How to Bathe a Dog After Surgery

Medium
10 - 15 Minutes
2 Weeks

Introduction

It might not matter the surgery your dog has had. He's going to need the surgical area cleaned and bathed at some point during his healing process. You will need to take special care of how you maneuver your dog through any washing post-surgery, and you'll need to take special care of the surgical incision area as well. Your veterinarian may leave you with instructions on how to bathe your dog after his surgery, but there are some key points to remember for grooming purposes when bathing a dog post-surgery.

Dog's Perspective

Whether you are bathing your dog or not, he may be a little groggy or sleepy depending on post-surgical medication he is on. He may also not want to be touched and other areas of his body outside of the surgical incision could also be sore and tender to the touch. 

The Wipe Down Method

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Step
1
Dirty dog
If your dog post-surgery feels well enough to roll in something nasty before he can have a full bath, wipe him down with a wet washcloth or dog cleaning wipes. Be sure to steer clear of the incision site.
Step
2
Do not submerge
Do not allow your dog to take a bath until your veterinarian has cleared the incision sites to be wet. If you need to clean your dog, do not submerge him in water until the 10 to 14 days post-surgery has passed and he has been cleared to bathe.
Step
3
Incision site
If the incision site happens to become visibly dirty, you can gently clean the area without getting the sutures wet with a cotton ball and water. Keep water off of the sutures and use a very gentle touch.
Step
4
Cleaning face
Use a wet washcloth to keep your dog's face clean during the days he cannot bathe. Some dogs have very messy faces and require a wipe down after every meal. Watch your dog's eyes to ensure any of the crust that accumulates there is also a wiped down and cleaned without submerging your dog in water.
Step
5
Dog licking incison
Your dog will want to lick the incision site. This helps to alleviate pain and to keep the area clean of bacteria. However, allowing your dog to do so also introduces bacteria from your dog's mouth into an open wound. Do not let your dog lick the incision site.
Step
6
Dog licking other areas
If he's wearing an Elizabethan collar to keep from licking, you may notice him licking other areas of his body instead, like his paws or legs, because they can be reached. Wipe down these areas with a wet wipe or wet washcloth to keep them clean after his incessant licking.
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The Wound Care Method

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Scabbing and oozing
If you notice any oozing or crustiness around your dog's scab, call your veterinarian. You can keep this area clean with a moist cotton ball. Just be careful not to saturate the skin or get any of the sutures wet.
Step
2
Bandage care
If your dog needs a bandage over his wound, your veterinarian will tell you whether you need to change it and how often. Your veterinarian will also apply extra bandages for you should they need to be replaced. Only replace these bandages as your veterinarian suggests.
Step
3
Dry bandages
If your dog has any bandages, be sure to keep them clean and dry. If for some reason a bandage gets wet or soiled, be sure to change it right away. When you change your dog's bandages, be sure the skin and the incision site or wound underneath is clean with dry skin.
Step
4
Drains
Your dog may come home with a drain to drain the surgical site. Your veterinarian will give you instructions for post-operative care for any drains. If you need to remove a drain, clean it with warm salty water. Never use soap on a drain you are using for your dog's wounds.
Step
5
Sutures
Many surgeries today leave sutures inside your dog's body that will dissolve over time and may not need to be removed. Some surgeries may require your dog to revisit with your veterinarian after about 14 days for suture removal. Do not cut or remove any sutures on your own. Keep them dry at home so they are in long enough to close the wound properly.
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Caution & Considerations

  • When in doubt, call your vet. If you ever have any questions about how to care for your dog post-surgery, ask your veterinarian right away. This is especially true if you're worried about dirt or bacteria affecting your dog's surgical site.
  • Be sure to follow all post-surgical instructions from your veterinary surgeon.
  • Be aware and cautious of how you handle your dog post-surgery. Be very careful not to be too rough, causing injury or pain.
  • You may need to avoid the surgical incision area when you bathe the rest of your dog.
  • The surgical area might need extra care because of sensitivity to the touch.
  • A foul odor from a surgical incision might be an indication of a possible infection. If this is the case, call your veterinarian.
  • Your dog may be sore in other areas you might not expect just from the trauma of the surgery overall. Be careful when picking up your dog, lifting him, and massaging his muscles even outside of the surgical incision.
  • Caring for your dog post-surgery is a big responsibility. Be sure to not only follow all the instructions your veterinarian leaves with you but also keep your dog from putting himself in a position where he can get so dirty the incision sites need to be cleaned.
  • Most surgeries will require a wait of about two weeks before your dog can get wet. This includes your dog's surgical site getting wet in the rain or in wet grass when he goes outside.

Conclusion

This is a time where your dog needs lots of tender care. Be gentle and a doggone good caregiver after your pup has had any kind of surgery. Caring for him with a nice gentle bath is a great way to show him puppy love, but wait until he is cleared to get wet before giving him a full bath.

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