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Home > Dogs > How Long Will It Take My Dog to Recover from Stomach Surgery?

How Long Will It Take My Dog to Recover from Stomach Surgery?

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Surgery is sometimes necessary for our pets’ continued well-being. Knowing how long you should expect your dog to take to recover is an important factor in the early diagnosis of potential complications. Recovery times vary based on the exact surgery and your vet is best placed to advise on this. In general, abdominal surgeries are typically well on the road to recovery 2–3 weeks post-surgery.

Let’s explore everything you need to know about caring for your dog after surgery. So, your pup will be back on its feet and ready to go as soon as possible!

divider-dog paw Immediate Aftercare

Most surgical procedures require the patient to go under general anesthesia, which will knock your dog out and keep them from feeling any pain or remembering what happened during surgery. It can take a while for anesthesia to fully wear off, and your dog may still have some lingering side effects when it first gets home.

In the hours immediately following surgery, it’s not uncommon for your dog to be sleepy, lethargic, and a bit unsteady on its feet. These side effects are typical and should disappear quickly within a day. Your veterinary team will likely keep your dog hospitalized until they have shown that they are able to eat, drink, toilet and walk around.

Your dog will likely be a bit bruised, sore, and generally low energy. This behavior is also typical and isn’t a concern unless it persists well past the “immediately following” stage. If your dog is still acting lethargic and unsteady several hours after coming home, you should contact your vet to see what they recommend. Depending on what surgery was performed, a little extra tiredness may be typical. Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian or out of hours clinic if you have any concerns.

a dog about to undergo surgery
Image Credit By: Masarik, Shutterstock

How to Feed a Dog After Surgery

Anesthesia is also well-known for causing queasiness and lack of appetite. Feeding your dog a light meal such as some plain chicken and rice will help give them energy, but remains a choice that is light and easy to digest, especially when compared to commercial dog food. Your vet will advise you on what to feed, how much and when.  They may send your dog home with an easy to digest clinical diet.

You should start to see your dog’s appetite beginning to return within 24 hours of surgery. If your dog is still not eating well after 48 hours, contact your vet to see what they recommend.

The Road to Recovery

Recovery for dogs that have recently had surgery is similar to humans. Your dog will need to rest a lot, avoid vigorous exercise, be given pain medication to help manage their discomfort, and generally be doted upon and babied. You should follow your vet’s aftercare instructions and ensure that you give your dog the full round of any medications your vet prescribed.

Here are some other things that you will need to be aware of during the recovery time:
  • Vets may prescribe prophylactic antibiotics to prevent your dog from getting an infection following the surgery, pain medication to keep them comfortable, and possibly a sedative or anti-anxiety medication if your pet has a history of anxiety.
  • Vets advise against using home remedies to treat pets following surgery. The body is especially delicate after being cut open and home remedies can often do more harm than good when the body is in such a delicate balance. Additionally, many of the home remedies we use for humans are highly toxic to dogs. So, if you would like to use a home remedy, you should clear it with your veterinarian before using it to ensure that it won’t harm your dog or interact with its other medications.
  • Providing your dog with a safe and quiet place to rest after surgery is crucial. Rest is the primary way your dog’s body will heal from the surgery. So, giving them a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of daily life may be necessary, especially if you have other pets or children. A crate trained dog can be put in their crate for some peace and quiet but be sure to check up on them.
  • You’ll also need to limit your dog’s activity following the surgery. Vigorous play is dangerous as it can interfere with the healing process or cause hernias or the wound to reopen. Most surgeries do not require cage confinement but exercise must be limited. Simply keeping your dog indoors with essential trips out on the lead for potty breaks is enough for most cases. Follow your veterinarian’s advice on exercise.
  • You may need to confine your dog to one room with no furniture or toys for your dog to get too excited about, this will help limit your dog’s activity in the days following the surgery. Jumping up on the couch is a no-no.
  • Your dog will likely require an “E-Collar (short for Elizabethan Collar, not electronic),” more colloquially referred to as “the Cone of Shame” to prevent them from licking and biting the incision site. Most dogs adjust to the cone of shame within hours of it first being introduced. However, if your dog is still having trouble relaxing with the E-Collar, your vet may recommend you use a donut collar or a medical pet-shirt to prevent your dog from aggravating the incision.
  • If your dog received stitches, they’ll be removed after 10–14 days, but many vets have stopped using external stitches and now use stitches that are placed inside the wound that dissolve as the wound heals. You will be required to take your dog into the clinic for a post operative check up.
  • We cannot stress enough that you should not skip your dog’s follow-up appointment. If the vet scheduled a follow-up for you, there is a reason, and you should trust your vet’s decision.

divider-dog paw Final Thoughts

Recovering from surgery is no easy task. So, do everything you can to make your dog comfortable and happy while they tackle this roadblock. With proper care, your dog will be back on their feet and back to normal life within a few weeks of the surgery.

Featured Image Credit: Olimpik, Shutterstock

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