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Dog Whining After Surgery: Why & How You Can Stop It

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A dog whining after surgery can be a natural reaction to anesthesia. Anxiety and post-surgery discomfort can also cause a dog to whine. Make sure to properly care for your dog after surgery to minimize whining and crying.

Surgery is a source of stress for both dog and owner. It’s not without risks and it’s difficult to know what to expect after surgery. 

What we do know is that every dog reacts differently to anesthesia and painkillers. One of these reactions can be whining. Whining can also indicate pain, discomfort, and anxiety. 

But that leaves dog owners with a question: When is post-surgery whining normal and when do you need to call the vet?

In this article, we’ll answer this question, look at the effects of anesthesia and share practical tips to help you care for your dog after surgery. 

What Happens When Your Dog Is Under Anesthesia?

Anesthesia works by depressing brain function and taking control of the nervous system. This means that a dog under a general anesthetic can’t see, hear, feel or remember anything that happens while it is in surgery. 

There are two types of anesthetics:

  • Local anesthesia.
  • General anesthesia.

A local anesthetic is used to block the nerves in a certain part of the body, so a patient can be awake for the procedure. A general anesthetic renders a dog unconscious. 

Most surgeries performed on dogs are done under general anesthetic. 

Dogs look like they are sleeping when anesthetized. But unlike a sleeping dog, a dog under anesthetic doesn’t respond to loud noises or pain.[1] 

This is because anesthesia works by depressing brain function. It takes control of the nervous system to stop the dog from feeling pain while it is under anesthetic. 

For general anesthesia, medications to reduce pain and anxiety are followed by drugs that render dogs unconscious. A breathing tube is placed in its trachea whereafter oxygen and anesthetic gas are given by inhalation.[2] 

Throughout the surgery, the surgical team monitors the dog’s heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, body temperature, oxygen levels, and carbon dioxide output.

Why is My Dog Whining After Sedation?

Dogs whine after surgery for a number of reasons. A reaction to anesthesia, pain, a side effect of medication, confusion, feeling cold, and anxiety are all potential causes of a dog whining after surgery.

Dogs are sedated when they have surgery. Some common surgeries include neutering, spaying, and surgery due to injuries. Sedation is necessary to avoid intense pain. But unfortunately, surgery can lead to whining afterward.

Here are 6 reasons your dog can whine after surgery: 

  1. Reaction to anesthesia
  2. Pain 
  3. Medication side effects 
  4. Confusion 
  5. Feeling Cold 
  6. Anxiety 

1. Reaction to Anesthesia

Why is My Dog Whining After Sedation

An estimated 1 in 100 000 animals reacts to anesthesia. Reactions range from a mild drop in blood pressure to potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. [2] It is a common side effect for dogs to whine and bark after surgery in reaction to the anesthesia.[3]

Anesthesia should wear off by the time your dog is discharged, but your dog can be sleepy for 12 -24 hours after anesthesia.[4]

2. Pain 

Dog Whining in Pain

Post-surgery discomfort can be expected, but excessive whining can be a sign that your dog is in pain.  

Signs your dog is in pain:

  • Unwilling or unable to move.
  • Whines when changing position. 
  • Whines when being lifted.
  • Actively shies away from family members.

Speak to the vet about your dog’s pain management protocol. The vet can increase the dosage or try a different medication if required. 

3. Medication Side Effect 

Repetitive whining can be a side effect of medication. Speak to your vet about changing medications to see if this helps stop your dog from whining.[5]

4. Confusion and anxiety

Dog Confusion and anxiety

It is understandable for a dog to feel confused and anxious after surgery. They can start whining or shaking after waking up from anesthesia in an unknown place, surrounded by unfamiliar smells and people.   

Some dogs experience temporary memory loss caused by anesthesia called dysphoria.[6] 

A dog with dysphoria doesn’t recognize its owners or family members until the condition has worn off. This can be distressing for both dog and owner. 

Related: Dog Shaking After Surgery

5. Feeling Cold 

A side effect of anesthesia is coldness. Anesthesia can make it difficult for dogs to regain body temperature control.[7] 

A dog’s normal body temperature is artificially maintained in surgery and in-hospital recovery using heaters and blankets. Keep this in mind and set up a warm recuperation space at home. 

Is it Normal for Dogs to Whine after Surgery? 

Yes. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it is common for dogs to whine and bark after surgery. This can be a reaction to the anesthesia

Dogs can whine for a short time after surgery. A dog that whines randomly or continuously when recuperating can be feeling cold, anxious, or in pain. 

You can alleviate your dog’s distress as best as possible and don’t hesitate to call the vet for advice.

Is it Normal for Dogs to Whine after Surgery

How to Stop Your Dog from Whining After Surgery

Stop your dog from whining after surgery by following the prescribed pain management protocol, making sure your dog is warm and comfortable, and showing your dog gentle affection.  

Keeping your dog warm, administering painkillers and medication as prescribed, and limiting your dog’s movement can ease physical discomfort and reduce infection risk. 

As for how your dog is feeling, a little love goes a long way to reduce anesthesia anxiety-related whining. 

Talk to your dog in a soothing voice and stroke gently. Offer your dog a small treat. Your dog may not have much appetite after surgery, but offering your dog food makes it feel cared for.  

You can ask your vet about sedatives if they are needed.  

How To Help Your Dog Recover After Surgery 

Help your dog recover from surgery by restricting its movement, offering it a calming recuperation space, monitoring its recovery progress, following the vet’s pain management prescription, and keeping the incision clean and dry. 

The veterinary surgery team has done its job. Now, it’s your job to nurse your beloved pooch back to health.

Top 3 Priorities for At-Home Recovery 

  1. Reduce the risk of complications, injury, or infection. 
  2. Follow prescribed pain management protocol to keep your dog comfortable. 
  3. Monitor your dog for complications. 

Restrict Physical Activity

Restrict Dog Physical Activity

Limit your dog’s physical activity for the advised recuperation period to avoid injury or serious complications.[5] 

Here are activities your dog needs to avoid: 

  • Jumping 
  • Running
  • Climbing stairs
  • Playing with other dogs
  • Playing rough with family members 

It helps a dog’s recovery process to keep it in a confined space, like a dog pen or crate. Ask the vet about sedatives if you have an energetic dog. [7]  

Use a short leash when taking your dog out for a toilet break. If there are any stairs along the way, carry your dog over them.[8]

Set up a Recuperation Space 

Set up a Recuperation Space for your dog

Create a calming space for your dog to recover away from other pets and young children. Use clean bedding when making your dog’s bed to reduce the risk of post-surgical infection.[7]

It can help your dog feel comforted if their bed is near you or another calming family member. Set up your dog’s recuperation space in your home office if you work from home in a quiet environment. 

Medicate as Prescribed 

Follow the vet’s pain management protocol to ensure that your dog is as comfortable as possible. Take note of how often medications need to be given to your dog and if they need to be given with food. 

Speak to your vet about changing the medication or dosage if your dog often whines in pain. It can be a side effect or a sign that the pain medication is not enough.[5]  

Monitor 

Keeping your dog near you will help you need to monitor your dog’s progress. 

Here’s what you need to look out for: 

  • Urination: If your dog doesn’t urinate within the first 12 hours at home, call the vet for advice. 
  • Bowel movements: Anesthesia and medication can slow down your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t defecate in the first 48 hours, but call your vet for advice if you notice your dog straining.[4]  
  • Alertness: It’s normal for a dog to be sleepy for 12 – 24 hours post-surgery, but contact your vet if your dog is sleeping excessively and is not walking up easily after this period.[3] 
  • Reactions: Watch out for possible but rare adverse reactions to anesthesia. These can include seizures, visual impairment, and heart failure.[3] 

Offer Small Meals

Offer Small Meals

Feed your dog smaller meals than usual. Don’t worry if it doesn’t eat much in the first 24 hours after surgery.[4]

Reduce Infection Risk 

  • Medication: Follow the vet’s instructions for giving medication to reduce the risk of infection. Always finish a course of antibiotics. 
  • Cone: Make sure your dog wears a prescribed cone or E-collar to stop it from licking or biting incisions. 
  • Bathing: Do not bathe your dog or allow the incision to get wet for the first two weeks or until the vet says it is safe.[4]   

Conclusion

Your dog goes through emotional and physical stress before and after a procedure, so whining after surgery is unsurprising. Anesthesia can affect your dog in multiple ways with whining being a common reaction. 

Contact your vet if you are concerned that your dog is whining in pain or behaving strangely long after the effects of the anesthetic should have worn off. 

FAQs

How Long Will My Dog Whine After Surgery? 

How long a dog whines after surgery depends on how comfortable it is and how effective the pain and infection medications are. Contact the vet if your dog is whining more than 24 hours after sedation, despite having a comfortable bed and being medicated as prescribed. 

Why Is My Dog Crying After Spaying? 

A dog crying after spaying can be a side effect of anesthesia or medication. It can also indicate pain, feeling cold, or suffering from anxiety after the surgery. Make your dog comfortable, talk in a calming voice, give pain medication as prescribed, and reduce physical activity to ensure healing. 

Why Is My Dog Whining After Sedation? 

Dogs can whine after surgery as a reaction to anesthesia, pain, a side effect of medication, confusion, feeling cold, and anxiety. Contact your vet to discuss sedatives for anxiety or pain medication if you believe your dog is whining in pain.  

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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