You’ve just gone through the process of having your dog neutered. It’s a traumatic time for everyone involved. Even more so if you find that your dog is no longer eating afterward. It’s naturally very concerning. But is this normal and is there anything you can do to help their appetite return? Here’s everything you’ll want to know.
So, why do dogs not want to eat after neutering? Dogs can often refuse food after neutering because of the effects of the anesthesia, which can affect their appetite. Sometimes, though, there could be health reasons such as an infection, in which case, you need to contact your vet.
That’s the gist of it.
But you likely want to know more, right?
I certainly did.
So let’s delve deeper into those potential causes of a low appetite before turning to how best to respond and get your dog eating again!
Why Is My Dog Not Eating After Neutering?
There are a few reasons why your dog may not eat after neutering: the effects of surgery, a health concern, or the changes to his familiar routine.
The Effects Of Surgery
Your dog may be feeling a bit woozy for a few days after surgery due to the anesthetic.
He may be feeling sleepy or dizzy and therefore not want to eat. He could also be experiencing some pain which could affect his appetite.
If your dog is on pain medication, this can dull his appetite.
If your dog isn’t feeling his best, it’s normal that he may not want to eat. Remember a time you were feeling unwell and didn’t want food? It’s the same for your dog.
A Health Concern
Sometimes there is an infection or another health concern that is causing your dog’s fasting. If your dog usually isn’t an enthusiastic eater, you may not be surprised if he doesn’t want to eat after surgery.
However, if you have a very food-driven dog (like a Labrador) who suddenly isn’t eating, you will probably be concerned.
One way to tell if there’s an underlying health concern is to offer your dog a treat. The majority of dogs will accept a small treat even if they don’t want a meal.
The key principle is to look out for any big changes in your dog.
Here are some signs of possible underlying health concerns beyond recovering from surgery (such as an infection or complication):
- Pus or bleeding from the incision site
- Bruising, redness, or swelling at the incision site
- Signs of pain that last more than a week (such as drooling, hiding, trembling)
- Lethargy for longer than a few days
- Not eating for longer than a few days
- Any bad smells coming from the incision site
- Any diarrhea or vomiting that occurs after 24 hours from the time of the procedure. Your dog may experience these symptoms within the first 24 hours post-surgery as a result of the anesthesia
If you have observed any of the above symptoms, consult your vet right away for treatment.
A Change In Routine
It could be that your dog doesn’t want to eat because of the changes to his routine that he’s experienced because of the neutering procedure, such as:
- Being in unfamiliar surroundings
- Having animals or people around that he doesn’t know
- Experiencing higher levels of noise, light, and other disturbances than he’d get at home
- Being away from his people (you!)
- Dogs get used to being fed at certain times of day, going to the toilet in the same places, and being around the same smells.
Your dog may simply need time to readapt to being at home.
He may also be excited to be back home, even if he isn’t feeling his best. Some dogs won’t want to eat when they’re overexcited (and other dogs will want to eat more, or faster!)
Is It Normal For A Dog To Not Eat After Being Neutered?
It is completely normal for a dog to not want to eat after being neutered, at least for a day or two. Some dogs need three full days to recover completely to the point where they are eating normally again.
While your dog is recovering from his surgery, most vets would say that it’s normal for him not to want to eat. He may be feeling the effects of surgery (see above), so food might not be as tempting for him.
Some dogs won’t want to eat for up to three days after being neutered (or spayed).
You can usually expect at least one day of eating nothing or very little food. Your dog may prefer to rest and recuperate. As long as your dog still drinks water, there is no cause for concern.
Your dog can go for a day without eating with no long-term harmful effects. After all, dogs in the wild didn’t always eat when they wanted to – they could go for days without food.
Once your dog starts to feel better, he’ll want to start eating again.
Most dogs will begin to feel a bit better after two days and, within three to four days, will be back to their normal selves.
In most cases, the younger your dog is when he’s had the procedure, the faster he will tend to recover.
If, however, your dog is still not eating after three days, call your vet. You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any other underlying problems.
What To Do About A Dog Not Eating After Being Neutered
The best things to do about your dog not eating after being neutered are to offer the best post-surgery care and try different ways to stimulate his appetite.
Offer The Best Post-Surgery Care You Can
Here are several handy things you can try to help your dog recover more quickly so he can begin enjoying his food again:
- Make sure your dog has post-operative medication to help relieve the pain (most of the time the pain will be mild to moderate).
- Don’t let your dog be too active: encourage your dog to rest as much as possible for two weeks after surgery to help speed up the healing process.
- If your dog has a difficult time keeping calm and resting, check with your vet to see if a mild sedative could help him. Trazodone and Acepromazine are commonly prescribed or you can purchase a CBD product like Canna Pet.
- Keep an eye on your dog’s sutures. Most of the time, they are removed in 10 to 14 days. Sometimes sutures are absorbable. Have your vet check the sutures after 7 days to make sure the incision is healing well.
- Check the incision site daily so that you can spot any signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or pain sooner rather than later.
- Help your dog avoid licking or chewing the incision site. Some dogs may need an e-collar.
- Make sure that your home is as quiet as possible, with fewer distractions than usual. If you have children, explain to them that your dog needs peace and quiet to heal well.
Try To Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite
Here’s what to try to whet your dog’s appetite:
- Before changing the brand of kibble, check if your dog’s dry food has expired. You’d be surprised at how quickly some dog foods can become rancid. Like people, dogs don’t like eating food that has gone stale.
- Try making his daily meals more interesting by pouring some meat-based broth over the top of his food.
- You may want to feed your dog a few mouthfuls by hand. Hand feeding can encourage a dog to eat because he doesn’t need to make as much effort. It’s also a nice way to demonstrate love for your dog (though you wouldn’t want to hand feed him at every meal!).
- Warm up your dog’s food (either over the stove or in the microwave),
- Mix a few treats in with his food (ones that you know he adores).
Other Suggestions To Get Your Dog To Eat After Being Neutered
You can also try to get your dog to eat after being neutered by offering treats. Be aware, though, that there is a trick to this to avoid your dog expecting treats forever after. You can also change his diet, which can sometimes make all the difference.
You can try offering a dog who refuses to eat a tasty treat that you know he enjoys. However, dogs are clever: they may figure out that if they don’t eat their regular food, they can wait for a tasty treat instead.
Just like humans, dogs can get bored with the same food all the time. Your dog might figure out that he can get something that tastes better with a little manipulation!
If you want to give your dog treats, do so sparingly.
Don’t let your dog get to the point where he expects a treat. Treats should never be a replacement for a healthy and balanced meal.
Offering a treat can be a good way to see if your dog is able to eat (as opposed to really unwell). But if you give out too many, your dog will expect them.
There’s also nothing wrong with a bit of bribery to get your dog to eat, but in the end, your dog will be better off knowing you are still in charge. Sometimes, you’ll have to wait until your dog eats the food he’s been given.
Having said that, there are times when your dog wants different food, so there’s nothing wrong with having other options (see below).
Changing His Diet
Consult with your vet to see if you can change your dog’s diet for a few days. Some dogs who are feeling unwell can benefit from some rice with boiled chicken or fish. Bland foods are easier to digest for your dog.
You may wish to change your dog’s food anyway after neutering to avoid weight gain.
Weight gain is a common problem in dogs who have been neutered because they have lower energy requirements.
Some neutered dogs also have difficulty knowing when they’re full.
Your vet can recommend the best food for your dog – there are some special diets tailored to neutered dogs. These diets tend to be high in protein and fiber while low in fat.
Prioritize food that contains fresh fish or meat rather than cartilage or bones. Studies show that dogs have different protein needs once they’ve been neutered.
If your dog is intolerant or allergic to gluten or other ingredients, change his diet accordingly. For example, there are neutered dog foods that are grain-free.
If you are looking for my recommendation, then I would opt for Sunday for Dogs. This whole food premium dog food is made of only real, meat-based ingredients and was designed by a vet.
It is available for order on repeat subscription too, taking all the hassle and cost out of buying dog food each month!
Dogs generally don’t eat after neutering.
Besides, they have been through a highly traumatic operation.
While it is normal, it is naturally concerning.
Thankfully there are some things you can do to encourage your dog to resume eating. And before you know it, they’ll be back to hoovering up food like its going out of fashion!
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.