The after-effects of anesthesia on dogs

Anaesthesia is used to place dogs in a deep sleep so veterinarians can perform life-saving surgical procedures on them. Dogs who have been put under anaesthesia find waking up to be disorienting and upsetting. Recovering from the anaesthesia is a separate process from recovering from surgery.

Whatever the surgery is, chances are most dogs will experience similar symptoms after coming out of surgery that are all associated with anaesthesia. These include balance issues, lethargy, vomiting and disorientation. For a small percentage of animals, seizures are a possibility, though rare. Most after-effects last between 12 and 24 hours.

Loss of Balance

Because anaesthesia affects the nervous system, dogs will have problems with keeping their balance while walking around. Dogs should be kept in an area where they can not hurt themselves should they fall down. While it may look comical to have a dog walking like he is a drunk on his way home, know that it can be confusing for them. This can last for up to 24 hours after waking from anaesthesia.


Having been put out for the length of the surgery, the dog will still have a lingering lethargy. It is not uncommon for them to crawl on their bed and go to sleep. It may take some prompting to have them go out to relieve themselves, but encourage them to do so, as they may have an accident otherwise. Their senses have not fully re-engaged and they simply don't have the energy to act as they normally would for about a day after surgery.


Anaesthesia can lead to an upset stomach in dogs, and vomiting. This can be in the car-ride home or later when given something to eat. Owners may want to give the dog a healthy meal with lots of water since they were required to fast prior to surgery, but this is not good for them. Start with a little water and small amounts of food to help them reset their digestive system.


It will take some time before the dog starts to act like itself again. This is normal and not a concern unless it lasts for more than 24 hours. It might wander around seemingly unaware of the surrounding areas. Part of the grogginess is a result of pain injections that most animals receive post-op. This is normal and should wear off within 12 to 24 hours. Usually dogs brought home later in the day will appear more like themselves after the first night home.


Dogs with a history of seizures are at higher risk for seizure during or after treatment with anaesthesia. Seizure during surgery is a greater risk but can still follow awakening. Since anaesthesia affects the nervous system, it is forcing the brain activity to slow down during surgery and re-engage after. Keep the dog in a place where they are comfortable and able to rest but can be observed.