Why Is My Dog Not Drinking Water After Surgery? (8 Hydration Tips!)

dog not drinking water after surgery

Recovering from surgery can be a challenging time for your dog. A common issue many pet owners face is their dog’s reluctance to drink water post-operation.

After surgery, your dog may hesitate to drink water due to pain, discomfort, and the effects of anesthesia.

Creating a calm environment, adjusting the water bowl’s height and using enticing methods like adding ice cubes or offering wet food can significantly encourage hydration.

Remember, keeping your dog hydrated is crucial for a speedy recovery.

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.

Understanding The Causes

1. Pain And Discomfort

A dog experiencing pain may find it difficult to move towards its water bowl.

After surgery, it’s common for your dogs to experience varying degrees of pain and discomfort. The more major the surgical procedure is, the more discomfort your dog will experience.

The fear or anticipation of pain can significantly impact its normal behaviors, including your dog’s desire to drink water.

A dog experiencing pain may find it difficult to move towards its water bowl. This reduced mobility can make the simple act of drinking seem like a daunting task.

Surgical wounds involving the mouth, throat or areas affecting swallowing can often impact a dog’s ability to drink comfortably.

2. Effects Of Anesthesia

dog under anesthesia

Anesthesia is a critical component of veterinary surgery. This is to ensure that your dog remains pain-free and unconscious during the procedure.

Do note that the after-effects of anesthesia can typically linger in your dog’s system for at least 24-48 hours post-surgery.

It is normal for dogs to act weird after anesthesia which can affect their normal thirst levels.

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.

After surgery, it’s common for your dog to experience disorientation and lethargy as the anesthesia wears off.

During this time, your dog may show little interest in food or water, preferring to sleep as its body metabolizes the anesthetic agents.

Also, ask your veterinarian if your dog received IV fluids during the surgery, which is common to help keep the dog comfortable and hydrated while in the hospital. 

If that is the case, the dog may already be well hydrated from the IVs when it gets home and thus is not interested in drinking water initially.

3. Nausea And Medication Side Effects

The vet will usually prescribe a couple of medications for your dog to take after surgery. These medicines help to:

  • Prevent infection
  • Manage pain
  • Support healing

As essential as these medications are, they can lead to complications such as nausea and tummy upsets.

Antibiotics and painkillers can irritate your dog’s stomach and affect its willingness to drink water. The anesthetic medications themselves can also cause nausea in some pets before wearing off.

4. Stress And Anxiety

This roller coaster emotional state can affect your dog’s willingness to drink water.

Recovering from surgery is not just a physical journey for many dogs but an emotional one as well.

After surgery, dogs might feel anxious due to being in places they don’t recognize, like the vet’s office.

Their usual daily routine gets mixed up because of the surgery, which can confuse and stress them out since dogs like knowing what to expect.

Being away from their family and home can make them even more anxious, especially for dogs that have separation anxiety.

This roller coaster emotional state can affect your dog’s willingness to drink water.

How To Get A Dog To Drink Water After Surgery?

It is ok to let your dog sleep as much as it wants when it’s home from the vet. Drinking water might be the last thing on its mind now but it should start to feel thirsty soon.

Here are some ways to encourage your dog to drink more.

1. Create A Calm Environment

dog sleeping with teddy bear

Making a peaceful and quiet space for your dog can help it feel more relaxed and willing to drink water.

A calm environment is especially important if your dog is feeling stressed or anxious after its surgery.

This means finding a quiet spot in your home where your dog can rest without too much noise or activity around them.

You’ll want to keep your other pets away from your dog during this time too.

2. Have A Few Water Bowls

Make it easy for your dog to access a water bowl after its surgery.

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 got thirsty and didn’t have to walk far for a drink.

 Placing a water bowl next to them can help a lot too.

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

3. Have The Water Bowl At The Correct Height

If your dog had surgery and now finds it hard to bend down, adjusting the height of its water bowl can help.

For example, if bending is tough for your dog because of its E-collar, lifting the bowl higher will make drinking water easier and more comfortable.

For small dogs, simply putting the water bowl on a stack of books can work well.

For much bigger dogs, you might need to use something taller and more sturdy, like a pail to raise the bowl to the right height.

4. Keep The Water Dish Clean

Remember to change out the water as animals prefer to drink fresh water to minimize the risk of contamination.

No one likes drinking from a dirty cup, not even your dog.

If your dog’s water bowl resembles a dirty pond, you need to give it a good wash.

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

Remember to change out the water as animals prefer to drink fresh water to minimize the risk of contamination.

5. Use Ice Cubes

I discovered this neat trick by accident and its a great way to get a dog to drink water.

When I dropped an ice cube into my dog’s water bowl, he enjoyed the cooler water.

Animals in the wild like to drink moving water because it’s fresher and cooler than still water.

Giving your dog cold water can make them want to drink more.

6. Use Wet Food Instead

One effective way to encourage your dog to drink more water is by feeding more wet food.

Wet food has a much higher moisture content than dry kibble, which can help increase your dog’s overall water intake.

This is especially useful for dogs that might not be keen on drinking enough water throughout the day.

But what if your dog only insists on eating kibbles?

You can add some water to your dog’s dry food to increase its water intake. I find that adding chicken broth to your dog’s food is a more enticing option than water.

You can make your own chicken broth or use those that are pet-safe.

7. Drink From Your Hand

dog drink water from hand

Getting your dog to drink water from your hand can be a simple and gentle way to help them drink more.

This is especially helpful if they’re not feeling uncomfortable or don’t want to drink by themselves.

Just hold your hands together, pour a little water into them and let your dog lick the water.

This method can make your dog feel safe and loved, and it’s a nice way to make sure they’re staying hydrated.

8. Syringe Your Dog

If your dog isn’t drinking water on its own, using a syringe (without a needle) or a turkey baster can help it gets enough to drink.

With a syringe or a turkey baster, you can gently squirt small amounts of fluids into your dog’s mouth.

This method allows you to control the amount of water your dog drinks and ensures they get the hydration it needs.

When using this method, keep in mind to go slowly and give your dog time to swallow the water. Avoid forcing too much water at once and be sure the dog’s head is elevated

Should I Be Concerned?

It’s natural to worry if your dog isn’t drinking enough water, especially after surgery.

In most cases, a temporary decrease in thirst can be normal due to stress or medication. However, an ongoing refusal to drink can lead to dehydration, which is a serious concern.

If your dog hasn’t drank any water for over 24 hours, or if you notice signs of dehydration it’s important to contact your veterinarian.

Dehydration if left untreated can become incredibly dangerous for your dog.

Symptoms of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Dry, sticky gums
  • Loss of elasticity in the skin
  • Lethargy or decreased energy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Excessive panting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Less frequent urination

Your vet can assess the situation and provide guidance or treatment to ensure your dog stays healthy and hydrated.

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

Occasionally, the opposite problem can occur. Your dog could be overly thirsty after the surgery and drink copious amounts of water when it gets home.

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 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 deliver oxygen and anesthetic to the lungs.

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

Your dog may be drinking more to try and relieve the discomfort in its throat.  Don’t allow your dog to gorge itself on water when it gets home or it may inadvertently vomit. 

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