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Caring for Your Dog After Surgery

Caring for Your Dog After Surgery | Kate Basedow Deep Dive


Waking up from the anesthesia isn’t the end of surgery recovery. Learn how to care for your dog as she heals over the next two weeks.

Episode Notes

Your dog made it through surgery without any issues… now what? Veterinary technician Kate Basedow has the answers.

In this episode we cover:

  • What to expect the night after your dog’s surgery
  • Tips to get your dog to eat
  • What the incision and surrounding area will look like as it heals
  • Restricted activity
  • When to be concerned

The next 10-21 days will be annoying at points as you walk your dog on a leash and make sure she is wearing her cone, but it is important to stay the course so that your dog can heal up properly. We promise it will be worth it!

Also stay tuned for a bonus tip for senior dogs who have trouble seeing in the dark.

Links & Resources Mentioned in Today’s Show:

Metal Exercise Pen for Large Dogs

Fabric Exercise Pen for Small Dogs

Sling Carrier for Small Dogs

*As an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases.

Related Links:

Getting Your Dog Ready for Surgery

Day of Dog Surgery: Timeline and What to Expect

How to Take Care of Your Dog After Surgery

About Today’s Guest, Kate Basedow, LVT:

Kate Basedow grew up training and showing dogs, and her passion for canines has affected all parts of her life. She earned a BA in English from Cornell University and an AAS in Veterinary Science from SUNY Delhi, and is a licensed veterinary technician in the state of New York. Her writing on dog-related topics has earned numerous awards from the Dog Writers’ Association of America and the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers. Kate currently serves and adores two Belgian Tervuren and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

Other Links:

Dog Cancer Answers is a Maui Media production in association with Dog Podcast Network

This episode is sponsored by the best-selling animal health book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Dr. Demian Dressler and Dr. Susan Ettinger. Available everywhere fine books are sold.

Have a guest you think would be great for our show? Contact our producers at

Have an inspiring True Tail about your own dog’s cancer journey you think would help other dog lovers? Share your true tail with our producers.

If you would like to ask a dog cancer related question for one of our expert veterinarians to answer on a future Q&A episode, call our Listener Line at 808-868-3200

Dog Cancer News is a free weekly newsletter that contains useful information designed to help your dog with cancer. To sign up, please visit:

To join the private Facebook group for readers of Dr. Dressler’s book “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide,” go to


[00:00:00] >> Kate Basedow: The restricted activity is the big thing. A lot of time clients will say like, oh, I just let him out to pee in the morning. He never does anything. All it takes is one squirrel. Just don’t take the risk because as annoying as it is to keep them quiet and to leash walk them when you’re used to letting them run loose in the yard on their own, it’s way more annoying to have to bring them back in and pay for a second surgery to repair the first one.

[00:00:29] >> Announcer: Welcome to Dog CancerAnswers, where we help you help your dog with cancer. Here’s your host, James Jacobson.

[00:00:37] >> James Jacobson: Hello friend. And thank you for joining us today. Today, we are going to take a deep dive into how to ensure the best outcome for your dog’s cancer surgery after your dog had surgery, post-op surgery tips. And joining us is Kate Basedow, who is our associate producer and also a licensed veterinary technician. Hello, Kate.

[00:01:02] >> Kate Basedow: Hello. I’m happy to be here.

[00:01:04] >> James Jacobson: So this is part of this three-part series we did before surgery, the day of surgery, and now this is after surgery. What are some of the tips that you’d recommend people follow to make sure that the surgery that you just went through is going to have the best outcome now that it’s over?

[00:01:25] >> Kate Basedow: So the post-op care is usually the hardest part for most owners. We’re all so worried about the surgery itself and the anesthesia that all of our planning and thoughts about it stop at the day of the surgery. And so then you’re handed back your dog and suddenly it’s like, oh gosh, what now? So expect that your dog is gonna be groggy and tired when they’re handed back to you after surgery. They – even though it’s been a couple hours since they were first, since they were woken up after the procedure, they’re still working some of those drugs out of their system and it may take a couple of days to be completely back to normal, especially if your dog is older or has a lot of health problems that are, that compromise their system.

Um, some pain medications can also cause grogginess, especially if your dog is getting a narcotic. So usually the veterinary staff will give you a heads up on any side effects there. Gabapentin is also one that can have some varying responses. Some dogs are flat out on gabapentin and totally out of it.

Others don’t care at all. One of my mom’s dogs had gabapentin at one point and him, you would’ve thought he was dying. He was totally out of it. When we discontinued the gabapentin, he perked right back up. My dog was on gabapentin after a surgery and she was bright eyed and bushy tailed, no problems. So if your dog is one of the ones that has the sedation effect from gabapentin, usually they’ll work through it in a couple of days, but that’s just something to keep in mind.

[00:03:07] >> James Jacobson: And this is stuff like, that is impossible to really know ahead of time, right? I mean, this is not gonna show up in the blood work.

[00:03:14] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah, exactly.

[00:03:15] >> James Jacobson: It was like in the DNA in terms of, yeah. It’s just how, how your dog specifically handles different proteins and enzymes and stuff from, way over my head, uh, related to, uh, the ingredients in the anesthesia.

[00:03:30] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah, exactly.

[00:03:31] >> James Jacobson: What other tips you got for us, Kate?

[00:03:34] >> Kate Basedow: So also expect that your dog may not pee or poop for a day or two. Usually they’ll urinate pretty quickly the night after the surgery, definitely the next morning. Pooping might take a couple days. Anesthesia kind of makes them a little constipated and depending on where the surgery was done and where the incision is, they might not, your dog might not be totally confident about positioning herself to defecate. So it might be a couple days. Don’t panic, this is normal. If they haven’t pooped by day four or five after surgery, then I would call my veterinarian and address it.

[00:04:09] >> James Jacobson: That is such a good tip because I, again, learned the hard way, hard way, that yeah, it was like, you were, oh my God, she’s not pooping, this must be like, oh my God, they screwed up. So if you know what to go in expecting that maybe your dog will be a little constipated, uh, you’ll feel a lot better. So if you dog hasn’t pooped in four days, five days, is that what you’re saying? That’s when you contact your vet.

[00:04:36] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah. Four or five days I’d be least bringing it up to the veterinarian.

And also remember that your dog missed a meal and didn’t have breakfast the day of the surgery, so there’s less in there. And usually they’ll recommend just feeding a small meal the night after the surgery, just so that you’re not hitting their GI tract with a ton of food.

[00:04:58] >> James Jacobson: Well, let’s talk about food because I have experienced that my dog after surgery, dogs, after surgery, were not all that interested in eating.

[00:05:07] >> Kate Basedow: Uh huh. And that’s pretty common, especially the night of the surgery right after. They still don’t totally feel great, and they’re like, what do you mean? I don’t want to eat. Um, so I wouldn’t be too alarmed if they don’t want wanna eat that same day, the next morning, they should be back to eating. If they’re still kind of like, eh, I don’t know, you can try a couple different things to entice them to eat. Um, add a little warm water to the kibble if you feed dry food to both soften it and the warm water will help bring out the natural aromas in the food and the increased smell will encourage them to eat. You can also add a little bit of canned dog food in or low sodium chicken broth. Um, if your dog eats canned food warm it up a little bit in the microwave, just don’t use a metal bowl and make sure that it’s not too hot before giving it to your dog – test it with your finger before giving it to them.

[00:06:04] >> James Jacobson: And I imagine if you’re not into the, uh, if you do home cook for your dog, maybe try to find them more delicious tasting things that are within his dog cancer diet, uh…

[00:06:17] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah exactly.

[00:06:17] >> James Jacobson: …to tempt your dog back because your dog has just been through a heck of a journey. And so yeah, not wanting to eat is understandable. So I guess don’t overdo it. This isn’t when you go to get the hot dogs and the cheeseburgers out, but you may need to coax your dog and if your dog still continues to not eat, what do you do?

[00:06:39] >> Kate Basedow: If they’re still not eating by 36 hours after the surgery, I would definitely call and check in with my vet and they’ll probably ask you other questions about how your dog is doing, how their activity level is. They may end up prescribing an appetite stimulant to try to encourage your dog to eat, or they might just say to give it another day, depending on your dog’s unique case.

[00:07:03] >> James Jacobson: Well, I will tell you those appetite stimulants – you used the word Entyce, that’s one of the brands – are awfully very or awfully, awfully effective. Like if you’ve just, are totally at wit’s end, I think your vet uh, has something for you, but hopefully your dog won’t be like my dogs. What other tips do you have?

[00:07:21] >> Kate Basedow: Um, so expect that the incision may ooze a little bit. Um, clear and thin or bloody discharge isn’t anything to worry about. If there’s a lot of discharge or it ever starts to look thick in consistency like pus, that’s a concern and a potential sign of infection, or if it’s bleeding a lot. Um, if you have concerns about your dog’s incision or if it’s still really oozy after four to five days, you can always take a picture and send it to your veterinarian’s, either to their email or a lot of hospitals now have an office cell phone that you can send pictures to, so that a staff member can look at it and either say, yep, that looks totally fine, or, eh that looks a little funky, maybe bring them in, come in at such and such time and we’ll check it out more closely.

[00:08:12] >> James Jacobson: Hmm. Great. What else?

[00:08:14] >> Kate Basedow: Other things that can happen with the incision, there is often bruising, especially on light colored dogs. Um, so, and bruising, just like us, the bruise isn’t going to show up immediately, but it’ll show up a couple days after the surgery.

So don’t panic if you suddenly see purple-ish bruising, that’s normal, it just means your dog has delicate skin. Um, you can ice the area, if your dog will let you, to help get any inflammation down and help with pain control. Many dogs don’t like that.

[00:08:48] >> James Jacobson: And how do you recommend icing? What do you use?

[00:08:51] >> Kate Basedow: Um, I like good old either frozen peas or a flexible ice pack.

[00:08:57] >> James Jacobson: And again, the frozen peas stay in the bag.

[00:08:59] >> Kate Basedow: Yes, yes. And wrap it in a thin towel so that the, because a lot of times ice packs have that little bit of moisture on the outside, and then that can freeze. And you don’t want that to freeze to your dog’s skin. So wrapping it in a paper towel or a thin hand towel is a good way to go to help with that.

[00:09:19] >> James Jacobson: That’s awesome. What other thoughts do you have on how to ensure success after surgery?

[00:09:26] >> Kate Basedow: So the biggest thing is restricted activity. Your veterinarian is-

[00:09:31] >> James Jacobson: And the most difficult.

[00:09:32] >> Kate Basedow: -yup. Especially with young or active dogs. Um, incisions take time to heal. Usually, the range for suture removal is usually 10 to 21 days. 10 to 14 is pretty much the standard healing time for most incisions, but if the incision’s in an area where it’s under a lot of pressure, like over a joint or on top of the body, it’ll, they might go for the full 21 days, or if it’s in an area with really fragile skin and the surgeon wants to be absolutely sure that that incision is totally sealed up before removing the sutures or staples.

And so restricted activity means restricted activity. Short leash walks, under control, only. No running. No jumping. No going out loose in the yard. No, oh, she always just goes to the bottom of the stairs and pees and then comes back. Nuh-uh. On the leash all the time when outside. No going up and down the stairs willy-nilly in the house. No rough play with the other dogs. It can be annoying, especially if your dog normally is very active, and usually within three or four days after the surgery, they’re feeling pretty good and they want to do their normal things, but that incision is delicate and trying to heal.

And, it’s just like when you try to glue something. If you put glue and try to glue something together and start wiggling it immediately, the glue’s not gonna bond. But if you leave it there and let it sit, then you’ll get a good seal and the item will be fixed. So your dog’s incision is trying to glue itself together and heal the skin back up.

So if your dog is constantly running around and jumping, that skin’s never gonna have a chance to heal and seal over.

[00:11:17] >> James Jacobson: So what sort of successful things have you found to, to confine a dog? Like playpens, locking them in the room with you, you know, what, what measures should one go to?

[00:11:30] >> Kate Basedow: I’m a big fan of exercise pens or X pens. You can get them at pretty much any pet supply store, or I think Tractor Supply even has them now, or absolutely you can order them online. Um, and that’s a nice way to have a flexible, portable, but sturdy pen that you can move to wherever you need it to be that your dog can be in. Because you usually don’t want them jumping on and off furniture either.

So you’re gonna want your dog contained. Um, for larger dogs, you can also just shut them in one or two rooms of the house and use baby gates to limit where they can go. For small dogs, a large crate works well. And when in doubt, just go for the crate. Um, it’s not the most comfortable for a lot of dogs unless you have a big crate, and it can be a little difficult to maneuver the cone, you might need to help them, but sometimes that’s just what you need to do for the short term to help keep your dog calm. If your dog is really crazy, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe a sedative to help take the edge off for the initial healing period. Most dogs don’t usually need that, but you never know.

And it’s a nice thing to have as a backup if you’ve got kind of a crazy, wild dog.

[00:12:46] >> James Jacobson: And if you have small dogs, uh, again, uh, we’ve, we’ve had success with playpens, just go in, and you can often find them really cheap because people, when they’re done with their play pen, they’re done with their playpen.

[00:12:57] >> Kate Basedow: Oh yeah. And for the tiny dogs, you can even use like the fabric, easily collapsible play pens that are light, and cheap, and easy to move around. And they’re usually in cute colors too. I’m jealous.

[00:13:09] >> James Jacobson: And carrying the dog around, uh, is something that my wife has had to do more than once, where you know, with these carriers and, actually is really good for again, we have Maltese, so, uh, the little dog is kind of like, oh, this is great, I’m next to mom or dad, uh, for a long time. And you can sit there and work and the dog’s right there, and, uh, it’s not the worst thing, and they feel close to you. Uh, but that’s not gonna work with uh, a Great Dane.

[00:13:35] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah, for – my one 50-pound dog would love to do that, but it would be a little hard on me to carry her around.

[00:13:42] >> James Jacobson: It’s good exercise.

[00:13:44] >> Kate Basedow: But you can also just use a leash if you don’t want to get an exercise pen or aren’t sure where you’re going to set it up, or if your dog is kind of weird about confinement. Just keep them on a six foot leash and have them hang out where you are. Keep a dog, dog bed by your desk, or by your chair when you’re watching TV, so that they can lay next to you and hang out, but you still have that control so they aren’t going to tear off when the doorbell rings.

[00:14:09] >> James Jacobson: Kate, this is such awesome material. Uh, I’m going to stop you right here because we got to take a break, pay some bills, but we will be right back with more.

Today’s show is sponsored by the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, the best-selling book that helps you help your dog with cancer.

Join the companion private support group at and get the email newsletter at

Now, I know that a lot of our listeners have dogs that sleep in their beds with them. Any advice on how to confine the dog at night, uh, from moving all over? What, when he’s either sleeping in bed with you or or not?

[00:14:54] >> Kate Basedow: What I did for my dog who’s always sleeps in bed with me is I barricaded the bed. I used one of those tall metal exercise pens to basically turn my bed into a giant, comfy crate so that once she was on the bed with me for the night, she couldn’t leave again.

[00:15:13] >> James Jacobson: We dog lovers will do that, right? We’ll just redo our whole bedroom to like, make sure that you have, if you have to get out in the middle of the night, you have to crawl over it, but the dog is not going out. It’s just what we do.

[00:15:24] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah. If your dog is trained to use a ramp, you can also set up a ramp for them to get on and off the bed, and just have them shut in the bedroom. That, again, to teach it usually, to get the dog consistently using the ramp, I barricaded my bed for that too. Um, another tip with old dogs with the ramp, sometimes they, their night vision isn’t that great, which was the case with my senior dog. So I put glow in the dark tape to line the ramp so that she knew where the outlines of the ramp were. And it worked amazingly.

She – ’cause she had been waking me up every time she wanted to go up or down the ramp in the middle of the night. And I was like, this is really not working.

[00:16:07] >> James Jacobson: Now that is a tip you’re not gonna find anywhere else other than right here at Dog Cancer Answers.

[00:16:13] >> Kate Basedow: Yup it was, I thought it was genius when I came up with that.

[00:16:15] >> James Jacobson: It is. That’s brilliant Kate.

[00:16:17] >> Kate Basedow: And it worked great. And it’s, the glow is bright enough that the dog can see it, but not so bright that it kept me awake.

[00:16:24] >> James Jacobson: That’s awesome. Anything else? We’ve gone from like the very logical to like, huh, glow in the dark tape.

[00:16:32] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah. The restricted activity is the big thing. A lot of time clients will say like, oh, I just let him out to pee in the morning.

He never does anything. All it takes is one squirrel. Just don’t take the risk because as annoying as it is to keep them quiet and to leash walk them when you’re used to letting them run loose in the yard on their own, it’s way more annoying to have to bring them back in and pay for a second surgery to repair the first one.

[00:17:02] >> James Jacobson: The dog’s not happy. The vet’s not happy. Maybe the vet’s account is happy. Uh, but it’s a pain for everyone.

[00:17:08] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah. We don’t, the vet, trust me, your vet doesn’t like it either. Because they have to work you in as an, a semi-emergency procedure and no one likes having to redo something they’ve already done.

They would much rather have a routine recovery and then just show up on time for your suture removal appointment and done and done. So on, a little more on the incisions. If the incision ever opens up, definitely that’s a concern. Some other things that can go wrong with the incision is that it can sometimes, if the dog’s a little too active, can develop what’s called a seroma, which is a swelling, it’s a pocket of fluid. It’s not usually infected, it’s just normal fluid that happens to pool in open spaces under the tissue where the surgery happened. Um, like I said, usually seromas happen when the dog’s been too active. So in order to, once you’ve had your vet check it out and they’re like, yep, this is just a seroma, it doesn’t look like an infection, they will likely tell you to alternate warm and cold packs on it. Five minutes of warm, five minutes of cold, a couple of times a day to encourage that fluid to get back into the circulation and get out of that pocket. Um, signs of infection are red, really red, irritated skin, skin that feels warm to the touch.

Um, also any oozing or odor, or if the skin starts to look kind of black and necrotic, that’s a sign of concern. Sometimes if a dog has an infection in the incision, they’ll also act kind of lethargic and like they don’t feel good even after that normal period right after the surgery where they’re not bright. So that would be a cause for concern too.

[00:18:55] >> James Jacobson: Awesome. Any other tips Kate?

[00:18:58] >> Kate Basedow: Other things to watch for after surgery is vomiting or persistent diarrhea. Sometimes once they do finally do that first poop after their surgery they’ll have loose stool for a couple days, either due to the anesthesia or if they’re not tolerating their medicate, their pain medications well. Um, your veterinarian may give you instructions and say, if your dog has diarrhea, discontinue one of the pain medications, or something like that. If you ever have any concerns, just call, give your vet a call and they can talk you through what to do or not do. And then once you’re through that initial healing period, don’t skip your sutural removal appointment.

It’s important to get those out.

[00:19:41] >> James Jacobson: Get those out. Don’t let them, assume that they’re gonna naturally, uh, disappear.

[00:19:45] >> Kate Basedow: Yup. Some surgeons do-

[00:19:46] >> James Jacobson: Cause they, they do, some of the suture material does, but it actually is helpful to make sure everything is out.

[00:19:51] >> Kate Basedow: Yeah, there are absorbable sutures, and some surgeons will close the incision in such a way that all of the suture material is under the skin, and then they might put tissue glue over the top.

So those dogs would not need to come back for a suture removal appointment. Usually if a dog has cancer and is having a tumor removed, they’re gonna do a higher powered suture material that will require removal. And definitely if the dog has staples, those will need to be removed in the hospital.

Most vet clinics do the suture removal appointment either for free or it’s a nominal fee, just a quick visit with a technician. Sometimes they might build it into a recheck with the veterinarian depending on your dog’s condition and anything that they want to check up on, in follow-up after the surgery.

Um, so if you’re unsure how that suture removal appointment is going to look, definitely ask your veterinarian ahead of time. Most dogs don’t need any sedation or anything for the suture removal. It doesn’t really hurt. It feels a little, I’m sure it feels strange having the sutures pulled out, but it’s usually quick and easy and then you can go on about your day and lives.

[00:21:07] >> James Jacobson: And then your dog is, is back to its normal activity at that point.

[00:21:11] >> Kate Basedow: Yup. Usually. Sometimes if the surgery involved a leg, there might be some additional rules about easing back into regular activity. But for the most part, once the sutures are out, it’s game on. Have fun, do what you want.

[00:21:26] >> James Jacobson: Well, Kate, this is wonderful. I appreciate your, uh, all these tips from uh, glow in the dark tape to, uh, what to look for in your dog’s poop, uh, to everything. Thank you so much for joining us on Dog Cancer Answers.

[00:21:41] >> Kate Basedow: Thank you.

[00:21:43] >> James Jacobson: And thank you for joining us on Dog Cancer Answers. This is part three of our series.

If you missed any other, uh, episodes in the series, please check them out. They’re available wherever you are listening to or watching this. We have an entire community of dog lovers who are going through dog cancer in our Facebook support group, and I want to encourage you to join us and them, as we all go through this together. You can find the Facebook group by just typing into your browser,

And that will redirect straight into that Facebook group, or you can do a search on Facebook. I would also want to encourage you to get our newsletter, if you don’t already have it. It’s called Dog Cancer News, it’s really helpful, and it comes out three times a week and you can get a free subscription if you go to and put in your email address.

And of course you can cancel at any time. Thank you so much for joining us. If this is a show that has been helpful, I hope you will spread the word about Dog Cancer Answers and about Dog Podcast Network in general, because it really helps when dog lovers share our content with other dog lovers who will benefit from it.

Thanks again for watching or listening. I’m James Jacobson and on behalf of all of us here at Dog Podcast Network, I wish you and your dog, a very warm Aloha.

[00:23:11] >> Announcer: Thank you for listening to Dog Cancer Answers. If you’d like to connect, please visit our website at or call our Listener Line at (808) 868-3200. And here’s a friendly reminder that you probably already know: this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only.

It’s not meant to take the place of the advice you receive from your dog’s veterinarian. Only veterinarians who examine your dog can give you veterinary advice or diagnose your dog’s medical condition. Your reliance on the information you hear on this podcast is solely at your own risk. If your dog has a specific health problem, contact your veterinarian.

Also please keep in mind that veterinary information can change rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date. Dog Cancer Answers is a presentation of Maui Media in association with Dog Podcast Network.

James Standing in Office

James Jacobson

Host, Podcast Veteran

Maui, Hawaii, USA

James is one of the hosts on Dog Cancer Answers and founder of the Dog Podcast Network, a series of shows dedicated to all things dog.