Many pet owners will agree that putting our dogs under general anesthesia is a necessary evil at times. It allows the vet to carry out a surgical procedure or an examination without the dog feeling pain or stress.
Imagine your dog having to go through a dental or neutering procedure without any form of anesthesia. I shudder at that thought.
As necessary and important as anesthetic drugs are, there will be times when your dog might be acting weird after anesthesia. Why is this so?
Anesthesia can make your dog behave weirdly after the surgical procedure due to the temporary side effects. It is common for the dog to be lethargic, restless, and not have much of an appetite for a day or two. But these side effects will get less severe as your dog purges the anesthetic drugs from its body.
In this article, we will be looking at the common weird behavior that your dog might exhibit after going through general anesthesia and what you can do to help your dog recover from anesthesia faster.
What Does Anesthesia Do To My Dog?
To those of us who have been under general anesthesia before, the only thing that we can remember is being in the operating room and being asked to breathe in something. Upon waking up, it feels like we have been asleep for a few minutes but it has been longer than that.
The word ‘Anesthesia’ means lacking in sensation which is a good thing if you need to go for a colonoscopy. There are two forms of anesthesia, general and local anesthesia.
When your dog is under general anesthesia, its muscles will be totally relaxed and it won’t feel any pain at all.
The anesthetic procedure would consist of the vet will administer the anesthetic drugs through an IV or inhaled gas. This will help put your dog in a deep sleep and breaks the nerve signals in your dog’s body.
Dogs under anesthesia will have their blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and breathing monitored to ensure that they are stable.
What Are The After Effects Of Anesthesia In Dogs?
If you have a dog that is going for a procedure that requires general anesthesia or has just come out of one, there are a couple of things that you can expect.
Many dogs will experience some sort of after-effects from the anesthetic agent and pain medication. I have yet to meet a dog that is back to 100% right after being anesthetized.
Here are a few weird behavioral changes that you will notice about your dog.
Lack Of Appetite
This is usually one of the biggest changes that I notice in both my dog and cat after picking coming home from the vet.
Despite having the appetite of two blue whales, my dog wouldn’t even be bothered to raise his head when he hears me shake his treat box.
Bring under general anesthesia will affect your dog’s appetite to some extent due to the nausea that it might feel.
My dog’s appetite will slowly start to return the next morning and continue to get better at each meal time.
The next big change that I will notice in my dog is the lack of energy to do much. Once he is back from the vet, he will just plop himself down on his bed and sleep for the rest of the day.
Your dog is still feeling tired and groggy from having anesthetic drugs in its body and just wants to sleep it off. Furthermore, the stress of having to go through surgery takes a toll on the dog’s body which is exhausting for your dog.
Unable To Walk Straight
Not being able to walk properly is something that your dog might do after the procedure. It will look like your dog is trying to walk on ice or had a drink too many.
Being heavily sedated will make your dog feel out of sorts for a while and this sensation will add to the confusion. It’s not like you can tell your dog understands that it will be ok in a few hours. Hence a state of panic and confusion will ensue in your dog’s mind.
Hiding And Being Anti-Social
If your dog has always been an extroverted cuddle bug, expect quite the opposite when your dog is home, at least for the first few days.
The current confused and sleepy state that your dog is in will make it fearful of its surroundings. And it is a natural reaction for animals to hide when they are not in the best state of mind and health.
On the flip side, your dog might be even more clingy and affectionate after going through general anesthesia. It will want to be near you 24/7 out of fear and it sees you as the pack leader that will keep it safe.
Whining And Crying
Dogs will whine and cry out of fear and confusion. So you can expect an increase in vocalization from your dog when it is home.
There are times when dogs can also vocalize when it is in pain and discomfort. The vet will usually give your dog some form of pain relief medication. But if you notice that your dog is randomly yelping, it could be due to the pain meds wearing off.
If your dog looks like it is in pain, give it another dose of its pain meds if it’s time for it.
Bowel Movement Is Out Of Wack
My dog had terrible diarrhea for the first 2 days when he got back from the clinic. Your mileage might vary but anesthetic drugs are known to mess up your dog’s gut.
Some dog owners told me that their dogs couldn’t poo for a good 3 days straight. This is understandable given that you need to fast your dog before the surgical procedure and from the lack of appetite.
I’m more concerned if my dog has bad diarrhea as compared to being constipated. Diarrhea will cause your dog to lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes which will make your dog feel even weaker than it already is.
You can try feeding your dog some fresh pumpkin or psyllium husk to try and firm up its poo and stop the diarrhea.
But if the diarrhea has been ongoing for more than 24 hours, you need to let the vet know. Another sign that the diarrhea is serious is when your dog is pooping out a lot of reddish mucous or clear liquid.
You will have to take your dog back to the vet to be treated with intravenous fluids to rehydrate the dog.
Peeing And Pooping In The House
As well-trained as your dog is when it comes to its toilet habits, it might not have the best bladder and bowel movement control as it is recovering from anesthesia.
Your dog is still feeling drowsy and the intravenous fluids given during the procedure can make your dog pee more than usual. You can put a diaper on your dog to prevent any mishaps at home or them your dog out for more frequent toilet breaks.
Don’t get angry and punish your dog if it accidentally does in the house. It isn’t something that your dog can control for now.
During the general anesthesia procedure, the vet will insert an endotracheal tube down into your dog’s windpipe.
This pipe is to help your dog breathe better while the surgery is in progress. Most vets are very careful and gentle when inserting the tube into your dog’s throat to prevent any injury. But it can still feel rather uncomfortable for the dog after the tube has been removed.
This can result in your dog having a dry cough after the surgery.
Smaller dogs with narrower windpipes or with collapsing trachea syndrome will experience more irritation to their windpipes.
Some dogs might tend to act out aggressively after coming around from general anesthesia. It is a natural reflex for animals to turn aggressive when they feel that their lives might be in danger.
A dog that is feeling, confused, sleepy and out of sorts will have its survival instinct in full gear. You might hear your dog growling and snapping at you when you try to get close.
If your dog is acting aggressively toward you or anyone at home, it would be best to isolate and let your dog calm down before trying to get close again.
How Long Will My Dog Be Weird After Anesthesia?
For most of our dogs, it can take about 48-72 hours for them to start returning back to their normal selves. But you should start to see improvements after 24 hours.
Other factors like your dog’s age, the type of anesthetic agent used, the amount of time your dog was under anesthesia can also affect the recovery time after the procedure.
The main thing that you want to see is your dog gradually improving over time. Otherwise, you need to inform your vet asap.
How To Help With My Dog Recover From Anesthesia?
Every time my dog or cat comes back from the vet after being under general anesthesia, there are a couple of things I will do to help them recover faster. These are some ways that you can employ to help your pet too.
Isolate Your Dog
Your dog won’t be in the best of shape and mood once it’s back. If you have a room in which you can keep your dog in for the next few days, that would be ideal. Otherwise, preparing a private area that is away from other pets and young kids is good too.
Isolating your dog enables it to get more rest and also prevents your dog from moving about too much which can worsen its condition.
Feed Bland Food For Now
I doubt your dog will have much of an appetite for the first one or two days. That is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.
My dog’s usual diet is raw meat but under such circumstances, I will feed him cooked meat together with some rice until his appetite returns.
The reason for this is that bland food is easier on his digestive system and his immune system might not be optimal for now so cooked food is ‘safer’.
Use A Cone
If your dog has a surgical incision site that it is capable of licking, you will need to put an e-collar or a cone on your dog.
Unlike humans, you can’t tell your dog to not lick its wounds since it is only going to make it worse. A wound that is always wet with your dog’s spit can get infected and won’t heal well.
By putting a cone on your dog, you can stop your dog from agitating the incision site. The thing is, not all dogs fare well with the cone on. Many will get stressed out and will try to get it off.
There are other alternatives that you can use besides the cone to see if your dog can tolerate it better.
Feed Your Dog Its Medication
It might seem obvious but many dog owners tend to forget or give up on the medication because of a difficult dog.
If the vet has prescribed antibiotics for your dog, you need to finish the entire course for it to be effective and to prevent any risk of infection to your dog.
The vet will most probably give your dog some pain meds to manage the discomfort but you don’t have to continue with this if your dog is no longer in pain.
Don’t Be A Drama Mama
Last but not least, it is important to keep calm and not go into full panic mode whenever your dog does something out of the ordinary.
Studies have shown that our dogs feed off our energy and if they see and sense your fearful energy, they will start to feel the same way too.
Is The Anesthetic Procedure Safe For Our Dogs?
I know of many pet owners that are rather uneasy whenever general anesthesia has to be administered to their pet.
I can definitely empathize with that because I do feel the same way.
The good news is that veterinary science has come a long way since the early days. Vets are more well-trained when it comes to anesthetizing pets and there are a wide number of anesthetic drugs to use given the current condition of each pet.
The bad news is that there are a small number of pets that suffer complications after being anesthetized despite all the precautions taken.
There is always a risk when such a procedure is done, even for humans.
To make things as safe as possible for your dog, make sure to let the vet of any existing health problems that it might have like kidney disease, diabetes, heart problem, etc.
This helps the vet to use the right drugs and be prepared for any issues that can happen.