As they recover from surgery and cope with the side effects of general anesthesia and pain medications, some dogs may suffer from digestive upset, nausea, or vomiting. While this is often no cause for concern, you should contact your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is not experiencing any post-surgery complications. In many cases, your dog will begin to feel better within a day or two, but it is always best to err on the side of caution to prevent dangerous complications from going unchecked.
Is it normal for a dog to vomit after surgery?
Vomiting is one of the most commonly encountered postoperative complications. One to two bouts of retching after a surgical procedure is no cause for concern; however, if the vomiting continues through the night, you should contact your DVM.
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Aside from dehydration caused by vomiting, the act of vomiting is stressful on you and your dog. Your veterinarian can often prescribe medications to stop the vomiting. It is becoming increasingly common for veterinarians to administer anti-nausea medications, such as Cerenia, during a dog surgery, such as a spay or neuter, to reduce post-anesthesia and post-operative vomiting.
Causes of dog vomiting after surgery
There are many reasons that dogs may vomit after surgery. Many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics can cause dogs to feel nauseous or vomit. Additionally, the anesthetics used in surgery often cause gastric upset, but they will exit the dog's system within a few days. While not associated with retching, acid reflux, which often comes after surgery, can cause dogs to regurgitate freshly eaten food.
Generally, mild retching is not cause for concern. However, serious complications can also cause vomiting, so it is always wise to seek veterinary care. This is especially true of dogs who have had gastrointestinal surgery. Vomiting after gastrointestinal surgery may indicate that the dog's intestine or stomach has perforated, which requires immediate veterinary attention.
Can medication cause vomiting in dogs?
In some cases, medications can cause nausea and vomiting after surgery. If after consulting with your veterinarian you believe that your dog's postoperative medications are causing the distress, administer individual medications two hours apart from each other. For example, give your dog their antibiotic first and then give them the anti-inflammatory medication two hours later.
Usually, the medication causing the dog to vomit will be effective in one hour or less, which will allow you to determine which medication is causing the problem. Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe different medications that will not upset your dog's digestive system.
What if my dog is not eating after surgery?
Appetite changes are not unusual after surgery. Be sure to follow all of the directions provided by your veterinarian regarding postoperative care. Usually, your veterinarian will advise you to provide a very small amount of food and restricted access to water the first night to prevent your dog from overeating, which can lead to retching. A bland diet is usually recommended to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
Some postoperative dogs have loss of appetite and show no interest in food or water the night after surgery; this is often no cause for concern as long as your dog begins eating and drinking the next day. Dogs frequently reject dry kibble after surgery, but they may be tempted with canned food or moistened kibble. Additionally, hand-feeding or slightly warming the food in the microwave may inspire a dog to eat.
Should my dog be constipated after surgery?
Many dogs become constipated after surgery, courtesy of the combination of preoperative fasting and the reduced feeding after returning home. Additionally, many narcotic pain relievers used to help manage post-surgical pain can cause constipation along with bloating and nausea. Report all gastrointestinal disturbances after surgery to your veterinarian.
The bottom line
Vomiting is common after surgery and is usually a side effect of medications. In most cases, if a dog throws up once or twice, there's no need to worry. But if your dog vomits persistently or severely, it is important to alert your veterinarian, as it could indicate a serious complication.