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How to Care for Your Dog after Surgery

Discover how to care for your dog after surgery.

If it’s not been your dog’s day and they’ve been in surgery, you’re probably wondering how to get them back to their usual self as quickly as possible. Knowing how to care for a post-operative dog is important.

Grogginess is normal

If you’ve ever had a general anaesthetic yourself, you’ll know that for the first day or so you just want to sleep. The same happens with our canine pals. It’s normal that they will feel a little uncertain on their feet and be a little more sleepy than usual, regardless of the type of op.

Don’t forget that your dog also won’t really understand what’s happened to them. Therefore it won’t be unusual is they are subdued. They may well also be protective of sore areas and be off their food. For the first 24 hours this is all completely normal.

Cooking with love

Just as we humans post-operatively want some comfort food that requires little effort, so too will your dog. Offer them a light and white diet, such as rice with chicken, as his first post-op meal. This way he’ll be more likely to tuck into his usual fare quickly.

It’s ideal to encourage a post-operative dog to eat as soon as they feel ready. Good nourishment will aid their recovery.

If the loss of appetite extends beyond around 24-36 hours then it’s worth giving the vet a buzz. They may be experiencing pain, the start of an infection, or have other complications.

Keep on top of their pain

Dog’s aren’t always the best at letting us know if they are in pain. Hopefully, your vet will have explained the pain relief process to you and you should follow these instructions carefully.

If, despite the regime set out by your vet, your dog seems to be in undue amounts of pain, give the vet a call. Some pain is to be expected. Not just at the wound site, but internally as well, but if it seems excessive, seek advice.

Concentrate on their comfort

Now’s the time for some TLC. Think about their usual sleeping space. If it is quite cramped, you may want to take the bedding out and give them a more open space to lie. Locate their bed in a quiet spot, where they can easily go without being disturbed.

You may have been recommended to limit your dog’s movement, especially in the case of orthopaedic surgery. A cage can help with this if your dog isn’t self-restricting. It may be enough to simply keep them off walks for the time being, and accompanying them outside for toilet breaks only. If you do use a cage, make sure it is big enough. Your dog is likely using a ‘cone of shame’ and they will need room to stand and turn, as well as having room for food and water without the risk of them tipping this into their bedding.

Wound care

Your biggest hurdle is likely going to be stopping your dog from worrying at their own wounds. Stitches and bandages will irritate them and as such, they will try to nibble and scratch. To prevent infection and the wound opening, you need to try and prevent this.

The ‘cone of shame’ is the classic solution. Some dogs can get on with a soft donut-style collar or a post-op medical shirt (depending on wound location). Your vet can advise which is most suitable depending on where the wound is.

External stitches are usually left in for around 10-14 days. You’ll be advised when to bring them back for removal. Bear in mind, the longer they are in, the itchier they tend to get. Licking the wound can increase infection risk so do prevent this.

Additionally, if bandaging gets wet, this is also an infection risk. Keep them dry for toilet breaks by covering with a plastic bag or other waterproof covering.

If the wound shows signs of an infection, such as swelling, increased redness, bleeding or pus, you’ll need to return to the vet to get treatment.

Furthermore, stick to all follow up appointments you have been given for bandage changing. If you wish to read up on general first-aid for dogs, then head on over to our basic first-aid guide for dogs article.

Keep them chipper

Ok, so you can’t spoil them with a bunch of grapes and a magazine, but your hound needs some TLC too. They will be feeling out of sorts, not just because of the op, but the change in their routine. So you’ll need to get creative with stimulation until they are ready for playful outdoor romps once more. A new chew toy and a snuggle-up can be all that’s needed to get that tail wagging again.

How long does canine post-op recovery take?

The amount of time your dog takes to recover will largely depend on the nature of the surgery and their general state of health and wellbeing before the operation. The general rule of thumb is that soft tissue procedures (e.g. abdominal surgery or neutering) will take less time (around 2-3 weeks) than surgery concerning bones, ligaments and joints (8-12 weeks).

If at any point you are concerned about your dog’s recovery, do give your vet a call for reassurance or further advice.

At our doggy day care, speak to us if your dog is undergoing surgery to discuss how we can help you both manage a return to normal everyday life.