How Do I Prepare My Dog for Surgery

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

Home » Blog » How Do I Prepare My Dog for Surgery

Preparing your dog for surgery can be nerve-wracking. Even if it’s just a minor procedure, there are so many things to do, no wonder many people end up puzzled and confused asking themselves “How do I prepare my dog for surgery?” There are, however, some things that are more essential than others when it comes to preparing your dog for surgery.

How Do I Prepare My Dog for Surgery?

Your veterinarian will give you instructions to prepare your dog for surgery. To prepare your dog for surgery, make sure you listen and follow your veterinarian’s instructions and ask as many questions as needed to make the process easier for you and your dog. Take notes if you need to so you don’t forget the veterinarian’s instructions.

Person comforting and preparing a dog before his surgery

These are some of the things that your veterinarian will do in order to determine if your dog is healthy enough for surgery:

  • They’ll ask you about your dog’s current health and history.
  • They’ll discuss with you the risks that come with doing surgery to your dog. 
  • If your pet is carrying excess weight, your vet might suggest putting your dog on a diet before the surgery. This will help reduce the risks to your doing going through surgery.
  • Your dog will undergo a full check-up before the surgery.

You should also know that your vet will administer the use of certain drugs that alleviate the pain and stress of your dog during surgery. The Veterinarian may or may not have you give your dog medications in the morning, be sure to ask. 

Can I Feed My Dog Before Surgery?

You shouldn’t feed your dog after midnight before the surgery. It’s okay for your dog to drink water, though. However, you should generally stop giving your dog water a few hours before the procedure. Following their advice will reduce the risk to your dog from getting anesthesia

You can also ask your vet for instructions on when to stop giving your dog food and water. Puppies, Kittens & Small dogs may be a different case as they need to eat regularly. Make sure you ask your veterinarian if you’re not sure what to do. 

How Long Should a Dog Fast Before Surgery?

The night before the surgery, most pets should have fasted for at least 12 hours before going to admission for surgery or what your veterinarian instructed. 

Tranquilizers and anesthesia drugs decrease the swallowing reflex. If your groggy pet vomits from the drugs, it might increase the risk of aspirating or inhaling the vomit into the lungs. This may lead to a type of pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia that can be fatal to your dog.

Veterinarian giving an injection to a dog

What Can I Do the Morning of Surgery?

It’s best if you can take your dog as earlier as possible, depending on your veterinarian’s instructions. There are various reasons for this depending on your veterinarian and your dog’s condition. Your veterinarian may want the time to: 

  • Run a physical exam
  • Run blood work
  • Place an IV catheter
  • Administer IV fluids
  • Start specific medications
  • Take X-rays
  • Perform an EKG
  • Calculate anesthesia drug doses

Your veterinarian or attending nurse will also have to fill in several documents, regarding the physical exam, the anesthesia plan, and the needed care for your pet. This is also to monitor your dog and avoid they eat anything before the procedure.

What Happens After Surgery?

After the surgery, they’ll move your dog to recovery. They might even give your dog pain relief after they wake up from surgery. They’ll also monitor your dog as it wears off the anesthetic. 

Your veterinarian will usually give you a call after surgery to let you know how your dog is doing. They’ll also notify you when you can pick up your dog. 

How Long Do Dogs Take to Heal After Surgery?

It depends on the type of surgery your dog went through, their age, and overall health. Your veterinarian can give you an estimate of the recovery period. 

Minor surgeries like dental cleaning usually have a recovery period of a couple of days or a week. Serious surgeries like repairing your dog’s knees or hips can have a recovery period of six weeks or more. Your veterinarian may require you to check back after a period of time to monitor your dog’s condition. 

Dog sleeping and recovering after surgery

How Can I Help My Dog Recover from Surgery?

Dogs also need a lot of care after their surgery. It’s better not to leave them alone after surgery for a day or more, so you can monitor the rate of your dog’s recovery. There are some things you can do to help your dog recover from surgery:

  • Make them feel comfortable: your dog should have a comfortable place in order to recover from surgery. Before going into surgery, make sure your dog has a place to rest where it’s warm, quiet, and safe so your dog feels relaxed and able to rest and recover at home. 
  • Entice your dog’s appetite: your dog might ignore their food a few days after surgery. Do not panic as this is normal for some dogs. In order to make them eat, consider warming up the food to bring out its smell more and attract your dog. If your dog doesn’t eat at all for days, then you should consider asking your vet for advice.
  • Make sure you give medications and follow-up appointments: Your veterinarian will tell you if you need to give your dog some medications or painkillers. Make sure to list down when to give these and how many your dog will need to take. 

Eventually, your veterinarian will also ask you to come back to see if your dog is recovering well. It’s important that you go to this appointment to check if your dog is really healthy, even if they look okay to you.


If you follow all of your veterinarian’s advice your dog should be ready when it’s surgery time. It’s also important to care for your dog after surgery. This is the part where you are in control so you should provide your dog with proper care so they will recover and be back in good health.