7 Reasons Why Your Dog Not Eating After Surgery: Solutions

Surgeries are extremely hectic for dogs. You might see your dog not eating after surgery or barely being active during the post-surgery period. Hence, monitoring your dog’s activities might require a lot of veterinarian guidance and support.

The recovery phase requires dogs to consume a proper nutritional diet. It enables a boost in energy levels, fosters healthy muscle growth, increases immunity, and advances the wound-healing process in their bodies.

Reasons Why Your Dog Not Eating After Surgery

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However, the underlying issue often stems from a loss of appetite in dogs after surgery, which can be attributed to trauma or post-surgery pain. It obstructs recovery as the dogs do not get enough nutrition. Hence, this condition in dogs should be avoided at any cost.

Reasons why dogs may not eat after surgery

Post-surgery anorexia in dogs is inevitable at times, and this can happen due to various factors. Here are reasons why your dog might be suffering from post-surgery anorexia:

1. Pain and discomfort

Dogs suffer a significant level of pain and discomfort after surgeries. Their body and muscle system suffer from pain, sensitivity, and soreness following the stressful surgery. Dogs are likely to not have any sense of hunger due to the discomfort of the healing body. Thus, it can lead them to avoid food consumption altogether.

2. Anesthetics side effects

Dogs experience similar side effects to humans as the effects of anesthesia begin to wear off after surgery. These after-effects of anesthesia can result in dogs becoming more sensitive and fatigued due to the residual effects of unconsciousness post-surgery. This kind of dizziness can cause them to take longer naps. Hence, they might avoid eating in the meantime.

3. Nausea and digestive disturbances

One of the after-effects of anesthesia is nausea and digestive disturbances. It causes vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea in dogs, making them avoid food. Thus, even if the anesthetics wear off, it can trigger nausea in dogs for weeks, leading to the dog’s inappetence.

4. Stress and anxiety

Surgeries can deeply affect dogs’ sensitive minds, causing slower eating than usual. The change in their daily routine after surgeries can raise anxiety and stress in their mind. Moreover, dogs are hyperactive pets. Hence, the stress of having to go through temporary restrictions on food and daily activities can cause a lack of food intake following surgery in dogs.

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5. Change in the feeding routine

Post-surgery nutrition can be very different from the regular food you give to your dog. For example, veterinarians ask dog parents to replace packaged food with more homemade wet food. Additionally, meal timings might change according to veterinarians’ advice and prescription. Hence, that kind of change in the eating routine can cause dogs to reject the food.

6. Inflammation

Post-surgery period comes with body inflammation in dogs. Inflammation in dogs is the first response of the healing process after surgeries. This condition can cause abdominal pain, slow absorption of nutrients, and digestive issues. Hence, it can lead to slow surgical recovery and decreased appetite in dogs.

7. Medications

Post-surgery medications often include a lot of painkillers and antibiotics. Hence, dogs start to feel nausea and discomfort in eating food after consuming high doses of prescribed medication. Besides, these medicines often get absorbed in their gastrointestinal tract when consumed. Excess medication can also lead to diarrhea or stomach upset. This is also one of the reasons for reduced food consumption after surgery in dogs.

Dog Not Eating After Surgery

Normal Duration for Reduced Appetite

After the surgery, it usually takes one to two days for the anesthesia to wear off from the body. Since the after-effects of anesthesia are the main reason for loss of appetite, your dog will regain appetite after 24 to 48 hours.

However, if the condition still prolongs after 48 hours, it can impose danger to your dog’s health. This condition can lead to temporary dysfunction of the intestines, called postoperative ileus. In this case, it is best to contact your vet instead of treating this issue by yourself.

Besides, lack of food intake during this condition can also reduce hydration levels in dogs. It is very important that your dog is hydrated during this time to avoid any further health implications.

Risks and Complications of Prolonged Anorexia

Prolonged post-surgical anorexia is an abnormal health condition for dogs. It also has harmful side effects such as:

1. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance

Anorexia can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in dogs due to the lack of food intake. Lack of food intake also leads to a lack of fluids and nutrients in the body. This condition further leads to the disruption of sodium ions and potassium ions in the bloodstream.

2. Delayed healing and recovery

Without food or nutrition, dogs won’t be able to get through surgical recovery easily. Certain nutrients like iron and protein are very important after surgery. Amino acids in protein support muscle repair, and iron reduces the chance of infection. Hence, the lack of nutrition will delay recovery in dogs.

3. Impact on the immune system and wound healing

Lack of food for a prolonged duration leads to the decline of the immune system. Due to less intake of food, dogs prohibit their body from absorbing nutrients. This weakens the body’s immune response to wounds, cuts, etc. Hence, prolonged anorexia will slow down the repair system and recovery in dogs.

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Encouraging dogs to eat after surgery

Up until now, we have seen how important nutrition is for dogs during their post-operative stage. However, how to encourage eating in dogs after surgery? This is going to be a trial-and-error situation, depending on what tricks work best for your dog.

Firstly, you have to look for tips for feeding a dog recovering from surgery. For example, if your dog is eating dry food, you can microwave dog food with a bit of water. It helps to bring out the smell and make the food more appealing. You can also use new serving bowls just to ensure a bit of change in the setup.

Post-surgery period calls for a lot of physical and mental care. To ensure that, sit closely by your dogs and feed them small bits of their food while giving them some words of encouragement.  

Along with that, your dog requires different types of food during this phase. Baby food and protein diets work best on dogs after surgeries as they are easy to chew and digest. Also, ensure that your dog is eating liquid diets, wet food, and moisturized dry food, as they are easily digestible food textures.

To make this more interesting, you can use toys to encourage your dog to eat. Food puzzle toys, interactive treat dispensers, snuffle mats, etc., are great mental stimulants that can trigger your dog’s appetite.

Why Your Dog Not Eating After Surgery

Food and Nutrition for Post-operative Dogs

Emphasizing the significance of nutrition during the postoperative care of dogs is crucial. Especially as a dog parent, you will have a hard time choosing the right food and hope it does not have a side effect on your dog. So, choosing diets should be strictly under the guidance of your veterinarian. This is a safer call than trying to figure it out by yourself.

Moreover, the postoperative inappetence in dogs leads them to avoid their regular diets. Usually, a diet for a healthy dog has a lot of chewable food like bones, raw meat, etc. During the post-operative stage, these items can be very difficult to chew and digest. In this case, you should go for more liquid foods or try to break down the dry items and stir them with warm water.

Additionally, nutritional supplements like lactoferrin, calcium pills, probiotics, etc., are important for post-surgical inappetence in dogs. Other supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, support joint health. Iron tablets and fish oil capsules promote anti-inflammatory properties and prevent anemia.

Having said that, these nutritional supplements can vary in dogs depending on their specific medical conditions.

Home Remedies and Natural Appetite Stimulants

Since the post-surgical period is a crucial recovery stage, you shouldn’t allow processed food. Try to include a good amount of home-cooked meals for your dog. This way, you have enough control over what ingredients are entering your dog’s stomach.

Additionally, bone broth is an amazing ingredient that is both hydrating and packed with protein and minerals. The aroma of bone broth is a great appetite stimulant that encourages post-operative dogs to eat. Apart from bone broth, ground turkey served with rice, cooked chicken paste, and potatoes can also be a good source of protein and carbohydrates.

You can also look up herbal remedies that will lessen the chances of complications of poor food intake in dogs during recovery. The addition of simple herbs like garlic and ginger in food can make meals more appealing for dogs. Additionally, dried herbs like peppermint and dill also improve the sense of taste in dogs.

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When to Seek Veterinary Assistance?

Monitoring your dog’s activities during the post-surgical recovery is crucial. It helps spot the signs of concern when a dog isn’t eating after surgery. The visible signs of concern during prolonged post-surgical anorexia are muscle weakness, constant diarrhea, and inability to eat. So, if you witness any of these symptoms post-surgery, consult a vet immediately.

Even if your dog is going through a healthy recovery, it is important to make time for regular checkups at the vet’s clinic. They’ll keep you informed if there’s any health issue that would have been otherwise neglected.

In case of prolonged anorexia, veterinarians can provide fast treatment and medications for your dog. They can also inform you of the exact reason for the inappetence. Whether be it the side effects of anesthetics, medicines, or just stress, you will know why your dog is not consuming food for the time being.


As mentioned earlier, it is extremely vital to monitor your dog’s food intake during the postoperative period. As surgeries can be draining, it is your responsibility to track your dog’s nutrition intake and look after its chronic needs.

This is even more important because, without proper nutrition and medical assistance, your dog will lag behind in the recovery stage. In case of any signs of prolonged anorexia, post-surgical diets, or just tracking recovery, ensure to consult with your veterinarian immediately or as advised.

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FAQs: Dog Not Eating After Surgery

1. How long is it normal for a dog not to eat after surgery?

A: The timeline between 24 to 48 hours after surgery is a common duration for dogs to feel a loss of appetite. This is mostly due to the dizziness and discomfort felt due to the dose of anesthesia.

2. Should I be concerned if my dog is not eating after surgery?

A: You don’t have to be concerned if your dog is unable to eat within the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery. However, if the inappetence prolongs that duration, you should seek veterinarian assistance immediately.

3. What to feed my dog after surgery if they’re not eating?

A: Once the anesthesia has worn off, you can indulge them in eating liquid or moisturized dry foods. Baby foods and a protein-based diet can be highly beneficial. You can go for boiled eggs, shredded chicken without bones, or boiled turkey to increase appetite in dogs.

4. Are there any home remedies to stimulate my dog’s appetite post-surgery?

A: Yes, you can cook homemade recipes with bone broth to stimulate your dog’s appetite post-surgery. The addition of herbs like peppermints, dill, ginger, and garlic can bring out a strong essence and flavor. Hence, dogs can smell the food better and eat it with ease.

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