We know that as soon as you bring your dog home from an operation, the first thing you want to do is show them how much you love them. Making your dog feel comfortable is a great way to encourage him to get better, but there are a few precautions and safety measures to take to ensure that your dog doesn't cause himself an more pain or injury.
A Clean And Comfortable Bed
Before you leave to collect your dog after an operation make sure that you have a clean and comfortable bed or blanket laid out for your dog to lie on. It might also be a good idea to lay down a waterproof mat or sheet of plastic, because it is very common for dogs to pass urine in their sleep after being under general anaesthetic.
A German Shepherd puppy lying on a clean and comfortable blanket
Make Sure That You Have All Of Your Dog’s Medical Information
Make sure you have all of the information that you need before leaving the vets. If you are ever unsure about anything do not hesitate to ask the vet or receptionist. It is important that you make a note of the names of each medication, that you know when you should start giving them and how often you should administer them. Your vet should also tell you how much food and water should be given, as well as how much and how often your dog should be allowed to exercise, but if you are unsure, ask again.
Dog Stitches (Sutures)
If your dog has been given stitches then your vet will organise an appointment for them to be removed. They might also provide your dog with an Elizabethan Collar, which will prevent him from pulling out the stitches with his teeth. If you notice that any stitches have been removed or that any other problems develop then contact your vet as soon as you can.
A West Highland Terrier wearing an Elizabethan Collar
A small t-shirt, a pair of tights or even a snood can also help prevent the dog from scratching at them. Alternatively, shift the dog’s attention to another part of the body by placing a bandage on his foot. If you notice that any of your dog’s stitches have been removed then get in contact with your vet as soon as you can. Open wounds will need to be stitched back up to avoid infection.
A Shar Pei wearing an Elizabethan collar after just having stitches
The Journey Home
When collecting your dog from the vet it is always best to bring somebody with you, especially after an operation. Until your dog regains full consciousness his balance won’t be great and he might be a little unsteady on his feet. You may need to lift him into the car as you leave. If you are unsure about how to lift your dog into the car, follow this link to our section on how to pick up a dog.
A dog crate for your car is a great idea as it provides your dog with a place to quietly lie down without the constant worry that he is going to fall off the seat.
A dog crate is the safest method of traveling with your dog
Keep the car well ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. If your dog falls asleep then it is best to allow him to recover in the car when you get home, but never leave him alone. When he wakes up you may need to help him get out of the car again.
Postoperative Dog Care - Looking After Your Dog At Home
After being under anaesthetic your dog will not have a lot of strength or coordination and will need to rest in a quiet and calm environment. Keep a close eye on him until he is able to walk around the house on his own. If your dog is still unable to support himself after 48 hours you should get in contact with your vet.
A small dog resting after an operation
The first thing your dog will want to do when he gets home (apart from sleep) is go to the toilet. Assist him outside to his usual spot. You may need to support him whilst he relieves himself.
Postoperative Dog Cough
Do not be alarmed if your dog develops a cough after surgery. The tube that delivers the anaesthetic to your dog during the operation may cause irritation to his throat. This may also make eating quite difficult. A postoperative dog cough is very common in all breeds and it usually only lasts for a short time, but if it persists for longer than a few days you should get in touch with your vet.
How Much Water Should Your Dog Drink After An Operation?
Your dog may become quite dehydrated after surgery. When he arrives home he could be very thirsty, but it’s important that you control how much and how often he drinks. After some operations dogs can go back to their normal eating and drinking habits right away, but other operations require your dog to fast and not drink much water. Ask your vet before you take your dog home how much water they recommend he should drink.
A white Labrador puppy having a drink from its bowl
If he has access to a supply of water he may drink until he is full which may cause him to vomit, so it is vital that you remove all bowls and prevent access to puddles, ponds and plant pots.
How Soon Should You Feed Your Dog After An Operation?
If your dog is fully conscious and behaving normally after surgery then it is okay to give him small amounts of food and water. It is vital that you oversee this as he may vomit or choke.
You can begin to give your dog larger portions of food and water the morning after the surgery, but make sure that you supervise him. Sometimes your vet will suggest that you feed your dog boiled rice and chicken after an operation as the bland food soothes the tummy, but check before taking him home.
How Much Exercise Should A Dog Have After An Operation?
After your dog has an operation it is very tempting to show him how much you love him by taking him out for some special walks, but sometimes it is best to limit how much your dog should exercise so that he has a healthy recovery. Always ask your vet how much your dog should be exercised before you go home as too much too soon could result in infections or broken stitches.
A dog walk in the woods
Keep Your Dog’s Dressings Clean And Dry
Just like humans - dogs need their medical dressings to be kept clean and dry to prevent infection. If you are worried about your dog getting infections when he goes outside there are a few tricks you can try. For example, if your dog has a dressing on his leg, lift his foot into a plastic bag and secure it higher up the leg with a loose elastic band to create a barrier between the dressing and outside world. Remember to remove the bag and elastic band as soon as the dog comes back inside and keep them out of reach so that he cannot choke on them.