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5 Ways on How to Keep a Dog Hydrated After Surgery

by Justin Girdler |

It’s normal for dogs recovering from surgery not to want to drink water, as they’re likely feeling uncomfortable. But not drinking water can lead to dehydration, which is incredibly dangerous for your pet if left untreated.

Dehydration happens when your pet loses too many electrolytes responsible for moving nutrients into cells, facilitating nerve and muscle function, and balancing the body’s pH levels. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, including panting, indigestion, and kidney failure.

Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Drink Water

You’re probably thinking, why is my dog not drinking water? This is normal behavior post-op since the anesthesia hasn’t entirely worn off, and there might be some noticeable side effects after surgery. 

Below are some of the reasons behind why your dog’s not drinking water:

Post-Surgery Anxiety

During recovery, your pet may feel lethargic due to the anesthesia and discomfort. The lack of activity may result in boredom, leading to depression and a lack of interest in eating or drinking water. Your vet may recommend anti-anxiety medication or sedatives to keep your pup calm as it heals.

Old Age

As they age, your dogs’ hunger and thirst receptors may begin to wear out, or it may get more challenging to travel to the different rooms in the home. 

Furthermore, older dogs aren’t as physically active anymore and likely don’t feel the need to rehydrate as often. Sleepy, lethargic dogs post-surgery will be less thirsty as they won’t get much exercise. 

Fear and Negative Experiences

Dogs learn things through classical conditioning or by associating behaviors with specific events. If your pup experiences discomfort while wearing a cone collar after surgery, they might be associating those negative feelings with the action of eating or drinking water.

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

Although pets can last until 72 hours (three days) without drinking water, they’ll already show signs of dehydration after 24 hours.

How To Tell if My Dog is Dehydrated?

It’s not easy to notice if your pet is dehydrated. However, there are steps you can follow to check if your dog is not drinking enough water.

  • Examine your dog’s gums by gently pressing them. The area should turn white and then immediately turn pink.
  • Hold your canine’s skin close to its shoulder blades, lift the skin, and release it gently.
  • Observe if the skin quickly returns to its position. If it takes longer, then your pup may be dehydrated.

How to Keep a Dog Hydrated After Surgery?

Typically, it takes 24 hours before canines return to their normal appetite after a surgical operation. But, it can extend up to several more days before they can fully recover their appetite. 

Forcing your dog to eat or drink won’t do any good as it may induce vomiting, and you should consult your vet for when and how to deal with this. However, keeping your dog hydrated is essential to prevent post-op complications.

Here are some tips on how to get a dog to drink water:

Make Sure Your Pup Has Easy Water Access

After surgery, vets recommend injured dogs wear an E-collar to prevent them from scratching or licking their wounds. However, this may also stop your pet from moving about easily or consuming liquids. 

One tip is to remove the cone for a while and put it back once your pet finishes drinking. Place the bowl in an easily accessible area to prevent your injured pup from getting strained.

Switch to Wet Food to Allow Some Water Intake

Avoid serving your dog dry food or kibbles post-surgery. Consider wet canned food instead, which is a source of moisture if it’s not drinking enough water. If you run out of wet food, you can mix kibble with liquid until you achieve a soup-like consistency.

Give Your Pet Ice to Snack On

Your injured dog can bring a sore throat from tubes inserted during a surgical procedure, which makes it uncomfortable for them to eat or drink. Try ice chips to help soothe the pain and see how your pet responds. 

If you want to add flavor, you can make ice cubes of chicken broth or ice with flakes of tuna or turkey instead of just plain water.

Offer Soup Broth or Juice From Canned Chicken or Tuna

Homemade broth with low sodium can encourage your dog to eat and drink water. This mixture provides health benefits and nutrients like collagen and gelatin that are good for the stomach, joints, and liver. 

You can gradually control the amount of broth and increase water once your pup shows signs of recovery and increased appetite.

Use a Syringe or Turkey Baster

If your pet still refuses to drink, your vet may recommend manually giving your dog the water it needs. If they do, ask them for guidance on how to do this best for your dog breed, and remember to always be gentle and don’t force it. 

Ensure Your Pup Stays Hydrated for Faster Recovery

Don’t let your dog get too parched by ensuring it gets enough water during its healing process. For more helpful insights on taking care of your pet after surgery, visit the Lick Sleeve blog today.

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