How To Get A Dog To Drink Water After Surgery: 5 Easy Solutions

The hard part’s over- your dog has just undergone successful surgery and is now on the road to recovery.

However, you soon realize that though he should be drinking water and staying hydrated, he does not seem at all interested. This was the experience I had when my own dog Maximus arrived home after a hind leg ACL surgery.

Max did not want to move. He was mentally slow to react and, to top it all off, in quite the depressed mood. He was also refusing to drink anything at all! Naturally, I was worried.

After doing some research, I was quickly able to implement a few solutions that got him drinking again. Welcome to the Concise Guide on How To Get A Dog To Drink Water After Surgery.

Why Won’t My Dog Drink Water After Surgery?

When a dog undergoes surgery, they are given anesthesia in order to block pain or to render them unconscious. This is obviously helpful while the dog is in surgery for pain relief and helping it to stay relaxed. However, even though dogs generally handle anesthesia pretty well, there can still be some very noticeable side effects.

Some common side effects include:

  • Grogginess and slow reflexes
  • Sluggishness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unable to stay warm or keep cool
  • Behavior changes
  • Lack of appetite for food or water

Anesthesia has improved to a point where there may be no side effects at all. However, it is still more likely that your dog will experience a little discomfort when recovering from surgery.

According to VCA Hospitals, pets will be more tired than usual in the first 24 hours post-surgery. This can extend to several days before a dog is fully back to normal. Additionally, dogs that are fatter will take longer to recover as most anesthetics are absorbed into body fat. This causes them to linger for longer in the body before they can be discharged.

Given how unstable your dog must be feeling, it’s no coincidence that it doesn’t want to eat or drink. Force-feeding a dog right after surgery can result in vomiting. Instead, monitor it closely and give it a day or two to recover at its own pace.

With that said, keeping a recovering dog hydrated is still very important. Making sure it drinks enough water will help protect its organs and keep it from developing any further health issues.

5 Tips To Increase Your Dog’s Water Intake After Surgery

5 Tips To Increase Your Dog’s Water Intake After Surgery

1. Make sure your dog has easy access to fresh water.

It is important to make it as easy as possible for your dog to drink the water you want it to.

After surgery, dogs are often required to wear an E-collar- also known as the ‘cone of shame’- as a form of protection. While this prevents them from licking or scratching their wounds, it does restrict movement greatly.

Make sure that the collar does not stop your dog from drinking properly. If it does, it would be a good idea to take it off during the times that it wants to drink.

Another practical way you can make drinking easier for your dog is to place it somewhere that it doesn’t have to strain to reach. If you place the bowl in a location that is level with its head, that can be a big encouragement for it to drink.

Finally, if your dog is too fatigued to seek out water for the time being- bring the water bowl to them! Try to trigger their innate desire to drink by gently dripping some droplets around their lips and mouth.

2. Good broth can be the answer to many problems.

Good broth can be the answer to many problems.

Low-sodium chicken or bone broth adds delicious flavor to your dog’s water. Not only that, it is a nutritious supplement that will help nurse your pup back to health.

This is because it is packed with nutrients such as collagen and gelatin which nourish the joints, liver and stomach. Homemade broth is best as you can control the ingredients and amount of salt added.

You can start with a higher concentration of broth at first to encourage your dog to drink. Once it starts getting back to normal, you can lower the amount gradually until it’s just water again.

3. Substitute wet food for dry food to indirectly increase hydration- or make ‘soup’!

If you are used to feeding your dog dry kibble, post-surgery could be the perfect time to switch to canned wet food. Canned food naturally has higher moisture content, so your dog will be getting water just by eating. You can further increase hydration just by adding water to the canned food- your dog won’t even notice!

Another option is to make a ‘soup’ by mixing warm water with dry food and then stirring in some canned food. Dogs will love this special meal and lap it up, water and all.

4. Ice chips offer a different approach to upping water intake.

Ice chips offer a different approach to upping water intake.

For certain surgeries, a tube is inserted down the dog’s throat in order to help it breathe. This can result in a raw, sore throat that hurts to drink or eat.

Ice cubes or chips offer a way to soothe that sore throat while also providing much-needed hydration. Some dogs are especially partial to the texture of ice cubes so it’s definitely an idea worth trying.

It doesn’t have to be just water either- you can give your dog frozen chicken broth, or ice cubes with flakes of tuna or turkey in it.

5. If all else fails, get out the turkey baster.  

If your dog refuses to drink any water at all and does not like any of the above methods, it may be time to take things into your own hands. By using a syringe or a turkey baster, you will be able to manually give your dog the water that it needs.

Fill the syringe, tip the dog’s head upwards, and place the syringe into the corner of its mouth. You will encounter much less resistance approaching from the side than the front. Slowly drip the water into your dog’s mouth making sure it is swallowing, and repeat.

You may need to repeat the process quite a few times to hydrate your dog properly as syringes typically only carry around 20cc’s of liquid.

*If your dog has refused to drink anything for over 48 hours, take it to see the vet!


It is perfectly normal for a dog to refuse to drink in the first day or two after surgery. This is due to the after-effects of anesthesia, which cause it to feel unsteady, sick, and lethargic. However, it is still important to encourage it to drink whenever possible in order to prevent dehydration. You can do this by making access to water as convenient as possible.

There are many other ways to get your dog to drink water, such as supplementing with broth or mixing in wet food. Ice cubes are a good way to add variety and double as a soother of sore throats. If all else fails, syringes and eye droppers are effective for manually giving your dog the water that it needs.

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