How to Take Care of a Dog After Surgery
If your dog must undergo surgery for any reason, you should be prepared to provide extra care and attention during the following days. While a dog's surgery typically involves an invasive procedure that requires recovery on its own, a dog's anesthesia recovery can be a longer and more gradual process than what humans experience, due to the increased effects of anesthesia in pets.
During this recovery process, you may notice behavioral changes or other physical developments that raise concerns about your dog's recovery. Some of these changes are normal and to be expected in your dog after anesthesia and surgery, but others could be signs of complications and require additional medical treatment.
Here are some guidelines and tips to prep dog owners for what to expect from dogs after surgery, and how to properly care for them to support a quick, healthy recovery.
How Long Does Sedation Last in Dogs?
If your dog is sedated for a surgical procedure, the vet will monitor your dog as it awakens from anesthesia to make sure their recovery is off to a good start. You can expect your dog to still be in a fog when you bring it home from the hospital or clinic. It's normal for dogs to be wobbly-legged and/or nauseous in the day following a surgical procedure. Vomiting may also occur.
In terms of how long does dog anesthesia take to wear off completely, the typical time span is between 24 and 48 hours. During this time, your dog may continue to seem drowsy or low energy. You may also notice your dog shaking after surgery—this can be a common side effect of sedation, and should go away within 48 hours. If the effects of sedation continue to linger after 48 hours, or if you have any concerns about your dog's recovery, don't hesitate to contact your vet.
Caring for Your Dog After Surgery: What to Expect
Once the vet checks your dog's vital signs and deems it safe to return home, you will be given a set of home care instructions specific to your dog's procedure. This may include instructions for cleaning the dog's surgical wound site, dietary restrictions or other information. Always follow the care instructions provided by your vet.
In addition to these home care instructions, you will likely want to take the following steps to properly care for your dog—and maximize their comfort as they recover:
- Set up a quiet, comfortable space where they can rest in peace. This could be their kennel or another area where your dog can recover while feeling secure. You may want to keep them away from other pets and children as they recover, to minimize their stress during this process—and to avoid unnecessary aggravation of their surgical site.
- Keep your dog indoors except when going to the bathroom. Monitor outdoor trips and consider carrying them up and down stairs if their mobility is limited. In some cases, you might prefer to set up potty pads indoors to give your dog an easier option for relieving themselves during their recovery.
- Stick to the schedule when administering pain relievers and other medication. These medications will aid in recovery and reduce your dog's discomfort through this process. Missed medications can lead to unnecessary suffering and complications, while overdosing can put your dog's health in jeopardy.
- Monitor the surgical site for abnormal developments. Surgical sites take time to heal, but swelling, oozing and other developments could be a sign that the site is not healing properly. This could be due to several reasons, including irritation at the surgical site—caused by a dog's scratching or biting, for example—or other issues not obvious to the owner.
- Bring your pet to their follow-up appointment. If the vet wants to schedule a follow-up appointment with your dog, attend this appointment even if you think your dog is doing fine. The vet may notice symptoms or signs of complications that you may have missed—and faster detection will lead to better outcomes for your dog.
How to Spot Signs of Infection After Surgery
With proper care, most dog surgeries are completed without any post-surgery complications. When infections do occur, though, they need to be taken seriously and treated by a vet. Dog owners should be on the lookout for the following signs of infection after surgery:
- Continued bleeding or oozing from the surgical site
- Pus leakage from the surgical site
- Intense redness or swelling
- Heat at the surgical site
- Signs of pain in your dog that seem to be progressing
- Rancid or unpleasant smells at the surgical site
If any of these symptoms develop, assume your dog has an infection and seek medical care immediately.
With proper care and time to heal, your dog's surgery should lead to a full recovery and a better quality of life. Give your dog a little extra attention and space to heal and monitor their behaviors closely to make sure their stay on track with their recovery.