Why Won’t My Dog Eat After Surgery?

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Dog Health

If your dog is recovering from a surgical procedure due to an illness or a severe injury, getting them to eat may be an issue. One of the side effects of surgery is significant appetite reduction.

Given this situation, how can you get a dog to eat after undergoing surgery? We’ll discuss simple but effective tips on how you can help your dog get back in shape through proper nutrition.

Why Won’t My Dog Eat After Surgery?

There are numerous reasons why your dog has a reduced appetite after undergoing surgery. This loss of appetite can be due to the side effects of medication, stress after the procedure, or complications or infection of the surgical site. Other causes of pain can be due to the following:

  • Anesthesia
  • Inflammation
  • Acid Reflux
  • Painkillers or Antibiotics

Their appetite will eventually return 24 hours after the procedure. However, if two days have passed and they still don’t have their appetite back, contact your vet immediately to have your pet checked for infection and other unseen complications.

What should I feed my dog after surgery

If you’re wondering how to get a dog to eat after surgery, the general rule is to follow your vet’s advice. You can start by giving your dog food items that contain these nutrients. These are:

  • Protein
  • Glucosamine
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Fats and carbohydrates

You can mix these with other nutritious meals to enhance their efficacy and improve the flavor of the food to encourage your dog to eat again.


Protein is just as important to dogs as it is to humans. The essential amino acids from protein not only stimulate healthy hair and skin growth but also aid in muscle and tissue repair. With that said, each food has specific levels of amino acids in them. This is why it’s important to choose the food you’re feeding to your pup carefully. If you want to give your dog a protein-rich diet, you can consider these options:

  • Eggs
  • Rabbit Meat
  • Venison
  • Beef
  • Skinless Chicken
  • Skinless Turkey
  • Fish – Pollock, Whiting
  • Mashed Potatoes


While dogs can naturally create glucosamine in their bodies, its production will diminish over time. This is why senior dogs that undergo surgery take longer to recover. This compound is in charge of maintaining strength and health in the joints and cartilage for dogs. Since older dogs have less glucosamine production in their body, it will take them a longer time to recover and be back to normal. This also means that it will take a while for their normal appetite to return post-surgery since they’re still recovering from its effects.

To supplement the production of glucosamine in the body, you can feed your dog protein-rich foods such as:

  • Goat
  • Beef
  • Lamb 
  • Ostrich Trachea
  • Chicken Feet
  • Pig or Oxtails
  • Beef Knuckle Bones
  • Shellfish Shells
  • Bone Broth

Omega 3 fatty acids

Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids will help your dog heal faster as well. These nutrients have anti-inflammatory properties and other benefits that can help with your dog’s cognitive functions. Some essential sources of omega 3 fatty acids are:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Chia Seeds
  • Soy

Fats and carbohydrates

Proper post-op healing is aided by giving your dog food rich in fats and carbs. Fats support cell growth, while carbohydrates provide energy that would allow your pet to get back to its normal routine. You can get carbs from the following sources:

  • Chicken Thigh
  • Pork Loins
  • Corn Grits
  • White Rice
  • Eggs

As for fats, you can get them from:

  • Chicken Fat
  • Salmon Oil
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Beef Fat

How to get Your Dog to Eat After Surgery

Now that we know what kind of foods to give to our dogs, here are some tips to encourage them to eat and regain their appetite post-op.

Soft and small portion feeding

If your dog went home on the same day of the surgery, you’d want to give small portions of their usual meals. You may also soften their food with warm water if they’re usually eating dry kibble. You can also preheat their food in the microwave to entice them with the smell.

Home Cooked Meals

While store-bought food can be filling, making home-cooked meals for your pet is preferred since you can control what goes in them. You’ll know all of its components and provide the right ingredients to accelerate your pup’s recovery. 

Here are some recipes you can try:

  • Ground turkey with olive oil.
  • Ground beef and chicken gizzard mixed with white rice.
  • Whole eggs, chicken liver, ground beef, and 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed.
  • Ground beef, white rice, white bread, and chopped hard-cooked eggs.

Take note that soft food for dogs is your main option when trying to ease your dog back to its usual appetite, especially if the surgery was done recently.

After that, you’d want protein-rich food so their wounds and incisions close and heal quickly. You should also avoid preparing food that is too rich or contains excessive fat, oil, and seasoning.

Hand-feeding and Positive Reinforcement

Hand-feeding your dog while cheering and consoling them reassures your pet that you’ll take care of them. When they respond positively, shower them with pets and affection. Use a soft tone as you talk to your pet while feeding them. While research on this is quite limited, talking and directly addressing your dog makes it more responsive to you. They’ll be calmer and more attentive if your tone is similar to what you want them to feel.

Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite Post-Surgery

Post-surgery is always a stressful time for both you and your dog. Remember to be patient with your pup as it recovers. Don’t force your dog to eat right away after undergoing surgery. For more information on post-surgery care and other medical conditions of your dog, visit the TPLO blog today!

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