Postoperative Vomiting in Dogs

As they recover from the trauma of surgery, 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 postoperative complications. In many cases, your dog will begin feeling 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.

sad dog in cone
Dog outside wearing protective cone.
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Common Complication

According to OneOfAKindPets.com, a nonprofit group that operates low-cost spay and neuter clinics, vomiting is the most commonly encountered postoperative complications. According to the group, one to two bouts of vomiting after a procedure is no cause for concern; however, if the vomiting continues through the night you should contact your veterinarian. Aside from dehydration caused by vomiting, the act of vomiting is stressful on you and your dog. Your veterinarian often can prescribe medications to stop the vomiting.

Causes of Postoperative Vomiting

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 vomiting, acid reflux, which often comes after surgery, can cause dogs to regurgitate freshly eaten food, according to Kimberly Crest Veterinary Hospital of Davenport, Iowa. However, serious complications also can cause vomiting, so it is always wise to contact your veterinarian. 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.

Catching the Culprit

If after consulting with your vet, you believe that your dog’s postoperative medications are causing the distress, the Michigan Avenue Animal Hospital of Ypsilanti, Michigan, advises administering individual medications two hours apart from each other. For example, give your dog his antibiotic first, and then give him 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.

Postoperative Food and Water

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 meal and restricted access to water the first night to prevent your dog from stuffing himself, which can lead to vomiting. Some postoperative dogs 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 warming the food slightly in the microwave may spark a dog to eat.

Other Intestinal Issues

Be aware that vomiting is not the only digestive problem that often follows 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 postoperative pain can cause constipation. Report all gastrointestinal disturbances after surgery to your veterinarian.