Caring for Pets After Surgery

by PetCloud / Pet Owner Advice / 28 Jun 2020

Caring for Pets After Surgery

No matter what kind of surgery your pet has undergone, it is important that they are cared for at home in order to speed up their recovery. The time it takes for a pet to recover depends on many factors including their species, age, the type of surgery performed, and their overall health condition. However, being able to care for your pet at home can help them get back to their normal life much quicker.

Getting Home

Even if you only live a short walk from the vet surgery, it is important that you have a suitable pet carrier and appropriate transport to get your pet back home. Pets should not walk home after they have woken from anaesthesia, regardless of how close you live to the surgery. Even if they appear to be fully awake, anaesthetics can leave animals drowsy for up to forty-eight hours after the surgery has finished. It is also important to remember that some pets may need to be immobilised for a period of time, especially if joints have been operated on.


Depending on whether your Pet's surgery was planned (ie desexing), or unexpected (ie car accident or sudden illness), they will need close supervision afterwards. Pets may still feel the effects of the anesthesia hours after the procedure, so they may be a bit unsteady on their feet.  Wound management may be part of the after care that is required, with dressing that may need changing and medications that need to be given.  You will be given instructions for twound managementhis, along with special nutritional requirements directly from your Vet. Until your pet is back to normal, food and water should only be given in small amounts.  If they are wearing an elizabethan collar (ie "a cone") they will only be able to eat and drink with assistance anyway.  If surgery was unexpected and you are required to be away - PetCloud has an advanced search filter to find Vet Nurse Pet Sitters and Sitters who offer 24 Supervision in your area.


Before getting your pet home, make sure their bed is clean, dry and easy to get into and out of. It should be placed somewhere warm and out of drafts. Pets can feel the cold more when recovering from an anaesthetic, so it may be advisable to add an extra blanket or move the bed to a warmer spot.

Food and Water

Animals should have access to fresh water at all times, whether they have been through surgery or not, but it is doubly important if they've just had an operation. Pets coming around from an anaesthetic may not be as hungry as usual, and may benefit from a smaller and blander meal. Boiled chicken or white fish and rice are gentle on the stomach, more likely to be appealing, and have a lower chance of upsetting the animal's stomach. Specialist recovery foods are usually available from your vet, such as Hills or Royal Canin brands, and are particularly advisable for pets that have had surgery on their stomach or mouths.

Wound Management

Some surgeries leave pets with stitches, bandages or both. These must be kept clean and dry to prevent infection. If your pet begins to lick or chew at the site, you can put a plastic collar on them, if possible - on smaller animals such as rats, these are not usually appropriate or possible.

Stitches and staples will remain for seven to ten days. Occasionally, dissolvable stitches are used, and these will fall out and disappear naturally. However, for nylon-based sutures, a veterinary technician or nurse will take them out. Bandages may also need to be checked and changed at the clinic, often before the stitches are removed.


Most surgeries will require a check-up with the vet, although the exact length of time after the operation will depend on the surgery performed and the individual situation. For sites that could possibly become infected, this may be as soon as two to three days after the operation; other, more routine surgeries may not need to be checked until your appointment for the stitches to be removed.


While your pet is under anaesthetic, antibiotics and pain relief will be given. However, they may be sent home with medication. It is important that these courses are finished, even if your pet seems fine, to ensure that you reduce the risk of infection.

Most pets recover fairly quickly from surgery, but it is important to remember that each animal is different and it does depend on why the surgery was needed. Tender loving care, a warm bed, proper meals, fresh water and plenty of cuddles are usually all that is needed to aid swift recovery.

Need Post Operative Supervision?
PetCloud has Vet Nurse Verified Pet Sitters (look for the badges) and Sitters who offer 24hr supervision your Pet when you can't. Post a Job & available Sitters will apply.