Frequently Asked Questions: Post-Surgery

Postoperative Care

If you have a pet that has recently had surgery, you have probably pondered the same question that a lot of pet owners have contemplated: “When will my pet poop again?” Or, “Why hasn’t my pet pooped after having surgery?” Understanding the normal changes that take place for a recent patient can help guide a pet owner to know which symptoms are normal, and which could be cause for concern.

Here, we will take a look at the bowel patterns of a pet who has received surgery as well as some natural and effective ways to stimulate a bowel movement and encourage normal body functioning.

How long does it usually take for a bowel movement?

After a procedure, a bowel movement can take anywhere from 3-5 days! Although that may seem like a long time for a furbaby that normally poops daily- this is actually a normal reaction to a surgical procedure. When a pet undergoes surgery, bowel motility is slowed down by the anesthetics and opioids that are used. These tend to have a constipating effect and can prolong the body’s normal bowel functions.

What can be done to help?

Food and Water. It is important to make sure that your pet continues to eat and drink once it is home. Normal water and food intake can contribute to proper bowel movements. The food itself provides the actual content that helps the stool to move through the body. Drinking allows for an increase in water content which leads to more fluid leaking into the stools. This causes them to become softer for a more comfortable bowel movement.

Canned Pumpkin. If there still hasn’t been a bowel movement by day 3, you can administer small amounts of canned pumpkin throughout the day. Pumpkin is high in fiber and can encourage water to enter the stool. This makes for bulkier and softer stool which encourages peristalsis (the movement of content through the intestines.) Aim for 1 teaspoon-2 tablespoons a couple times per day, dependent on the pet’s size.

When to be concerned.

If you notice that your pet still hasn’t had a bowel movement by day 5, or your pet is straining to defecate, has diarrhea or bloody stools- call our office or your primary care veterinarian for further recommendations.

Lack of appetite immediately following your pets procedure can be common. If they are not interested in their normal food right away, they may be enticed by canned pet food or bland human foods (for example rice with white un-seasoned cooked chicken meat without skin, etc). If your dog is not eating at all after 24 hours, please give us a call.

If your pet is vomiting, straining to defecate, or has blood in their stool, please call our office immediately for recommendations.

Questions can commonly arise in the hours and days following your pets discharge. You should receive a postoperative text message from our office usually the day after discharge to see if you have any questions or concerns for us. If you have immediate concerns during regular business hours call one of our office locations –

Gilbert(480) 635-1110 ext. 3

Peoria(623) 298-5354

Scottsdale(480) 339-2200 ext. 6

Tucson(520) 301-2387

If you have any after hours concerns call us at 1-855-274-4798 and follow the prompts to reach our on-call team.

If your pet experiences a medical emergency after hours, please call one of our emergency colleagues. We have a surgeon on call 24/7 and they can be called in to assist in after hour emergency care if needed –

Arizona Emergency and Critical Care Center Gilbert

86 West Juniper Ave, Gilbert, AZ 85233
P: (480) 497-0222

Arizona Emergency and Critical Care Center Peoria

7823 W. Golden Lane, Peoria, AZ. 85345
P: (602) 491-1928

BluePearl Emergency Pet Hospital Scottsdale

22595 N Scottsdale Rd Ste. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

P: (480) 949-8001

Southern Arizona Emergency Center

7474 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85710

P: (520) 888-3177

We do our best to help alleviate pain by administering several different types of multimodal analgesia for our patients through all stages of their surgery and through their overnight stay with us. This includes but is not limited to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, epidural anesthesia, nerve blocks, and a 72-hour local anesthetic that is administered directly into the tissue that helps with pain even after they go home. Our doctors will provide our clients with the necessary pain medication to ensure they are comfortable through their recovery process for at least one to two weeks after surgery. It is important to give this pain medication only as prescribed and not to give human medication to your pet without talking with a veterinarian. Although your pet should be comfortable on most pain medications, sometimes they still shown signs of discomfort.

Some physical signs that your pet may be experiencing pain include:

  • Panting
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Hiding
  • Not wanting to walk or showing decreased signs of activity
  • Trying to access surgical site by licking/chewing
  • Decrease in grooming
  • Your pet avoids laying on surgical site or moves positions frequently
  • Immediate flinching or tension when surgical site is gently touched

Some behavioral signs that your pet may show due to pain include:

  • Vocalization when your pet is usually non-vocal
  • If your pet is usually vocal and now they are more subdue
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced interaction
  • Abnormal posture

Please refer to your pet’s personal discharge instructions for further instructions to help with pain management. In most cases our doctors recommend applying a cold compress to the surgical site 3 times a day for 10 minutes for 2 days following your pet’s procedure. Then a warm compress should be applied 3 times a day for 10 minutes for 3 days. If your pet does not tolerate the cold/warm compresses, do not pursue this treatment.

Please call our office if you still think your pet is in pain for further recommendations.

It is extremely important to ensure your pet stays in a confined area. No running, jumping, or playing is allowed during the recommended restriction period. Your pet should be taken outside on a leash to urinate and defecate and brought immediately back inside. If your pet was discharged with an e-collar it is highly important to keep it on them until the sutures are removed or absorbed so no additional damage is made to the surgical site.

Keep an eye on your pet’s suture site. If you noticed any:

  • Unusual swelling
  • Discharge at the incision site
  • Any increase in lameness is noted after pet was starting to improve
  • Limping is noticed on any of the other legs
  • Or any other unusual signs of potential problems

Please contact us immediately for further help or instruction.

Yes, in most instances your pet will have sutures. The type of suture can be different for each patient. Please reference your pets personal discharge instructions for more detailed specifics on their sutures.

Your pet may have absorbable sutures which are underneath the skin, traditional skin sutures, or surgical staples.

If you’re pet has any kind of suture, follow these instructions:

  • Check the incision daily for any discharge or swelling
  • Keep your pet from chewing or licking the site
  • Limited activity should be ensured until the sutures are removed or completely dissolved
  • Keep the incision site dry – no baths or swimming
  • It is not recommended to clean the area with peroxide or any kind of topical ointment, or apply a bandage to the area without direct instruction from your veterinarian.

If your pet has traditional skin sutures or staples, you will need to schedule a follow-up appointment in 10-14 post surgery to have them removed. If your pet has absorbable sutures they should be completely dissolved in 10-14 days, we just ask you to send a picture of your pet’s incision site at that time to ensure proper healing is in place.

Yes, in most cases your pet will go home with an e-collar to protect their incision site. We highly recommend it stays on your pet the entire 10-14 day period until their suture removal appointment or absorbable sutures are completely dissolved. If they have trouble functioning with the traditional plastic cone, please call us and we can recommend alternative options that best fit your pets situation.

In some instances you may be able to remove the cone so your pet can eat or drink properly, but put it back on when finished. We do not recommend you leave your pet unattended or without supervision if their e-collar is off. It can take just a few second for your pet to damage their surgical site and this may result in additional corrective surgeries.

Charges for recheck examinations, bandage changes, and radiographs are not included in your pet’s initial surgical plan. Individual patients often require different amounts of follow-up care or vary in the frequency of necessary bandage changes. Some clients who live a great distance from our clinics may choose to have follow-up care preformed at their primary care veterinarian’s office. Charges for recommended follow-up procedures, therefore, are difficult to predict in advanced and are quoted as necessary for each individual patient through their post-operative recovery.