Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

Liz is a licensed veterinary medical technologist. She acquired a B.S. in veterinary medical technology from Lincoln Memorial University.


Please protect your pet when leaving the veterinary clinic by using either a leash or a carrier, whichever is most appropriate for the species and size of your animal. Without this precaution, your pet may get loose and injure itself, either internally or by opening fresh surgical wounds while recovering from surgery. To the best of your ability, do not allow your pet to become overly active and excited when you pick them up, as this increases the risk of injury to surgical wounds.

Food, Water, and Medications

The excitement of returning home after surgery may make your pet want to eat or drink excessively, which may result in vomiting and upset stomach. To avoid this, restrict access to water for an hour or two until your pet has quieted down. Then allow only small amounts of water for the first 8 hours, even if your pet has not vomited or displayed signs of nausea, only resume normal feeding the next day.

If your pet is sent home with medications, give only as directed. If your pet is already on medications before surgery, consult your veterinarian before continuing to give them. Never give your pet human medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, etc., as they are extremely toxic to animals.


Feed your pet their regular diet, unless instructed otherwise by your veterinarian or veterinary technician.


Many pets may not have a bowel movement for 24 to 36 hours after surgery. This is normal. Other pets may temporarily have soft stool; this is also normal as long as the issue resolves within 1 to 2 days. Your pet should still urinate normally; alert your veterinarian if your pet has not urinated within a few hours of returning home, as this could be indicative of a serious surgical complication.

Exercise and Activity

Pets recovering from surgery should have limited exercise. Avoid access to stairs or situations that may lead to injury, and prevent the pet from jumping up and down on furniture. Due to the effects of anesthesia, your pet may be groggy for 12 to 24 hours after surgery. He/she may resume normal exercise and activity in 7 days. Your pet should be confined to indoors and taken outside on a leash only with supervision for eliminations for the first 7 days after surgery.


Prevent your pet from licking or chewing at their incision, as this can lead to serious infection, premature suture removal, and/or serious injury to the surgical site. Many pets are given Elizabethan collars to prevent licking and chewing at surgical wounds and sutures. Do not bathe your pet for the first 7 days after surgery to avoid irritation to the surgery site from soap. Check the incision daily for any swelling, redness, or discharge. Some bloody discharge in the first few hours after surgery is normal. If the incision appears irritated, infected, has a foul odor, or has puss-like discharge, contact a veterinarian immediately. Most sutures used today are absorbable and don’t need to be removed, but check with the veterinarian or technician at the time of discharge to see if a recheck visit with suture removal will be needed.


A decrease in activity or appetite for one or two days may be observed. However, if your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms, please notify a veterinarian:

  1. Loss of appetite for more than 2 days
  2. Refusal to drink water for more than 1 day
  3. Weakness
  4. Depression
  5. Vomiting
  6. Diarrhea

Naturally, every pet is different, and should be treated as an individual during post-op care. If you have any questions or concerns about your pet after surgery, always consult your veterinarian.


Personal experience as a surgical veterinary technologist.

© 2018 Liz Hardin

What Happens During My Pet’s Neuter Surgery?

Suppose your male pet undergoes neuter surgery, and this is your first postoperative experience. In that case, you may be surprised that your furry pal still appears to be intact, especially if they were neutered later in life. To clear up any confusion, let’s explain your male pet’s surgical procedure. Here are the steps we take at Advanced Pet Care to safely neuter your pet.

Step 1: Your pet is placed under anesthesia

Neuter surgeries are extremely fast in cats, as long as both testicles have descended into the scrotum, but canine neuters take longer. Veterinarians use anesthesia on both species to ensure they remain pain-free and unconscious throughout the procedure.

Step 2: Your pet’s surgical site is prepared

In dogs, an incision is made in front of the scrotum, and both testicles are pushed through this single incision and removed. One incision is made over each testicle in the scrotum in cats, so the cat and dog incision areas look different. Dogs are shaved to remove hair from the surgical site, while cat hair is generally plucked to avoid razor burn. Once the hair is removed, the site is scrubbed with a surgical antiseptic.

Step 3: Our veterinarian removes the testicles

Next, our veterinarian will remove each testicle, ligating the spermatic cord to ensure no bleeding occurs. In large dogs, the scrotum may also be removed to prevent a postoperative scrotal hematoma, which can happen when the pet is too active after surgery and the empty scrotum fills with blood. Generally, the scrotum is left in the pet.

Step 4: Our veterinarian closes the incision in dogs

In the final step, a neuter surgery again differs in dogs versus cats. The dog’s single incision is sutured closed, whereas the cat’s double incisions are typically left open, or may be closed with tissue glue, so suture removal is not required.

Step 5: Your pet recovers from anesthesia

Male pets are often awake and ready to go home only hours after surgery because their procedure is less invasive than a female’s. We closely monitor your pet for pain after their surgery and anesthesia until they are fully recovered and ready to go home with you.

Is your pet in need of a spay or neuter surgery? Contact us at Advanced Pet Care to schedule an exam.

Caring for Your Pet After Surgery - pets

FOURTEEN DAYS. FOURTEEN DAYS. Yes, we know fourteen days is a VERY long time to… keep your puppy or kitten restricted, not give them a bath, check their incision site twice a day, and keep on that Elizabethan collar! We just wanted to let you know that there is method to our madness (and demands).

Most average cats and dogs take fourteen days for their incisions to heal. Side note: that’s about how long it takes for people to heal, too. It’s good to remember that if a person had a surgery like your pet just had, they would be restricted from activity for about a month! Although two weeks seems like forever when you have a rambunctious puppy or kitten, it is very important to follow our directions for the full two weeks. If your pet is not completely healed and you allow for unrestricted activities, it could result in a complication that could cause you to have to restrict them for even longer! I like to follow the old expression “better be safe than sorry” whenever possible (and I wish you would too!).

I don’t want to scare you, but sometimes the truth can be a little scary. One of the main reasons you need to keep your pet restricted is too much activity and movement at the surgery site results in the sutures popping open. If the sutures open completely in female pets, there will be nothing to keep the intestines and other organs from coming outside of the body. I think it goes without saying that this could result in the death of your beloved pet. For male pets, excessive movement can result in bleeding that will fill up the empty scrotal sac. This can even result in rupture of the scrotum if enough pressure builds up – also extremely painful as you guys can imagine!

Why no bathing? This is kind of a tricky one especially if you just adopted your pet from the shelter and they really need a bath or if you forgot to put a towel in your carrier and your cat peed or pooped and ended up rolling around in it during the car ride. If you bathe your pet after surgery you can introduce bacteria into the surgery site, which you do not want to do. If you must, you can get water-less shampoo at the pet store – just make sure you don’t use it anywhere near the surgery area.

You need to check your pet’s incision twice a day. This is super important because you never know if something abnormal is occurring unless you really check it out. Get your pet to roll over and get in a good tummy pet. You want to check for redness, swelling, and discharge. There may be a SMALL amount of bruising, redness, or swelling as your pet heals. However, if you don’t check it twice a day, you won’t know if there is a steady change in the appearance of the incision. If there is a dramatic change in the incision, you need to bring your pet back the clinic for a recheck.

We recommend Elizabethan collars (aka e-collars or cone) for all of the dogs and cats that have surgery with us. It is easy enough for you to remind yourself not to scratch at something that hurts or itches, but unfortunately our pets are not capable of this! The e-collar is a great way to prevent your pet from hurting himself or herself. It does take a few days for pets to get used to the e-collar, but if you keep it on all they time, they will get accustomed to it even faster. Keep it on whenever you cannot DIRECTLY supervise your pet. That means when you’re sleeping, not at home, or when you are busy making dinner or watching television and your pet isn’t directly in your line of site. It is amazing how quickly they can bite and chew at sutures and remove them if you aren’t able to stop them immediately. Try to remember the last time you had a cut that was healing and how itchy it started to get around 5-8 days later. This is the MOST important time to keep that e-collar on!

Confining Your Pet After Surgery Will Speed Up Healing

Even the smallest of surgeries are invasive, so it’s important that pets have time to heal and rest once they get home. In most cases, that means restricting how much activity they engage in.

“Confinement after surgery allows the tissue that was cut to heal back together,” says Dr. Chelsea Sykes, DVM, a veterinary surgeon at the new SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center.

If a dog moves too much following surgery, there’s a risk of the tissues not bonding properly, which can lead to wounds that don’t heal or heal too slowly, says Sykes. “The more motion of the tissues, the harder it is for them to create the bonds to heal the cut sections back together.”

And if this happens, there is also a higher risk for complications like infections, added Sykes.

The type of activity restriction a dog will need post-op is dependent on the type of surgery and the patient, says Sykes. “Smaller incisions—often seen with neuters, small mass removals, and some spays—often only require three to seven days of restricted activity, and these patients can often be confined to a small room or pen,” explained Sykes. The exception is with very energetic pets, which may need to be confined to a pen, even after small surgeries, to prevent complications.

According to Sykes, long incisions, incisions in spots that are naturally rubbed on (such as in the arm pit), or incisions in sites that are under a lot of tension (e.g., the forearm or ankle) are trickier.

“These might require longer (one to two weeks) and stricter activity restrictions to allow proper healing and prevent disturbance of the surgery sites,” explains Sykes. Major surgeries like bone surgery may require keeping your pet confined for three to six weeks or even longer.

To make confinement as comfortable as possible, Sykes recommends adding bedding or blankets and making sure the enclosure is big enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around in a full circle—unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise.

“If you are using a small room or pen, part of [the space] can be kept without as much bedding to allow for a cooler area for the patient to move to if they get too hot,” Sykes says. Remember too that a pet recovering from surgery needs more attention from you, not less, even if he is confined to a crate or pen. Spending lots of time with your pet—snuggling, talking, etc.—can go a long way toward keeping him calm and speeding his recovery.

No matter what question or concern you may come up with after surgery, it’s best to call your vet and get their expert advice. While they may tell you not to worry about your concern, or that what you’re noticing is normal, it’s best to hear that opinion from the vet than assume everything
is fine, only to find out later on that it isn’t.

Fixing your pet is an important part of taking care of them, however what’s even more important is knowing how to take care of them after the surgery. While the above tips can help, the best advice for any pet owner who’s getting ready to fix their pet is to listen to their vet and do everything they say once you’ve gotten home with your recovering pet.

Watch the video: How To Care For Your Pet After Surgery (July 2021).