How to look after a dog after surgery

How to look after a dog after surgery

Dogs are wonderful for easing their owners’ worries, providing snuggles, love and devotion on tap. But if your pooch needs surgery, it’s likely to be an anxious time for you and your whole family.

Here’s our brief guide to caring for your canine companion post-surgery, so you can nurse it back to full health in the swiftest possible time.

Remember – surgery can be an expensive business, particularly for complicated conditions or if your dog needs more than one operation. Dog insurance helps you cover the fees for your furry friend.


What are the common types of surgery for a dog?

A small pet under surgery with a vet making an incision

Your hound will hopefully be a healthy lassie or laddie, but it helps to have an idea of the most common conditions it might develop so you know what to look out for.

Some surgical procedures are similar to those for humans, such as dental work and removal of tumours or skin growths. Others are more common for canines, or even specific for certain breeds.

Check when you purchase your puppy and keep an eye out for early signs – often, you can nip a condition in the bud, avoiding unnecessary and potentially costly surgery.

Remember to take out Dog insurance in case of any expensive vet bills.


  • Spaying or neutering

It’s recommended that all dogs are spayed or neutered, unless you are an experienced breeder. Otherwise, you could find yourself with rather more puppies in your household than you’d bargained for!

Since spaying or neutering is best done at a relatively young age, it’s particularly heart-breaking for the owner. You feel guilty for putting your tender little puppy through such a procedure!

But it is definitely in your pup’s best interests – and can even prevent them from developing certain conditions later on, which could potentially require more invasive and risky operations.


  • Hip dysplasia

This condition, in which the dog’s femur does not fit properly into the hip socket, is most common among larger breeds or overweight animals.

It can cause arthritis, stiffness and limping, and usually develops by the time your dog is 18 months old.

If medications can’t ease the symptoms, then your vet will recommend surgery – either to reshape or replace the hip joint.


  • Cataracts

Another common issue, this arises mainly in older dogs. Just as in humans, this condition means that the lens of the eye has become cloudy, dimming the vision.

It’s most common in Pugs or other breeds with bulging eyes.

Your vet can replace the lens of the eye with a plastic or acrylic version. However, as the recovery time can be lengthy, this operation is only recommended in dogs which are otherwise healthy with a good life expectancy.


  • Cruciate ligament surgery

The cranial cruciate ligament connects the femur to the tibia, keeping the dog’s knee stable.

Whereas humans tend to damage their ligaments through sporting injury, dogs suffer a gradual deterioration of the tissue, leading to pain, limping and osteoarthritis.

Surgery is recommended, with a variety of procedures used to replace or work around the damaged ligament.

A vet crouching down to stroke a dog

  • Limb fractures or amputations

While most broken legs can be treated with splints, more complicated fractures might need surgery to fix the bones back together.

Sadly, with badly damaged legs, amputations might be necessary. Sometimes, owners may even have to opt for amputations if they cannot afford the more complicated surgery needed to repair the leg.

Dog insurance helps you cover unexpected bills, so your dog should soon be bounding along happily on all fours once more.


  • Gastric dilatation and volvulus

In larger breeds with deep, narrow chests, the stomach can become bloated, twist around, and restrict the blood supply.

Dobermans, German Shepherds and Boxers are all prone to this potentially fatal condition – and it’s said to be the biggest killer of Great Danes.

Gastropexy fixes the stomach to the abdominal wall, preventing a recurrence of the problem.


  • Laryngeal paralysis

This condition affects the breathing of older dogs, particularly Labradors, Retrievers and Setters. Surgery can open up the larynx, helping the dog breathe more easily.


  • Ear infections

Dogs are prone to ear infections, and generally recover well with a good cleaning regime and eardrops.

Yet sometimes, this simply won’t budge a stubborn or recurrent infection, making surgery to remove the ear canal the only option.

It renders your dog pain-free – but, sadly, deaf in the affected ear.


What can you do for your dog after surgery?

A dog laying down with its owner resting

Your pooch is likely to spend several hours recovering at the veterinary surgery after its op, or longer for more serious procedures.

When it comes home, it’s going to need some proper TLC from you, its trusted owner, for at least a week.

Remember – none of the following is meant as a substitute for veterinary advice. Follow the instructions from your surgery and contact them if you have any concerns.

Dog insurance from Purely Pets includes access to a 24-Hour Vet Helpline, too.


  • Driving home

Does your dog normally leap eagerly into the boot of your car? Post-surgery is not the time for acrobatics – however much your dog may try.

Instead, lift it in and secure it in its crate, carrier or harness. Then drive straight home – your pet wants its bed.


  • Rest and sleep

Once you’re back home, you and your family may be eager to smother your poorly pooch in cuddles. However, don’t be worried or offended if it’s less receptive than normal.

Your dog will be recovering from the effects of the anaesthetics for a day or two, making it woozy and wobbly. Plus, it’s likely to be confused about what’s happened to it, and in some discomfort.

Sleep is a major healer. Let your dog recover in its own time, preferably away from the hustle and bustle of family life. Sure, give it a good stroke – but let it rest.

Check up on your dog frequently, but there’s no need to stay up all night by its side – that’s likely to disturb it further.

If your pooch is generally healthy and had just a small procedure such as neutering, it should be pretty much back to normal within 48 hours.

However, older dogs, or those recovering from bigger ops, will need longer. Your vet should be able to give you a better idea of what to expect.

If your dog seems usually lethargic for longer than expected, give your vet a call. If you have dog insurance with Purely Pets, you can also phone the 24-Hour Vet Helpline.


  • Protecting the wound

No doubt you’ve seen those “cone of shame” photos of woebegone mutts on social media.

However, those simple plastic post-surgery e-collars really can be vital as they stop your pooch licking its wound or biting its stitches, which can lead to bleeding or infection.

If your vet put a cone on your pet, then keep it on as best you can.

Your vet will usually recommend you keep the cone on your dog day and night for around 10 days, or until the wound is healed and the stitches dissolved or removed.

If you’ve got a canine Houdini who keeps breaking free, ask your vet for advice.

Your pet may have an area of shaved fur around the incision site. Don’t worry – it will grow back within a few weeks.

If you notice redness, swelling, oozing or bleeding around the wound, consult your vet promptly.

It could be a sign of infection and might even require further surgery to clean the wound. Dog insurance will help you cover the costs.

A dog wearing a jumper with a cone on

  • Food and drink

Are you used to a perpetually hungry hound? Then you may be worried by your post-op pooch’s lack of appetite.

However, this is entirely normal, particularly for the first 48 hours. Not only is your dog likely to feel nauseous from the anaesthetic, but it’s also being less active than normal so requires fewer calories.

It’s best to give your mutt a light meal of chicken or fish on the first evening, or perhaps a quarter of its normal food intake. If your vet’s given you specially formulated post-surgery dog food, then follow the recommendations.

Place your pooch’s food and water bowls near its bed, so it can reach them without too much effort.

Your dog should be able to eat and drink while wearing its e-collar, if it has one. If it’s struggling, you can take off the collar for the duration of the meal – but keep a close eye on your pet to ensure it doesn’t start licking its wound.


  • Medications

Your vet may give you painkillers, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or other medication for your dog. And chances are, your pet won’t be too keen on taking them.

One top tip is to sprinkle the medication on top of your dog’s food or hide a tablet inside a treat. However, this only works if your animal’s appetite is back to normal.

You can also try holding your dog’s muzzle and squeezing in the medication with a dropper.


  • Exercise

Your dog may think it’s recovered from surgery sooner than is actually the case. It might well be whining to be let out for a good run around at a time when it should be taking it easy.

If your dog’s had stitches, it’s vital they stay clean and intact. That means no racing around the garden, no jumping up onto the sofa, and no fetching sticks.

Instead, you can take your pet out on a lead into the garden or nearby park to go to the toilet – but that’s about it.

Dogs recovering from orthopaedic surgery will need to be kept on a low exercise regime for even longer. Your vet may even advise keeping them in a crate that’s big enough for them to turn around, but not big enough for running.

You’ll need to put water and food in there and allow your dog out only to go to the toilet. Put newspaper down in case of any accidents.

This is a pretty heart-breaking scenario which your pet won’t understand. However, it’s for your dog’s own good – and hopefully, your pooch will be back up on all fours chasing sticks in no time at all.


Complications from surgery

The majority of procedures go smoothly. However, complications can arise.

Many of these concern infections of the incision site, possibly caused by your dog licking or scratching its wound. E-collars and exercise restriction help to prevent this, but nothing’s fail-safe.

Look out for redness, swelling, bleeding, discharge or pus at the incision site, and contact your vet straight away if you spot a possible issue.

If you see tissues protruding, this is an emergency situation. Cover the wound with a clean towel and contact an emergency vet.

Dog insurance will help you cover the costs of emergency treatment.


When to take them to the vet – check-ups

A dog on a vets table being checked over

Even if your dog is back to its normal bouncy self within no time, it’s important you stick to the schedule of post-surgery check-ups. You’re likely to make these appointments before you take your pet home.

Some vets will want to see your dog within a day or two of surgery to check how things are going. Others are happy to let your dog recover at home for a week or 10 days before checking it over.

The vet may also need to remove the stitches, unless dissolvable sutures were used. This is usually around 10 days after surgery.

Of course, if you have any concerns at all, don’t wait till the routine post-surgery check-up – phone up your vet immediately.

If you have dog insurance from Purely Pets, there is expert advice available at all times through the 24-hour helpline.


Get a quote for dog insurance today

Looking after your dog post-surgery is a worrying time for owners. Fortunately, insurance from Purely Pets can help you through this difficult period.

As pet insurance specialists, we’ve designed 15 levels of cover, so you’re bound to find one that’s right for your dog and your budget.

Depending on the level you choose, we cover vets’ fees up to £15,000, with the excess starting from just £60.

Special diets and complementary treatments are also included, to help you care for your dog’s different needs at all stages of its life.

Our Manage My Policy portal gives you control over your policy whenever you choose, while veterinary nurses are also on hand 24 hours a day to listen to your concerns and provide expert advice.

Get a dog insurance quote from Purely Pets today.