What to Do After a Pet's Surgical Procedure

Most veterinarians send home printed handouts after an anesthetic procedure detailing the pet's post-procedure care. This is helpful because, in the busy discharge time of most clinics, coupled with excitement at seeing their pet, many owners don't hear all of the details or think of questions until after they are home. This article discusses general post-procedure care. Please call your veterinarian with specific questions about your pet's recovery.

  • 01 of 08

    Keep Your Pet Confined

    A dog (Miniature Pinscher) wearing a blue sweater sits patiently in his crate.

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    There are many anesthetic drugs available, and animals can react in many ways, depending on their age, weight, general health, species, and breed (in some cases). Just because your cat came home from her spay last year running around as if nothing happened, doesn't mean that your other cat will come home from his dental the same way. Keeping your pet calm the first 24 hours will speed anesthetic recovery and restricting activity for several days will help prevent surgical dehiscence.

  • 02 of 08

    Make Sure Your Pet Is Warm

    A happy cat wrapped in a blanket

     R. Crap Mariner/flickr/CC By 2.0

    If your pet is still a bit groggy, they may have trouble maintaining normal body heat. If the animal is normally an outdoor pet, it is wise to bring them inside if the outside temperature is cool. Indoor pets may benefit from a comforter or pet "snuggler" bed. Do not put your pet on a heating pad unless directed by your veterinarian. This can cause severe burns if used improperly!

  • 03 of 08

    Monitor the Food and Water Intake

    A puppy eating from a bowl

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    How soon your pet can eat and drink will be determined by your veterinarian and what procedure(s) your pet had. While it is encouraging to see your pet eat and drink (especially after the pre-procedure fasting), please do not offer more than your veterinarian recommends! This can lead to an upset stomach and vomiting, which isn't pleasant for you or your pet.

  • 04 of 08

    Remove Obstacles and Hazards for Your Pet

    Taro shiba, sleeping in his crate

    Taro the Shiba Inu/flickr/CC By 2.0

    Assuming that your home/yard is already pet-proof and safe for your pet, take an extra moment to consider things anew. Your pet may not be completely "with it" as far as depth perception, coordination, and judgment for several hours after they are home after an anesthetic procedure. This can result in injury from common things; such as stairs, chairs or other physical obstacles. A dog or cat crate may be the safest option.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Be Careful Handling or Moving Your Pet

    A man and his grey cat

    knape/Getty Images

    Even though most veterinarians do administer pain medications, your pet may be in some pain or discomfort as the anesthesia wears off. This can cause an overreaction to "normal" things, such as jumping up on the bed, being picked up, or going for a walk. Move a little more slowly and carefully the first few hours after your pet is home to ensure that they can be handled as they normally are. If your pet is wearing a splint or bandage, be sure to use extra caution for normal activities.

  • 06 of 08

    Supervise Pet-to-Pet Interactions at Home

    Woman on a couch with a dog and cat

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    While humans may assume that the pets miss each other and can't wait to see each other again, this is not always the case. Pets, especially cats, may view the returning pet as foreign, due to all of the new odd smells and possible different behavior of the returning pet.

    Conversely, exuberant pets may be "too much" for the returning pet; the excited greetings and playtime will need to wait until the anesthesia is completely worn off and sutures (if applicable) have healed.

  • 07 of 08

    Take Your Pet Outside to Relieve Themselves ASAP

    Woman and her dog outdoors on a bridge

    MilosJokic/Getty Images

    This may seem obvious, but important nonetheless. Some pets will not use the available toilet facilities at the vet, or they may be too excited/groggy to relieve themselves before the trip home. Additionally, many pets receive IV (intravenous) fluids while under anesthesia, leading to full bladders!

  • 08 of 08

    When to Call Your Vet

    Portrait of a beagle with a chew bone

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    If your pet experiences any odd behavior, drainage from a surgical site, or delayed recovery from anesthesia, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss. Your vet may need to make a note ​on your pet's record for future reference.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
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  1. How to Care for a Pet After Surgery. Animal Emergency & Specialty Center, 2020 

  2. Burns - Thermal - DogsLort Smith Animal Hospital, 2020

  3. Post Surgical Care. Center Veterinary Clinic, 2020

  4. Caring for Your Pet After Surgery: Common Post Surgical FAQs. Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital, 2020