Your vet will give you specific advice relating to your dog's particular condition, check up dates and post-surgical medication, always follow their instructions and contact them if you are not sure about something or have any concerns. In general, dogs will be a little sleepy after an anaesthetic, however, they should be eating and comfortable with no sign of pain. Contact your vet if they are not back to normal after 12 hours or so or you have any other concerns. Make sure your dog's bed is placed in a warm, draught-free place where he or she won't be disturbed, especially if there are young children or other animals in the house.
Dogs, like humans, can feel nauseous after waking up from an anaesthetic. So after an operation, give your dog a small evening meal of something light, such as cooked chicken or fish. If that's not possible, then feed just a quarter of the food you would normally provide. Your vet may provide a specific type of food to be fed. Make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times.
Exercise instructions will depend on the type of surgery your dog has had. In general your dog must be kept on a lead and only allowed the minimum amount of exercise - ideally just a walk in the garden to go to the toilet - until a few days after the stitches have been removed. Jumping onto furniture and going up and down stairs should be discouraged. Following orthopaedic surgery further exercise restriction for a longer period may be required. Always follow your vet’s instructions.
Some wounds will have stitches, or staples, but some will be closed using internal sutures. Check your dog's wound daily and tell your vet about any redness, swelling, discharge or bleeding. Stitches/staples are usually removed after about 10 days, although this will vary according to the type of operation and the area where the stitches have been placed. Internal stitches are hidden under the skin and dissolve naturally on their own. Make sure your vet has told you which type your dog has and if they need to be removed.
It is very important that you keep bandages dry or they can cause further damage. When your dog goes outside, try taping a plastic bag over the bandage - a drip bag from the vet is an even better option, made of tough material to last longer, so ask for one of these. Remember to remove the bag as soon as the dog is back inside as it's dangerous to leave a plastic bag on your dog's foot for too long, as moisture can build up inside and cause rot. Look out for unpleasant odours, discolouration, swelling above or below the bandage, limping or pain and contact your vet if concerned. It is very important that you go back to the vet on the specified check-up date, or earlier if you are concerned about something, or the bandage comes lose or falls off.
Collars to prevent the dog from licking a wound are generally made of plastic in the shape of a funnel, known as Elizabethan or Buster collars. However, softer fabric collars are also now available and may be more comfortable for your dog, depending on the location of the wound. All collars are designed to help prevent dogs from licking, biting or scratching their wounds, or chewing a bandage. It's important that the collar is left on at all times, especially at night and whenever dogs are left alone. Your brave pet will soon get used to wearing the new 'accessory', but make sure it doesn't hinder eating or drinking or you will need to remove it at meal times. If your dog is very distressed by the collar, let your vet know as they may need to consider alternatives. Remember that an exuberant large dog with a plastic collar can cause some damage in the house and accidentally knock over small children.