Post-surgery is generally a very stressful and even painful time for dogs. Because of this, pet owners have a crucial role in providing special care during this time to help their dogs relax and recover as fast as they can.
Here’s how you can help your dog relax after surgery:
In this article, I’ll walk you through all you need to know regarding how to provide your dog with the utmost care and comfort during the post-surgery period. The following sections will also help you understand other aspects of dog care during this delicate time in your pet’s life.
1. Make Your Home a Relaxing Environment
When your dog gets home from surgery, it will likely be uncomfortable. The effects of anesthesia may linger hours after the procedure, so your dog will probably be dizzy, weak, and tired. However, once the anesthesia wears off, that’s when the real discomfort starts, and your pet will begin to feel the pain of its wound.
All of these feelings mixed together can make your dog confused and stressed, which is why it’s essential to prepare your home beforehand and make it as welcoming as possible. Returning to a comfortable, familiar environment might help alleviate some of the unpleasant feelings your pet is experiencing.
How To Create a Relaxing Environment
You will need to make adjustments in your house and car (as an extension of your home) in preparation for your dog’s post-surgery recuperation period. Here are some ways you can make sure your dog can come home to a calming and soothing environment:
Make the Ride Home Stress-Free
Bearing in mind your dog’s anesthetic-induced stress and confusion, make the ride home and the vehicle itself as stress-free as possible.
This ride is expected to be unpleasant, considering the constant motion and bumps here and there. So try to drive as slowly as you can (and as traffic rules will permit) and keep from playing loud music to prevent any dizziness.
Another factor you’ll want to consider is upgrading your dog’s car seat. Try out our Plush Paws Velvet Car Seat Cover if you want to provide your companion with the softest and most luxurious experience.
Do Away With Loud Noise
Are you used to playing videos or listening to music with your speakers at full blast? You may have to pause this habit of yours for a time, at least until your dog has fully recovered. If you like playing music, you might want to opt for calming sounds–but even then, keep the volume at a minimum.
Loud noises can agitate or confuse your dog, making it difficult to relax.
If you have the space and can’t help but have noise in your home, you can put your dog in a separate room where it can’t be disturbed.
Prepare a Comfortable Bed
While recovering from surgery, your dog will need–and want–plenty of rest. Allow it to have plenty of undisturbed sleep time by giving it a soft, clean, and comfortable bed. If it has a favorite bed or pillow, you can use that as a pacifier. Additionally, any toys or (doctor-approved) treats can help cheer up your pet.
Move Other Dogs Out for the Meantime
While the company of other dogs can be a source of encouragement and pleasure for your dog, it can also cause it to exert itself physically (especially if the other dogs are used to roughhousing). It’s natural for dogs to nudge their companions to play, so it’s better to stay on the safe side, especially if you don’t think you’ll be able to monitor your pets round the clock.
Make Pooping and Peeing Easy
Depending on how big your dog’s wounds are, it may find it difficult to walk long or often. Because of this, make sure that you provide an accessible spot where it can easily and quickly go out to poop or pee.
Refrain from putting your dog’s bed upstairs, as going up and down repeatedly may open its wounds.
Listen To Your Dog’s Cues
What you think would make your dog comfortable may not exactly match what your dog likes. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and reactions to different stimuli (especially if you made changes to its routine or environment) to know whether your approach is helping or not.
If your dog shows any signs of anxiety or distress as a response to a specific pastime or toy, no matter how much it may have cost you, it’s not worth forcing your dog to use it. It may only exacerbate what discomfort it is already dealing with.
2. Provide Comfort and TLC
You are your dog’s most significant source of comfort at this time, so try as much as you can to be present to fulfill its need for comfort. Here are some ways you can show your pet some much-needed TLC:
Spend Plenty of Time With Your Pet
Don’t underestimate how much simply spending time with your dog can be a source of comfort. If you need to work in the house, try to do so near your dog. The closer you are to it, the better. Furthermore, if possible, try to take some time off your usual activities to ensure your pet feels loved and looked after.
Pet Your Dog
Petting is one of the pastimes that dogs enjoy the most. Therefore, make an effort to do so as often as you can, paying attention to where your dog’s bandage is and being careful not to touch it. Additionally, when petting your dog, do so gently, no matter how playful or inclined to roughhousing your dog used to be. Getting your dog too excited may cause it to push things too far.
Keep Its Wound Clean
Your dog may not be very fond of this part, but keeping the wound clean is crucial to ward off infection and help it heal quickly. Clean the wound, replace bandages regularly, and keep up with your dog’s medication, following your vet’s orders.
Your vet may also have put a cone on your dog right after surgery to prevent it from having access to its wound. Make sure not to remove this cone no matter how much your pet dislikes it, as otherwise, it’ll be inclined to bite or lick the incision.
If you see any signs of the stitching opening up or the wound bleeding, you can provide the first-aid treatment yourself. However, if you spot early signs of infection, don’t attempt to address them yourself. Contact your vet instead and ask for prescription antibiotics.
Speak Soothingly to Your Dog
Dogs are excellent at picking up emotional cues from humans. They will notice it in your voice and tone when you are stressed out, worried, or scared.
While it’s natural to worry about your dog’s condition, you should refrain from showing any signs of distress, as this will also cause your dog to be stressed out. When talking to your dog, do so calmly.
Common Dog Post-Surgery Behaviors
When your dog gets home from surgery, it may display behaviors that look worrying. However, do not fret because most of these unusual behaviors are typical effects of anesthesia and other drugs. Here are some examples:
Shivering or Shaking
When an anesthetic drug starts to wear off, it may cause dogs to shiver or shake, some more violently than others. This is normal post-surgery behavior, and you shouldn’t worry. This will eventually go away as the anesthetic’s effect completely disappears.
To give your dog comfort, you can simply wrap it in a blanket. You can also warm a towel and use that to cover your dog.
However, if your pet is making pained noises due to prolonged shaking, it may mean that the shivering is causing it too much discomfort or pain. You can ask your vet about it or have your dog take a pain reliever.
Loss of Appetite
It’s normal for a dog not to have an appetite after surgery. You may notice that it doesn’t touch its food or even lick its water bowl hours after it has come home.
While this is normal, you should not allow your dog to refuse food and water for long, which will affect its health and prolong its weakness.
Try to entice your dog to eat by preparing something special (Say no to regular dog food for now) like beef or tuna. You can also add some beef stock to your dog’s water to encourage water intake.
Eventually, as the grogginess and confusion start to dissipate, your dog should have its usual appetite back.
Inability To Hold Food Down
Sometimes, even if your dog gets enticed enough to eat, it can be challenging to hold the food down. A clear sign of this is vomiting right after eating. This is a normal side effect of anesthesia, but it can make your dog feel very uncomfortable and weak.
If your dog vomits after every meal, put its food away for the time being but leave out some water. Try feeding your dog again the following day and check for any improvements. By now, the pet should be at least partially recovered after its night’s rest. But if it continues to vomit, contact your vet right away.
Not Peeing or Pooping
Your dog’s bowel movements will also be affected by the surgery. Don’t worry if you notice that your dog hasn’t peed or pooped since returning home.
This is simply because your dog’s stomach and bladder are practically empty before surgery, meaning there isn’t much to expel yet. Post-surgery anxiety can also affect your dog’s bowel movement.
This should go back to normal once your dog starts eating and drinking water normally again.
Things You Should Not Do After Dog Surgery
To provide proper care for your dog, there are things that you should avoid doing while your dog is on the mend.
Here are some of the most common things that you should NOT do:
Encourage Excessively Physical Play
It may have been days since your dog has returned home, and you may miss playing with it already. However, excessive physical play, such as running or jumping, can result in incision tears.
As long as your dog’s wound has not completely healed, you shouldn’t allow it to do anything physically taxing, not even during playtime. You may think your dog can handle the physical exertion as it starts nudging you for a walk or a run, but don’t give in no matter how cute your dog is.
Instead, you can encourage your pet to have fun by playing with toys and doing other less physically taxing tricks. You can even teach it new commands, so long as they don’t require your dog to move around too much.
Get on a Plane
The pressure inside an airplane and the overall traveling experience are very stressful to a dog. Even some dog breeds absolutely can’t handle a plane ride even when they are in the prime of health.
So imagine the stress that your dog could experience if you put it on a plane when it hasn’t fully recovered from surgery. The pressure may be unbearable, causing it to be lethargic or, worse, very sick.
Even a car ride can be dizzying to a dog, but it is often a necessary evil. If you have to put your dog in a car, make sure to drive slowly and avoid bumpy roads.
Bathe Your Dog
You may be tempted to clean your dog after surgery, which is understandable. Dogs get dirty quite easily because of their playful nature. However, bathing your dog will stress it out. You shouldn’t even allow your dog to get wet up to a week after it has had surgery.
You can typically bathe your dog twice a month or once every two weeks. So if you can wait, wait two weeks before taking out the dog shampoo again.
Give Human Snacks
When your dog is not eating normally due to the anesthetic, you may be tempted to entice it to eat by offering human snacks. This is an absolute no-no.
By no means should you give human food or snacks to your dog–not even when it’s healthy, and especially not when it’s unwell. Your dog’s body is out of whack, and what it needs is food made especially for its nourishment.
Also, by giving it human food, you may potentially be damaging your dog’s appetite for dog food.
Hover Over Your Dog Too Much
If it’s your first time having a dog go through surgery, it’s natural to want to check it as much as possible to make sure it’s okay. However, when doing so, try not to hover over your dog too much or too long, as this can make dogs uneasy or nervous.
The last thing you want to make your dog feel is even more stressed than it already is. So try to be soothing not just in your tone of voice or the way you talk, but even with your body language.
3. Do the Heavy Lifting at Home
You may have trained your dog to be able to handle its own needs at home, and that’s a good thing. But if your pet has just undergone surgery, you will have to go back to pre-training days and carry out most of your dog’s needs yourself.
By doing so, you’ll prevent any additional stress or physical exertion that may lead to the opening of the dog’s incision. You will be spending a lot of your time with your dog, so make sure that you have taken leave off work or are ready to stay home throughout the most important days of the recovery period.
Carry Your Dog Around
Don’t allow your dog to walk around by itself or exert itself physically, especially during the first day of returning home. Instead, you may carry your dog to and from the house when it needs to pee or poop.
Take note of your dog’s bowel routine so that you can quickly assist it when it needs to go.
Create Stress-Free Amusement
Because dogs are playful beings, they usually get confused and frustrated with themselves when they cannot do as much as they used to or play as much as they want to. They may also be unable to process their recovery state or why they’re feeling so weak.
To address this, you'll need to provide a source of entertainment from the comfort of your home. You can encourage your dog to have fun by giving it puzzle games or chew toys. Observe how your dog responds to them (whether it’s having fun or not) and adjust your game plan from there.
Watch Out for and Remove Potential Dangers
Part of caring for your dog is watching out for any potential hazards that may harm it. Another cute and playful dog in the house, for example, could look harmless if it’s not aggressive. But if it goes near your recovering dog and licks its wound, it can open the incision or cause an infection.
You must be mindful of the potential dangers in your dog’s environment and remove those yourself. While your dog may have been perfectly capable of perceiving potential risk before surgery, its condition may prevent it from being able to do so as acutely.
Accompany Your Dog During Pee and Poop Times
Regardless of whether your dog can go through these processes on its own, you’ll need to lend a helping hand. This keeps it from walking too far or responding to stimuli that it may find outside.
To do so, put a leash on your dog, making sure that you limit its length by leaving enough space for your dog to walk comfortably but not get far. Additionally, be careful not to tug at the leash if your dog attempts to run or jump. Immediately pick up your dog instead of trying to do any of these the moment you see it.
4. Give Your Dog Lots of Rest
Plentiful, undisturbed sleep is crucial to helping your dog bounce back to perfect health as quickly as possible. However, due to the changes in its body and the confusing feelings brought about by medicines and anesthetics, it may not be as easy for your dog to catch up on the zzz’s.
To help your dog get the rest that it needs, you can do the following:
- Induce sleep by keeping lights dim. Like us, dogs also get sleep cues from our environment. When it gets dark, they know it’s time to snuggle up in bed. Additionally, most dogs whose owners sleep with the lights off usually sleep better in these conditions. To encourage your dog to rest, keep lights dim throughout the day.
- Tone down the noise. Reduce as much disturbance as you can. This includes the sound from your TV or computer or even talking to people on the phone.
Act as you would around a sick person resting in the same room. Be as quiet as you can without sacrificing your daily activities or work.
5. Prepare Your Dog’s Favorite Food
Help boost your dog’s health by making sure it eats nutritious food. Most of the time, however, dogs lose their appetite after surgery. Luckily, you can help it regain its appetite by offering its favorite food and treats.
Although you might be tempted to buy every snack and treat on the aisle, be careful not to overfeed your dog since it won’t be moving around as much during its recovery period.
After surgery, your dog will need extra attention and care. It will be weak, tired, and confused for days or even weeks. Therefore, it’s up to you to make its recovery as quick and stress-free as possible.
To help your dog relax after surgery, you can do the following:
- Make your home a relaxing environment.
- Provide comfort and TLC.
- Do the heavy lifting at home.
- Give it lots of rest.
- Prepare its favorite food.
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- PetMD: Pet Surgery Aftercare FAQs
- Pet Resource: After Surgery FAQ
- Blue Valley Animal Hospital: On the Mend: Providing Exercise for Pets After Surgery
- Rover: How To Care for Your Dog's Stitches After Surgery
- VCA Animal Hospitals: First Aid For Bleeding In Dog
- Positively: How to Keep Your Dog Calm After Surgery