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Dog Experiencing Diarrhea After Surgery? Tips from our Vet

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This article was updated on May 5th, 2023

No matter how much meticulous planning and precautions are taken, postoperative complications may still arise. Unfortunately for dog owners, one potential issue is the sometimes inevitable symptom of diarrhea following surgery. If your furry family member has experienced this postoperative complication recently, rest assured that it does not necessarily mean something went wrong during his procedure; however, it’s important to know what causes it and the steps you can take to prevent or limit its duration.

Postoperative diarrhea is a common complaint I see from owners when their animal has just had surgery. In this article, I’ll dive into the details of why your pet might develop gastrointestinal issues after their operation, if these responses should be considered normal, and when they might indicate a problem with their recovery.

Why do dogs get diarrhea after surgery?

After any type of surgery, it is common for your pet to experience a decrease in appetite and digestive issues such as diarrhea following the procedure. This is due to a few different factors but anesthetic drugs are largely to blame – they slow down many body systems and the gastrointestinal tract is no exception. Anesthesia slows down the normal movements of the gut that help food to move along your dog’s intestine, this means that food isn’t properly digested resulting in diarrhea.

Anesthesia also decreases the natural bacterial balance in the gut which can lead to decreased absorption of nutrients and water, resulting in diarrhea. Additionally, changes to your pet’s diet or medications may disrupt their normal gastrointestinal activity; a lot of prescribed pain medication will affect the GI tract. Furthermore, pets may be especially stressed while recovering from surgery – stress hormones can cause temporary gastric distress leading to episodes of diarrhea.

Should I be concerned?

As a pet owner, it is understandable to be concerned when your pooch experiences diarrhea after surgery. It is important to understand that this can sometimes be a normal response to anesthesia and other factors associated with the surgery. Mild and short bouts of diarrhea are generally nothing to worry about. However, if your pet’s symptom persists for more than a few days, it is very important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible so that they can assess the situation.

Home remedies to help a dog experiencing diarrhea after a surgery

Thankfully, there are some steps you can take at home to help reduce your pet’s uncomfortable post-operative diarrhea and ease their recovery process:

1. Offer small portions of food throughout the day.

Instead of one large meal. This will help ensure that all food is properly digested by their gastrointestinal system.

2. Give your dog’s pain medication on time.

If prescribed pain medication after surgery, make sure they are taking this on time – this will help reduce inflammation in their body that could be contributing to their diarrhea.

3. Incorporate probiotics in your dog’s diet

Incorporate probiotics into their diet to help balance the good bacteria in their gut, which will improve digestion and reduce inflammation. These products or supplements contain healthy bacteria that are essential for recovery. One example is “Purina FortiFlora Probiotics for Dogs”:

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements...
  • ERROR (72) 30-Count Boxes - Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements FortiFlora Dog Probiotic Supplement, Canine Nutritional Supplement

4. Keep your dog hydrated.

Offer fluids like bone broth or electrolytes to help keep them hydrated and nourished.

5. Avoid drastic changes.

Avoid drastic changes in food, treats, or environment while they’re still adjusting to their post-operative lifestyle

6. Give your dog a relaxing space to rest.

Most importantly, create a comfortable and relaxing space for your pup – this will reduce their stress levels and ultimately help them heal faster.

Learn more with our home remedies to help a dog recover from diarrhea FAST! Although at-home remedies are useful in helping your pet with their diarrhea following surgery, always trust your vet’s professional advice when it comes to your pup’s health!

When should my dog get better – and stop having diarrhea?

It can be disheartening to watch your dog suffer through a bout of diarrhea, especially after having undergone a stressful event like surgery. Generally speaking, you can expect that diarrhea after surgery won’t last more than a couple of days as long as the cause is something simple, like normal post-anesthesia stress or a change in diet (read our veterinarian article: diarrhea that lasts more than 2 or 3 days) However, you should contact your veterinarian if the symptoms persist beyond a few days, suddenly become worse, and/or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as vomiting. In the end, it’s always best to get professional help if you’re worried about your furry companion’s health.

At what point exactly should I call my vet?

If you’re wondering when you should call your vet about diarrhea in your dog following surgery, the answer is – it depends! If diarrhea lasts for more than a few days and includes changes in color or consistency, then you might want to reach out.

Additionally, if your pup seems lethargic or experiences dehydration, these are signs that medical help may be necessary. Any additional symptoms such as vomiting, fever, or loss of appetite could also be a cause for concern. Even if your dog’s diarrhea doesn’t seem too bad, there’s no harm in reaching out just to make sure it doesn’t escalate into something more serious – after all, prevention is always better than cure!

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Other important tips for surgery aftercare:

– Follow your vet’s instructions for post-operative care, including any dietary changes and/or medications.

– Make sure your pup is getting lots of rest and a comfortable place to sleep.

– Keep the area around their incision/wound clean and dry – if needed, use a warm damp cloth to wipe away any discharge or debris.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

– Make sure your pup is not licking or chewing at the area, as this could lead to infection.

– Monitor your pup for signs of pain or discomfort and contact your vet if necessary.

– Provide plenty of exercise and activity, as long it does not cause them undue stress or pain.

– And most importantly, be patient and provide lots of love and support throughout the recovery process!


When it comes to dog diarrhea after surgery, it’s natural to be concerned. But knowing some of the common causes of diarrhea and how to respond can help you determine the best ways to make sure your pet is getting better as quickly and safely as possible. Understanding what could trigger postoperative diarrhea, watching for signs and symptoms like frequent bowel movements with loose stool or excessive flatulence, being conscious about food changes, and being aware of when you should reach out for vet advice can all go a long way in keeping your pup healthy after their surgery. Taking the appropriate preventative measures during surgery recovery will help ensure your beloved fur baby has a speedy and successful return to health.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and may require different care during its recovery period. While at-home remedies can be helpful, always consult your vet if you’re concerned about your pup’s health and well-being.

Common issues after surgery:


  • Dr Alex Crow, Veterinary Surgeon

    Alex Crow, VetMed MRCVS, is an RCVS accredited Veterinary surgeon with special interests in neurology and soft tissue surgery. Dr Crow is currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary Center in England. He earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 2019 from the Royal Veterinary College (one of the top 3 vet schools in the world) and has more than three years of experience practicing as a small animal veterinarian (dogs and cats).

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