What To Expect After Your Dog Has Had A General Anaesthetic

Most dogs will have to have a general anaesthetic at least once in their lives, generally for their spay or neuter surgery. If your dog has an accident or health condition, or if your vet is trying to get to the root of a problem of these types, your dog might also need to have a general anaesthetic for this too.

A general anaesthetic is one that renders the dog unconscious for the procedure, as opposed to a local anaesthetic, which simply numbs a certain localised area. General anaesthetics are required for most types of dog surgeries and sometimes, to keep a dog still for investigations, scans or tests, although a lighter sedation is generally used for these things rather than a full general anaesthetic.

To place a dog under anaesthesia, a specific combination of drugs are administered in the appropriate dosage for the dog in question, and inhalant gases are used too to keep the dog unconscious for the required duration. After surgery, another drug is generally given to reverse the effects of the anaesthesia and to bring the dog back to consciousness faster.

The right type and dosage of medications for general anaesthetics are calculated individually for each dog that needs them, to achieve just the right level of sedation for the required duration. When your dog is under general anaesthetic, they will be carefully monitored both during the procedure in question and afterwards until the dog is awake again, by qualified and experienced vets and veterinary nurses.

General anaesthetics for dogs are very safe, although there are risks with any anaesthetic that your vet will also bear in mind. However, as you might expect, being placed under a general anaesthetic is quite a big deal for any dog or person, and in the hours and even next couple of days after your dog has had the anaesthetic, it is a good idea to know what you should expect during their recovery.

In this article we will explain what to expect from your dog when you bring them home after a general anaesthetic, and how to tell if anything is wrong. Read on to learn more.

How sleepy will my dog be?

Your vet won’t allow your dog to go back home until they have woken up sufficiently after their general anaesthetic. This is to ensure that nothing is wrong and that the dog is on the right path to being ready to go home.

Most of the time, if your dog needs a general anaesthetic you will need to take them to the clinic first thing in the morning and will be called to collect them later on, and how tired they are when you do get them home will depend on both how long ago they were brought round from the anaesthetic and how the anaesthetic affected them.

This means that your dog might either be a bit sleepy but generally normal, or that they are quite dozy from the get-go, and will take a few more hours to wake up properly. Your dog will also tend to be a bit more sleepy than normal for the remainder of the day, probably the next day too, and maybe even a little longer.

Will my dog eat?

Your vet will guide you on what and how to feed your dog after an anaesthetic, and generally you will be encouraged to get your dog eating fairly quickly afterwards, depending on the reason for the anaesthetic and the issue it was used for.

Some dogs will be keen to eat as normal after an anaesthetic, although you should take care to moderate their food intake an encourage them to eat slowly, as their body will still be recovering during this time.

However, some dogs will take a while to find food appealing again, as anaesthetics can cause nausea, as well as slowing down your dog’s metabolism too. The cause for the anaesthesia itself may play a part here as well, and so it can be quite variable in terms of when dogs will want to eat after an anaesthetic.

Talk to your vet about what to offer your dog, when they should be eating normally again, and how to tell if something is wrong.

What will their behaviour be like?

Your dog will probably be quieter than normal following an anaesthetic, and they may sleep more deeply, sleep for longer, and be less keen on exercise.

Allow your dog to sleep when they want to (unless you are provided with different guidance from your vet) and reassure them that everything is normal and ok. Some dogs may be defensive or unpredictable in behaviour after an anaesthetic, but this is most likely to occur immediately after they wake up when they are still in the clinic, and it is unlikely that your vet will permit your dog to return home until their behaviour and state of alertness is appropriate to enable this.

Other considerations

If your dog is very sleepy after their anaesthetic, they might accidentally toilet in the house, and of course, the operation or underlying reason for their needing the anaesthetic in the first place also has a large part to play in what happens afterwards too.

Talk to your vet before you take your dog home to find out what is normal and what is not, and don’t be afraid to contact them afterwards if you think your dog is not recovering properly or if you suspect that something might be wrong.


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