Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

How to Help Your Dog Recover After Surgery

How to Help Your Dog Recover After Surgery

If your dog experienced a serious injury or illness or was in need of preventive care then they may have undergone a type of surgery. Our Gillette vets talk about what to expect after your dog has surgery and how you can help them along their recovery.

The most important thing to do after your dog's surgery is to follow your vet's instructions.

Veterinary surgery for your beloved pet can be a scary experience. But luckily, your vet will be there to provide all the details you need to make an informed decision about surgery as well as tips for helping your dog recover afterward.

No matter which type of surgery your dog is scheduled for, your specialist, vet or veterinary surgeon will be sure to provide you with clear and specific instructions on how to care for your pet following the operation. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions carefully, there may be very specific and important instructions relating to the type of surgery your pet has had.

Even so, there are some tips that our Gillette vets can share to help make the time after surgery go as smoothly as possible.

What should you expect after surgery is completed?

General anesthetic will be used for most surgeries that your dog may experience. This is used to help prevent your dog from both feeling pain as well as stop them from moving on the table. While effective for surgery, the effects of general anesthesia can ake a long time to wear off. The lingering effects of general anesthetic 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.

Should you keep anything in mind when feeding your dog after surgery?

Because of the general anesthesia used during surgery, you may notice that your dog isn't eating as much as they should be. They may be feeling a little sick to their stomach instead. When it's time to feed your dog after surgery try offering your pet a light meal (1/4 or 1/2 of their regular 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 within about 24 hours following surgery, at which time they should gradually return to eating their regular diet.

While some change in eating habits is to be expected, you should contact your vet if it's been more than a day or two and they are still not back to their regular eating habits. Loss of appetite can also indicate pain or infection.

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 are unsure about what the best food for your dog is, speak to your vet. Your vet will be able to recommend food with all the key ingredients your dog needs for 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.

How can you help manage your dog's pain after surgery?

Your pet will likely experience some form of pain once the general anesthetic wears off. Your vet will have prescribed pain medication to help manage this pain. Your vet will have also provided you with detailed instructions for the dosage and frequency at which the medication should be taken. It is essential for your pet's health that you adhere to 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 to clarify. Your veterinary team wants to help you to help your dog recover well.

The medications that are most likely to be prescribed to your dog after surgery include antibiotics and pain relief medication. If your pooch is anxious or high-strung your vet may also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm while they are healing.

Home remedies aren't recommended, however, 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 pets. Never give human medications to your pet without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that can help humans to feel better are toxic to dogs.

What are some ways that you can help keep your dog comfortable once back home?

Your dog will need a comfortable place to relax and recover once they come home from surgery. If your dog typically curls up on a small bed to sleep you may want to invest in a larger bed so that the incision site isn't pulled. Allowing your dog to stretch out, so there’s no extra pressure on any bandaged or sensitive parts of their body, may help your dog to feel better after surgery and may even help them to recover more quickly.

Should you restrict your pet's movement while they recover from surgery?

No matter the surgery that your dog had done it will be important for them to refrain from jumping or moving around after surgery. Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.

Most surgeries fortunately will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ to aid in recovery, and most pets cope well with being kept indoors for a few days (with only essential trips outside for potty breaks). Often, a more difficult task is preventing your dog from jumping up on furniture that they love to sleep on or climbing stairs. Preventing these behaviors for a few days may require confining your dog to a safe and comfortable room when you are unable to supervise them directly.

When is crate rest useful during your dog's recovery?

Crate rest can be extremely beneficial in restricting the movement in dogs post-op, especially for orthopedic surgeries.

Make sure that your dog's crate is big enough to allow your dog to stand up and turn around. If your dog requires a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate for your dog to recover. You will also need to ensure that there is plenty of room for food and water dishes, without risking spills that can cause your dog's bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.

How should you properly care for your pet's incision?

Preventing biting and chewing of the incision area will be crucial for the prevention of infections and other complications. 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. Speak to your vet about effective and less cumbersome options such as donut-style collars, or post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet shirts).

What should you do to care for your dog's stitches?

Stitches or staples will typically be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery.  Depending on the surgery so vets may use stitches placed inside of your dog's wound which dissolve as the incision heals. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.

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

How do you take care of your pet's bandages?

Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element of helping your dog's incision heal quickly. Whenever your dog goes outside make sure that the bandages are covered with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from damp or wet grass. Remove the plastic covering as soon as your pet comes back inside. Leaving the plastic over the bandage could cause sweat to collect under the bandage and lead to an infection.

Be Sure to Visit the Veterinarian For a Follow-Up Exam

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 lead to 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.

If your pet's bandage falls off, or you notice swelling, blood seeping through the bandages or an unpleasant odor at the incision site, contact your Gillette emergency vets right away.

How can you keep your dog entertained during recovery?

Dogs just don't understand when they are in recovery and are likely to become frustrated at the reduced level of activity, the itchiness of their incision site, or just the overall lack of stimulation following surgery, so it's important that you give your pet stimulation and loving reassurance in other ways.

Keep your pup amused with a rotating selection of gentle games that won't cause any stretching or jumping, such as dog-friendly chew toys or squeaky playthings. Limit the number of toys you offer your dog to one or two items at a time, and switch to a different toy on a regular basis to help prevent boredom.

Treats can be a great way to cheer up your dog but keep in mind that your pup's reduced activity level means that they are burning fewer calories. Too many treats can equal too much of a good thing.

Remember that simply taking some time out of your busy day to sit quietly with your pup, stroking their fur and chatting with them calmly, can help your dog stay calm and feel loved. 

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

Soft tissue operations such as spaying, neutering or abdominal surgeries tend to recover more quickly than procedures involving the bones, joints and ligaments. Many soft tissue surgeries have typically healed about 80% after 2-3 weeks and may be completely healed in about 6 weeks.

On the other hand, surgeries involving bones and ligaments will likely take much longer and are usually around 80% healed after about 8 - 12 weeks, although it can take as long as 6 months for your pet to recover completely following surgeries such as those to repair a torn cruciate ligament (CCL). 

Relax and follow your vet's instructions and everything will be okay.

Pet parents often feel guilty about restricting their dog's movements for a seemingly long amount of time. But try to keep in mind that dogs generally bounce back much more quickly from surgery than humans do, and by following your vet's post-surgery instructions you are doing your very best to help your dog recover quickly and get back to their normal active lifestyle as soon as possible!

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.

If your dog is showing concerning symptoms after having surgery, please contact our veterinary professionals to have them examined.

New Patients Welcome

Red Hills Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gillette companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (307) 696-2525