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How to Get A Dog to Drink Water After Surgery [Helpful DIY Guide]

Knowing exactly how, or what it takes to get a dog to drink water after surgery is not as easy as it may seem.

As pet owners, one of the most difficult things to go through is caring for your pet and their nutrition after surgery. They are often an extension of us, so when they hurt, so do we. Sometimes the pain dogs experience post-op strips their ability to want to eat or drink.

This can cause problems, especially if they are on medication that needs to be taken with food like some non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or antibiotics. So, what can you do about it?

Let’s examine some post-surgery behaviors of your pup and find out what you can do to fix these problems. Your fluffy Fido will be back to enjoying his favorite kibble in no time!

Dog Throwing Up Water After Surgery

Sometimes when dogs return home after having surgery, they’ll start to vomit water. This can be due to them drinking excessive amounts of water in a short amount of time. If you notice that this is happening, it is best to limit how much water your pooch has access to.

Make sure you only give them small amounts at a time because left to their own devices, they’ll be caught in a water-vomit cycle that can be detrimental to their health. Too much vomiting can cause severe dehydration and too much strain on the heart.

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But why are they so parched after having surgery in the first place?

Dog Drinking A Lot of Water After Surgery

There are a few possibilities for excessive thirst post-surgery.

  1. Fasting. Dogs, just like humans, are required to fast from food and water at least 24 hours before surgery. This is to prevent aspiration (breathing liquids or solids into the lungs) during surgery.  So, your pup may just be a bit dehydrated, which is totally normal.
  2. Intubation. If your dog was administered general anesthesia, then they were intubated. This means that a tube was stuck down their tracheas to provide ventilation support. The problem with these is the tubes can cause the throat to feel a bit dry. Your pup drinking water is just a way to alleviate this dryness.
  3. Nausea. Nausea can sometimes make a dog want to fill their stomachs with something. If they have no appetite, water is the next best thing.

Is It Normal for A Dog Not to Eat or Drink After Surgery?

dog doesn't want to drink water after a surgery
Dog refusing to drink water after surgery

On the flip side of things, some dogs don’t crave any water or food post-surgery. This is very common for most pets. Dogs can go a day or two without food without anything bad happening so skipping a few meals won’t cause problems. Not eating or drink after surgery can be caused by nausea caused by post-op medications and pain from recovery.

Nausea Caused by Medications

Antibiotics and pain relievers are notorious for causing nausea in both humans and pets. But just know that they are necessary to prevent any infections and to help your pup power through the pain so he can get back to his normal, playful self. Here are a few medications your pup might be prescribed post-surgery.

Medications That Can Cause NauseaMedications That Can Treat Nausea
(Pain med) BuprenorphineFamotidine
(Pain med) GabapentinOmeprazole
(Pain med) Tramadol 
(Antibiotic) Cephalexin 
(Antibiotic) Metronidazole 

If the medication prescribed by your vet is causing severe discomfort, or the anti-nausea medication isn’t working, they will be happy to change the prescription for your pet.

Nausea Caused by Pain

Even as humans, when we are in severe pain eating becomes a chore. The same is true with your dog. They may have been prescribed pain pills but in between doses they might still experience some pain. The soreness they have at the incision site might also take away their appetite, though this pain should be gone within three days.

If you notice that your dog is in severe pain, even with medication after 24 hours, check-in with your veterinarian to make sure nothing has gone amiss.

How to Get Your Dog to Drink Water After Surgery

Encourage dogs to drink water whenever possible after surgery.
Encourage dogs to drink water whenever possible after surgery.

If your pup’s nausea has taken over (but they aren’t vomiting) but you know they need hydration, you have a few options.

You might have to physically give your pooch water through a syringe or eyedropper. You do this by putting the end of the eye dropper or syringe in the corner of your pet’s mouth so they can swallow easier. This is a great choice because these two items are portable.

Another portable option is using a portable water bottle that you’d normally take on walks like the MalsPree Portable Dog Water Bottle (link to Amazon). This is the perfect tool for giving water to a dog that is feeling a bit under the weather.

Sometimes it might not be that your dog is nauseous, but that they are too drowsy to walk to their bowls. They might be on medications that make them a bit dizzy too. Having a water dispenser with a spout like the MalsPree Portable Dog Water Bottle mentioned earlier allows your dog to easily hydrate themselves.

Another option is offering your dog pieces of ice to lick. This might help take some of their attention off their pain too while keeping them hydrated. This is especially helpful after surgery is done in the summer.

Lastly, if your dog is eating just not drinking water, choose a food with a high water content or add some extra water or broth to canned food. The broth will help keep your pup’s sodium levels steady.

Getting your pup to drink more water is essential after surgery, considering the fact that they are not vomiting or extremely nauseous.

How to Get Your Dog to Eat Food with Little to no Appetite

If your pup isn’t vomiting after surgery but just seems to have no appetite, watch this YouTube video on “How to Feed A Sick Dog”. Although your pooch might not be sick, caring for a sick dog when it comes to feeding is the same as feeding a recovering dog with no appetite. Dr. Leach discusses step-by-step how to feed your dog with a syringe.

If your dog has a tiny bit of an appetite, you can try serving them bland foods. The most common food for a dog with an upset stomach is plain rice and boiled chicken. Start small with just the plain rice. If your dog is receptive and seems to be enjoying it, then you can move on to adding in the boiled chicken.


Caring for your pet after they have surgery can be a tricky business. It’s concerning when pets who usually seem to have bottomless pits for stomachs stop eating entirely. Or when our pups who may drink more water than we do, don’t even take a sip.

Stay calm by knowing how to get your dog to drink water after surgery, getting them to eat with no appetite, and knowing what behaviors are normal.

If, after a period of 48 hours you notice that your dog still isn’t eating or drinking, you should contact your vet. It could just be due to the medications or it can be something more serious. It’s better that you err on the side of caution here to keep your pup healthy and happy.

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