How to Care for a Dog After Surgery

By Maureen Malone

After surgery, your pet needs rest and care so he can fully recover. Specific instructions may vary depending on the type of surgery, so follow your veterinarians post-operation instructions. Contact your vet immediately if your dog develops a sign of infection or other complication.

Caring for Sutures

You must restrict your dog's activity levels for approximately 7 to 14 days after surgery to prevent tearing open the incision and to allow healing. Do not let your dog run off-leash and prevent him from jumping and running around the house if possible. If you have multiple dogs, do not let them play during your dog's recovery. If you have trouble containing your dog, you may need to put him on crate rest during his recovery.

Do not wash or apply ointment to the incision unless directed by the vet. If your vet placed a tube in the incision to drain the wound, you may need to clean the drain. Be sure to ask your vet for instructions. Do not allow your dog to lick or chew the sutures. A cone or e-collar may be necessary to prevent your dog from damaging the sutures.

If your dog has a bandage, it may need to be checked or changed up to three times per day. Do not attempt to adjust splints or casts. If his toes are visible, make sure they are not cold and that your dog is responding to touch.

You may need to take your dog back to the vet to have sutures removed. Your vet will schedule this with you when your dog is discharged from surgery. In some cases, your vet may use sutures that dissolve and do not need to be removed.

Feeding and Medications

Follow your vets instructions for administering pain relievers and antibiotics. Do not give any other medication or supplements without approval from your vet.

Keep fresh water available for your dog at all times. Don't worry if he isn't interested in eating for the first day after surgery. Encourage your dog to eat by feeding canned food. You can cook a lean meat such as chicken, turkey or lean ground beef and combine it in equal parts with white rice, potato or pasta. Warming food also makes it more palatable for your dog. In some cases, your vet may advise you to feed a prescription recovery diet such as Royal Canin Recovery RS.

Signs of Infection and Complications

Check the incision site regularly and contact your veterinarian if you observe signs of infections such as:

  • Constant bleeding or fluid leaking from the incision site
  • Intermittent bleeding more than 24 hours after surgery
  • Increased swelling
  • Increased redness

  • Foul-smelling discharge