Can Dogs Eat Before Surgery?

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Written by: Celestine Gomez
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Almost all types of surgeries require an empty stomach. The reason is that anesthesia causes nausea, vomiting, and stomach upsets.

So, if your pooch is scheduled for a procedure, you might be wondering, ‘Can dogs eat before surgery?’

The short answer is: no, it’s better if they don’t eat anything for several hours before their surgery.

In this post, I’ll tell you how long your dog shouldn’t eat before the operation. I’ll also give you a few pointers to make sure your dog is healthy and happy.

Canines and Anesthesia

As I mentioned, for any surgery to be successful, the patient has to go in on an empty stomach. If your dog has food in its stomach during the procedure, it may lead to vomiting. While that’s bad in itself, it can cause another more severe problem: aspiration pneumonia.

This is when bits of vomit get inhaled into the lungs. If your dog is still under the effect of the anesthesia, it might not even sense it. As a result, your dog might get its airway blocked and suffocate.

Preparing Your Dog for Surgery

Sick puppy with intravenous drip

It’s natural to feel a bit anxious before your dog’s surgery. Yet, as long as you follow your vet’s guidelines, everything will work out just fine, and your pup will return to its normal, active self in no time!

Here are a few tips to help you and your furry friend get through this stressful time with ease:

No Food Before Surgery

Whether your dog is having a routine procedure or something more complex, it’s always better to go in on an empty stomach. That’s why your vet will advise you to withhold food from your dog beforehand.

It can be anywhere from 8 to 10 hours beforehand, depending on the type of procedure. It also depends on how long your dog will be under the effect of the anesthetic.

While food is completely prohibited before surgery, water is optional. Some vets allow it, while others don’t as an extra measure of precaution.

Dropping Your Dog Off

After dropping your dog off at the clinic or animal hospital where they’ll be undergoing surgery, your vet will administer pain medication to alleviate your pup’s discomfort. This is also to reduce any stress or anxiety your pet may be feeling and get them to feel more at ease.

The next step is to prepare your pooch for the procedure. Depending on where your dog needs to be operated on, the vet might shave off some of your dog’s fur.

In certain situations, they may do an x-ray, ultrasound, or perform other tests prior to starting the surgery. Then, finally, when the vet has everything prepped and ready, they’ll take your dog into the operating room.

Post-Op Care

Dog lying on operating table after surgery

Once the surgery is complete, your dog will be moved to the recovery ward to sleep off the effects of the anesthesia. They’ll be looked after by trained staff and medical personnel who will keep a close eye on your pup’s vitals as they start to wake up from their anesthesia.

Your dog may need extra pain relief during this time, which will be administered via an IV drip. They may also like to be held, cuddled, and reassured that everything will be okay.

When your dog is able to get up and about, the vet will want to check that their appetite and digestion are working fine. This ensures the anesthetics have completely left your dog’s system and all is well.

So, they may keep your dog until they’ve had something to eat and drink. They might also wait to see that their bowel movements are working as they should before you can finally take your pup home.

A Final Note

All surgeries can be a bit stressful, even for your dog. That’s why it’s nice that they can count on you to take care of them and provide them with the best possible care before and after their procedure.

Knowing the answers to important questions, like ‘can dogs eat before surgery?’ is one way you can do just that. Then, with patience and heaps of love and affection, your dog will be back to its normal self before you know it.

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Celestine Gomez

I'm Celestine Gomez, worked for 5 years in an animal shelter in Los Angeles, California. Having noticed the inherent passion and zeal in me to care for pets, I took a step further to create a team of I and like-minded individuals to provide an informative resource in order to broaden the knowledge base of a regular pet owners.