to balance isolation with family bonding. A perfect situation would be a corner where they can still see you, so they don’t feel too isolated and left out of the family.

Another thing to consider is altitude. Try not to put your pet’s bed on a podium and keep them on the floor instead. This will prevent any falls. If you have slippery floors (laminate or wood), make sure that there are blankets or mats so that they don’t slip. Additionally, keeping them on the floor eases access to food and water.

Manage the temperature of the sleeping area. Keep them warm but not toasty. (Your pet may shake due to hypothermia, the drugs they received, or even pain. Let’s at least cut hypothermia out of that equation.) 

All of these do not guarantee science-backed faster recovery. However, they will help your pet feel comfortable and hopefully recover at a decent rate.

3. Make Sure Your Pet Eats Well 

Pets usually lose appetite post-op, but you must ensure that your pet eats well. A good diet will help your furry friend heal from the inside out. Before leaving the vet, ask about any dietary changes or recommendations, as every animal is different.

To help deal with their poor appetite and reduce nausea, you may serve your pet smaller portions at a higher frequency. For instance, 1/4 or 1/2 of their usual meal should be enough. After a few hours, try to feed the same amount again.

Try to prepare meals that are easier to digest. For dogs, you may get them chicken and rice instead of regular dog food.

Some say that dividing meals into smaller portions can reduce vomiting episodes. But your pet shouldn’t be vomiting post-surgery. It may indicate complications, so don’t hesitate to contact your vet should your pet vomit.

4. Maintain Bed Rest 

Make sure your pet gets ample bed rest post-op. Rest is one of the most important things that can help your pet recover faster.

It will prevent your furry friend from reinjuring themselves.

Check where your pet is resting, as well. Ideally, they’re not constantly exposed to the sun after surgery, especially if they’re shaved. Too much sun exposure can cause sunburn or worse, skin cancer.

5. Restrict Your Pets Movement 

Though bed rest is important, sometimes we can’t help if our furry friend is feeling a little playful. With that in mind, try to restrict your pet’s movement.

Rough play that involves jumping, running, or suddenly turning should be avoided. This will delay healing or cause another injury.

To control this, you can keep them in a cage or crate that’s large enough for them—considering their cone, food, and water. (Some people get baby gates or toddler playpens.) This will keep them indoors for at least a couple of days until they completely recover, usually 7 to 14 days after surgery.

Having said that, taking them on short outdoor and potty breaks is still advisable. Use a short leash to make sure that there’s no other agenda in your potty break.

If you are worried about muscle atrophy or just concerned about your pet being on full crate rest, then you might be glad to know that there are actually some recommended activities for pets on crate rest, such as nose games, food puzzles, and snuffle mats. Make sure they’re supervised, though, as your pet may get over excited and strain themselves when using these.

6. Follow Instructions from Your Vet 

Because every animal and every recovery is different, the vet’s post-op instructions are different for every owner. Make sure you consult with your vet, not other pet owners.

Typically, you can expect instructions for prescription medicines and diet and bed rest reminders. 

Besides those, make sure you have your vet’s contact details. Post it on the fridge and share it with everyone in the household in case of emergency. Within 24 hours after you go home from the vet, there will be unusual and lethargic behaviour. But beyond that time, anything unusual should be consulted with the vet.

7. Look for Signs of Complications or Infection 

The 24 hours after surgery is crucial; this is when you should check for any signs of complications or infection.

The telling signs that your pet’s incision may be infected are redness and warmth at the site, painful to the touch, swelling and/or releasing discharge. Infection may also cause your dog to experience diarrhoea, vomiting,  and show reluctance to move.

Meanwhile, if the infection is inside your pet’s body, this may manifest as fever. Complete loss of appetite and lethargy are also signs of infection.

You should watch out for physical signs of complication and infection like grunting, howling, and excessive re-positioning (especially when they’re trying to sleep or urinate).

Vomiting is abnormal behaviour as it may imply infection, fever, and even surgery complications (like pneumonia). 

Keep an eye out for excessive licking or scratching in their wounds. This may simply be itchiness, but it may also be something else.

Before you leave the vet, make sure to ask which signs are true emergencies and which ones are normal responses post-surgery.

Typical Recovery Times for Pets Following Surgery

Pets usually recover 7 to 14 days after routine surgery. However, more complicated surgeries can take several weeks to months. The recovery period is affected by the animal’s breed, age, weight, overall health, and type of operation. 

For instance, routine surgeries like spaying or neutering usually take 10 to 14 days for recovery. However, more complex operations, like cruciate ligament surgery, may take 4 to 6 weeks.

For surgeries that involve broken bones, the bones in puppies take about 4 weeks to heal, but older dogs may need 8 weeks to recover.

You may consult your vet about recovery time, as it will also help you monitor your furry friend.

How Long Will It Take My Pet to Recover From Anaesthesia?

Most animals recover from anaesthesia within 24 hours. Most animals will feel weak, sleepy, or thirsty while recovering from general anaesthesia. They will usually show these signs from 12 to 24 hours post-op, depending on the size of your pet. 

Exercising Your Pet After Surgery

It is generally not advised to exercise your pet immediately after surgery, especially if it involves jumping, turning, and running. But, it really depends on what kind of operation your pet underwent. Consult your vet about what type of exercise your pet can try post-op.

Your vet may even give you a timeline of when to start introducing exercises. It will be gradual, and you will most likely begin with gentle walks. Some may even recommend food puzzles (using fun food dispensers), nose games, or a lot of cuddling first as exercise.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is It Normal for My Pet to Be Sleepy After Surgery? 

Yes. It is normal for pets to feel sleepy post-surgery. General anaesthetic and sedatives don’t wear off immediately and usually cause grogginess or sleepiness in your pet. Expect normal behaviour in 48 hours after surgery. After that 2-day mark, if your pet still appears sleepy, call your vet for advice.

Can I Leave My Pet Alone After Their Surgery? 

Ideally, you shouldn’t leave your pet alone after their surgery. Some vets recommend that you take a day off after your pet’s surgery, not on the day itself. Having said that, you don’t have to watch them 24/7. 

When you leave the vet’s office, your dog may be wearing a dog cone after surgery (also known as the Elizabethan collar or E-collar). This can prevent your dog from licking their wounds or gnawing their stitches and, in turn, prevent infection. However, it is still best to watch over your furry friend for the most part in case some unusual symptoms appear.

Should My Pet Be Constipated After Surgery?

Your pet may be constipated after surgery until 48 hours post-op. This is commonly due to general anaesthesia slowing gut movement. Additionally, most pets fast pre-surgery, so they have nothing to pass. Should your pet still be constipated after 48 hours post-surgery, consult your vet. 

The vet may recommend enema, hydration support, fibre supplements, or a general diet change to help your furry friend pass stool.

Why Is My Pet Shaking After Surgery?

Shaking post-op may be due to anaesthesia or drugs administered during surgery, hypothermia, changes in body temperature, or pain. If you are worried, you may consult your vet, who may reassess your dog or adjust their medication, as shaking post-surgery may be due to underlying medical conditions.

Is It Normal for My Pet to Pee a Lot After Surgery?

It is typical for animals that received IV fluids during their surgery to pee a lot post-op. Some medication may even make your furry friend pee more than usual. Expect this behaviour 48 hours post-op. 

However, if your pet is leaking urine or having accidents, it may be a sign of trouble, as they may be experiencing pain when they position themselves normally to urinate. If the kidney sustained some damage during surgery, your pet might pass urine more or less than usual pre-op.

What Should I Do if My Pet Licks Their Stitches After Surgery?

If your pet licks its stitches after surgery, you need to prevent it from happening again. Ideally, your pet should wear a cone or E-collar to prevent this from happening as they may remove the stitches or cause infection, which will be more problematic, or delay healing.

Some more proactive actions to take are to make your pet wear a neck brace, T-shirt, paw bandages, or a special recovery suit to prevent them from licking their stitches. You may also anti-lick sprays or strips from pet shops.

What Should I Do if My Pet Is Not Eating After Surgery?

If your pet isn’t eating after surgery, consult your vet immediately. After surgery, try to feed your pet light meals. It is normal for them to have a low appetite post-op. However, you must be patient as their diet within 24 hours of the surgery is vital to their recovery. 

Call your vet for advice if your furry friend still has an unusually low appetite after 24 hours.


This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. JFK Electrical does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. Always seek personalised advice on solar energy to ensure any recommendations suit your property and scenario.