Enriching lives through happy healthy pets


Frequently Asked Questions After Surgery

When should my dog have the first bowel movement after surgery? 

Many dogs will not have a bowel movement for the first 4 to 5 days after surgery. This may be due to the fact that:                 

  • Your dog has been fasted prior to surgery
  • They can feel nauseas from the anaesthetic, making them not want to eat anything for the first 12 hours following the anaesthetic
  • They may have had a bowel movement at the clinic
  • Pain medication that contain narcotics (such as morphine, fentanyl patches, and tramadol) can be constipating

If a pet does not have a bowel movement on the 5th day of being home, a stool softener such as liquid paraffin or lactulose can be fed.

My pet had surgery and will not eat. What can be done?


  • Offer a cooked diet having a 1:1 ratio of a protein source and carbohydrate source. The protein source can be any meat (example: chicken breast, turkey breast, lean hamburger) that is low in fat and should be cooked (drain off all fat after the meat has been cooked). The carbohydrate can be pasta, potato or white rice.
  • Try canned dog food; to enhance the flavor sprinkle a very small amount of garlic powder or chicken or beef broth
  • Try Hill's A/D diet available at most veterinary hospitals
  • Hand feeding: place a small amount of food in the mouth so that your dog gets the flavor
  • Warm the food slightly in a microwave, as the food will be more aromatic; stir the food before feeding and test the temperature on the bottom side of your wrist; it should only be luke warm.
  • Remember that most pets will not eat the first day after they get home from major surgery


  • Offer smelly foods that contain fish such as tuna
  • Hand feeding: with your finger place a small amount of food on the roof of your cat's mouth
  • Use a syringe to get soft food into the mouth
  • Warm the food slightly in a microwave. This will make the food will be more aromatic; remember to stir the food before feeding and test the temperature; it should be only luke-warm
  • Some cats will only eat dry food, try kibble if your cat normally has been fed that food
  • Petting and stroking your cat frequently will help to stimulate appetite
  • Remember that most pets will not eat the first day after they get home from surgery
  • Appetite stimulants are available from the vet
  • If your cat refuses to eat anything for 7 days a stomach tube or nasogastric tube should be placed to provide nutrition so that a serious liver problem (hepatic lipidosis) does not develop

How do I know if my dog is in pain following surgery?

Signs of pain include:                 

  • crying
  • trying to bite you if you get near the surgical site
  • grimacing (lips are pulled back and the the dog looks anxious)
  • tragic facial expression
  • panting
  • restlessness and unable to sleep; pacing
  • if abdominal surgery was done the pet will not lie down on the incision, or will continually sit up in spite of appearing very tired
  • the worst pain will be for the first 2 to 3 days after surgery

What can I do to control my dog's pain?

  • We can prescribe pain medications: Tramadol, Butorphanol, Durogesic (Fentanyl) Patch and Anti-inflammatories such as Carprieve and Meloxicam 
  • If an orthopedic surgery has been done cold packing the surgical site may be helpful. A cold pack may be a pack of frozen peas, crushed ice in a Ziploc bag, or a cold gel pack; place a thin barrier between the skin and the cold pack. An alternative to a cold pack is to freeze water in a styrofoam cup; after frozen cut the bottom of the styrofoam cup out. Cool the surgical site around the incision by rubbing the exposed ice directly on the skin in a circular pattern. Cooling the surgical site helps to numb the area. 

How do I know if my cat is in pain following surgery?

Pain is more difficult to assess in cats versus dogs, as signs can be more subtle and they usually do not vocalize when in pain. 

Signs of pain in a cat include the following:                

  • trying to bite you if you get near the surgical site
  • growling or a deep cry
  • not wanting to eat
  • hiding and not wanting to be near owner (remember that this could also be caused by the cat just being upset about leaving home and coming back)

What can be done for pain at home for my cat?

  • We can prescribe pain medication such as Buprenorphine or a Durogesic (Fentanyl) Patch. Anti-inflammatories can be used, but the dose is much less than dogs

Is it okay for my pet to lick the incision?

  • The short answer is no. If your pet licks the incision, the healing process may be delayed
  • Licking can remove stitches and cause the incision to open up
  • Licking can become a severe habit that is difficult to break
  • Licking can cause infection as the mouth is full of bacteria
  • Pets will often lick the incision when the owner is not watching such as at night time; if the skin looks red or irritated the most common cause is licking

To stop your pet from licking the following can be tried:

  • An Elizabethan collar can be placed on the neck; this will not help stop your pet from scratching at the region
  • A tee shirt can be used to cover an incision on the chest or abdomen; gather the waist of the shirt up over the dog's back and wrap an elastic band around this part of the shirt
  • A bandage or sock can be used to cover an incision on a limb; fasten the top of the sock to the dog's limb with tape
  • A bitterant called Wound Gaurd can be applied around the incision; although many dogs will still continue to lick after application
  • In some cases, sedation may be required