How To Get Your Dog To Drink Water After Surgery? (9 Effective Rehydrating Tips)

How To Get Your Dog To Drink Water After Surgery?

Pet ownership can bring about a fair amount of stress and anxiety from time to time. You have to deal with sudden health hiccups and weird behaviors.

But the one thing that always gets me on edge is when my dog has to go for surgery. The longer the surgery procedure, the higher the anxiety.

One common side effect after surgery is for the dog to not eat or drink. This can affect your dog’s health if it drags on and needs to be resolved ASAP.

In this article, we will be looking at why your dog isn’t drinking water after its surgery and what you can do about it.

Why Is Water Important To Dogs?

Water is life which tells you the importance it has for all living things, dogs and humans included.

Water in the body helps with the following:

  • Helps to carry nutrients around the dog’s body
  • Aids with digestion
  • Joint lubrication
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Waste removal
  • Regulate body temperature

Almost every important bodily process in the body requires water.

Why Won’t My Dog Drink Water After Surgery?

Every dog reacts rather differently to post-surgery effects but the majority won’t be their usual selves for a couple of days at least.

When your dog undergoes surgery, before the procedure starts, the vet will put your dog under general anesthesia to block off the pain signals and knock your dog unconscious.

This allows the vet to carry out the operation carefully and safely on your while it is sedated.

Your dog will also be given pain relief medication during the procedure to help manage the pain and discomfort after everything is done.

Some of the side effects from the anesthetic agents and pain meds include:

  • Nausea
  • Grogginess
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Incoordination

Every time my dog comes back from surgery, the only thing that he wants to do is hide and sleep. He can go without food or water for almost a day as he sleeps off the anesthesia.

He also probably feels nauseated and funky which makes drinking water the last thing on his mind.

How Do I Encourage My Dog To Drink More Water?

dog drink water due to diarrhea

I think it is ok to let your dog sleep it off for the first 24 hours once it’s home from the vet. But your dog should start regaining its thirst over the next few days.

But if your dog refuses to drink any water, you need to find ways to increase the water intake to keep your dog hydrated.

Please do not give your dog beverages such as Vitamin water as these types of drinks can contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs.

Here are some methods that I have used which have worked for my dog.

1. Have A Few Water Bowls

The one thing that you want to do after your dog’s surgery is to give your dog easy access to fresh drinking water.

After I brought my dog back from his neutering procedure, I prepared a recovery room for him with all the essentials inside, including his water bowl.

I even placed another 2-3 more bowls around the house in case he gets thirsty and doesn’t have to walk far for a drink.

It might not seem like much but when you are in pain and feeling nauseous, every step matters.

2. Have The Water Bowl At The Correct Height

Depending on the nature of the surgery that your dog just went through, having its water bowl at an appropriate height can help.

If your dog just had surgery that makes it difficult for it to bend its neck or legs, raising the water bowl up considerably can make it more comfortable for your dog to drink water.

For smaller dogs, you can place the water bowl on top of a few books. But if you have a giant dog like the Great Dane, using a pail might be a better option.

3. Keep The Water Dish Clean

Assuming that your dog is fine with its drinking position, it is important to keep the water bowl clean on a regular basis.

If your dog’s water bowl resembles a toilet bowl of a public toilet, you really need to give it a good wash.

I prefer to use stainless steel bowls as opposed to plastic or ceramic bowls. They are easier to clean and do not scratch or break that easily.

Don’t leave the water unchanged for more than a day.

Make it a point to change out the water as animals prefer to drink fresh water to minimize the risk of contamination.

4. Use Ice Cubes

ice cubes

I kinda discovered this tip by accident one day when I was grabbing a couple of ice cubes from the freezer.

I dropped one on the floor and my dog was there in a jiffy to lick it up with gusto. I took a few more ice chips and dropped them in his water bowl and to my surprise, he loved the coolness of his water.

He’s also a very messy drinker and somehow manages to drip water all over the house after drinking.

In the wild, animals prefer to drink from moving water which tells them that it is from a fresh source as compared to a stagnant pool of water. Moving or flowing water also tends to be colder in temperature.

Giving your dog cold water to drink can help stimulate its thirst.

You can also use a pet water fountain to stimulate flowing water but that had a bigger effect on my cat than my dog.

But your mileage might vary.

5. Use Wet Food Instead

Your dog might not have the best of appetite as well after its surgery but getting your dog to eat is important especially if it has an underlying health condition.

If your dog is on dry food, it might be better to switch its diet to canned food for now as it is more palatable.

You can even try warming up the canned wet food just a tad to make it smell more appealing to your dog.

More importantly, canned food contains a lot more moisture than kibbles which are as dry as the dessert.

Hydrating your dog via its food is a good way to increase its water intake if it’s not drinking from the water bowl.

6. Soak In Broth

Besides upgrading your dog’s diet to wet food, you can take it up a notch by soaking your dog’s food in chicken broth.

Bone broth made from chicken, beef or fish is something that many dogs can’t say no to. Broths do have some health benefits and they do a good job of hydrating your dog.

Most pet stores sell pet-friendly bone broths but I find them rather pricey.

You can make broth easily at home by getting some bones or meat from your grocery store and simmering the contents in a pot of water for an hour.

It takes some time because you really want to extract all the flavor and goodness from the meat or bones.

Once the broth has cooled down, pour some into your dog’s food and serve.

You can choose to give your dog some of the meat as well but NEVER give cooked bones to your dog.

Cooked bones are very brittle and can easily splinter into many sharp pieces. These pieces can do a lot of damage to your dog’s mouth and internal organs.

If you want to give your dog bones, only give raw bones.

7. Add Flavor to Your Dog’s Water

I remembered when I had an operation to remove my appendix, drinking plain water was enough to make me puke.

I needed some flavor in my food and water in order to keep them down in my tummy.

Your dog could be feeling the same after the surgery due to the anesthesia and pain meds.

You can add try flavoring your dog’s water by adding something safe like rice milk or goat’s milk.

I prefer to use these two types of milk as they contain little to no lactose at all. Dogs are in fact lactose intolerant and giving them dairy products can trigger their bowels into hyper mode.

Here’s a little tip that I love to use.

If your dog isn’t a fan of milk, try adding some melted butter to your dog’s water bowl. My dog prefers the smell of butter to milk.

Maybe yours does too.

8. Drink From Your Hand

dog drink water from hand

Drinking directly from the hands of another human might be considered gross by us but not by your dog.

Your dog trusts you and loves you to bits. All it wants to do is to please you.

Even though drinking water might not be on your dog’s to-do list, seeing you offer water directly from your hands shows your dog how important it is.

You can also hold your dog’s water bowl and offer it to your dog if you prefer.

If your dog is receptive to being fed water this way, keep doing it and giving your dog lots of praise until it is well enough to drink on its own.

9. Syringe Your Dog

Syringing your dog is what I would consider a last resort if the above methods didn’t work well.

I have done it once or twice to really get my dog drinking water again or when it comes to feeding liquid medication.

When syringing your dog with water, squeeze the water slowly into the side of its mouth or cheek.

Do not squirt it directly into the back of your dog’s throat as that can cause water to enter the lungs. This can result in pulmonary edema which makes breathing difficult for the dog.

How Long Does It Take A Dog To Drink After Surgery?

Based on my experience, it should not take too long for your dog to start drinking or eating again after surgery.

One thing for sure is that your dog won’t drink the same amount as it used to for a day or two. But you should start to see your dog increasing its water intake as it gets better.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Water?

Most dogs can go without water for up to 72 hours. Beyond that severe dehydration can start to set it.

Dogs have been observed to go for weeks without food and still survive. But if a dog doesn’t drink, that can prove to be fatal.

Dehydration symptoms include:

  • Dry nose and gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Low skin elasticity

If your dog isn’t drinking after 3 days despite your best effort, you need to take your dog to the vet for them to administer an IV drop to your dog.

Why Is My Dog Drinking A Lot Of Water After Surgery?

This is quite the opposite of the current problem that you are facing with your dog but it can happen as well.

Your dog can be really thirsty after the surgery and drink copious amounts of water when it’s home.

I would caution against letting our dog drink too much at this time as its stomach might not be able to handle it and can end up regurgitating everything back out.

Fasting Before The Surgery

Most vets will ask you to fast your dog for 6-8 hours before the procedure. This means no food and water before it enters the operating room.

This is to prevent your dog from vomiting while it is under general anesthesia and get food and water into its lungs.

Your dog could be really thirsty from not being able to drink water for so long.


During the procedure, the vet will slowly insert an endotracheal tube down your dog’s throat to prevent the throat from closing and to deliver oxygen to the lungs.

This can give your dog a dry and sore throat which can make your dog cough after the surgery is over.

Your dog is drinking more to try and relieve the discomfort in its throat.

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