The Aftereffects of Anesthesia on Dogs

Don't worry, Rover did not go to a cocktail "pawty."
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If Rover seems a little boozy when you pick him up after he's had surgery, don't worry; what you are seeing is the aftermath of the anesthesia. Luckily, the wobbly, slightly disoriented effects are temporary, and will resolve soon. Meantime, give him a quiet, safe place where he can recover.

Behavioral Changes

If your dog doesn't seem to respond to familiar surroundings, people or other animals when he gets home, don't worry. He's not having a case of doggie Alzheimer's. Temporary behavioral changes after general anesthesia are very common, and fortunately resolve within a few days, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. It's a good idea to avoid handling your pal too much or leaving children or other pets unattended with him during this time, no matter how trustworthy he usually is.


The way dogs recover from anesthesia is an individual matter. Some come home and bounce right back as if nothing has happened, while others are groggy for a few days. Expect Rover to doze more than usual as he recovers. You can expect the anesthesia "hang-over" effect to be gone within 18 to 24 hours, when the anesthesia generally will be gone from your dog's system.

Poor Balance

The effect of anesthesia on your dog's nervous system creates the unsteady gait you notice when you pick your dog up from the vet. Because Rover may have poor depth perception and trouble walking, it's best to confine him to a safe, quiet area for several hours. Be ready to assist your dog if he needs help in precarious places where he may fall, getting into and out of your car, or going up or down stairs.

Whether you see this unsteadiness depends on your veterinarian's policies on when dogs may be discharged to go home. Some vets will keep the dog until the anesthesia effects have worn off. Others may send the dog home with care instructions as soon as he is able to stand and walk. In part, this may depend on the reasons the dog was anesthetized and the owner's experience and ability to properly care for the recovering dog.

Chilling Effects

Have that blanket and dog bed ready when your pal gets home. While your dog recovers from the anesthesia, he may need help maintaining his normal body heat. Many anesthetics cause blood vessels in the skin to dilate, causing heat loss, according to Washington State University. For the first few days following general anesthesia, keep your pet in a cozy, warm room. If you own a Nordic breed though, consider that he may do best in a cooler environment.


It is normal for your buddy to feel a bit queasy after anesthesia. When he's discharged, your veterinarian may give you some precise feeding guidelines. A small meal may be a good idea, but follow your vet's instructions and don't be alarmed if Rover's appetite is not back until the next day.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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