What Are Common Pet Surgery Complications?

When our furry friends need surgical intervention, it can be a stressful time for any pet parent. Whether it’s a routine spay or neuter or something more complex like tumor removal, surgery is never without its risks. Complications can occur, and it’s important to understand what those might be so you can be prepared for the postoperative period. We’ll look at some common complications that can emerge following pet surgery and overall what you might expect during your pet’s recovery.

Understanding Surgical Risks for Pets

No one wants to think about things going wrong, but it’s crucial to have an honest understanding of what risks are involved when your pet goes under the knife. Being informed helps you partner effectively with your veterinarian to give your pet the best possible care.


One of the most common complications following any surgery, including pet surgery, is infection. Sterile techniques and preventive antibiotics are utilized to minimize this risk, but here are some signs of infection you should keep an eye on:

  • Redness and swelling at the surgery site

  • Discharge or unpleasant smell coming from the wound

  • Excessive pain or discomfort

  • Fever or lethargy

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.


Bleeding can happen during or after surgery. The surgical team typically controls it, but postoperative bleeding can occur if your pet is overly active too soon or if there’s a clotting disorder. Your vet should address abnormal swelling or oozing from the incision site at once.

Reaction to Anesthesia

Anesthetic drugs are essential for pain-free surgery, but they come with their own set of risks. Some pets may have adverse reactions, which is why pre-surgical blood work is critical to check organ function. Mild reactions might include sluggishness or temporary appetite loss, but if your pet has trouble waking up or behaves unusually, don’t hesitate to let your vet know.

Postoperative Complications: A Closer Look

After undergoing a pet surgery in Tigard, your pet will require care and observation as they heal. Complications can sometimes arise once you’re back home, so being well-informed about what can happen helps you take swift action.

Seroma Formation 

A seroma is a collection of fluid under the skin near the incision site. It usually occurs when a pet is too active postoperatively and can feel like a squishy lump. Small seromas may resolve on their own, but larger ones might require drainage by your vet.


Dehiscence refers to the reopening of a wound, either internally or externally. This complication is serious and requires immediate attention. Minimize your pet’s movement, and ensure they’re wearing an Elizabethan collar (the ‘cone of shame’) to prevent them from licking or biting at their stitches.

Delayed Healing

In some cases, a pet’s wound just doesn’t heal as quickly as anticipated. Chronic diseases, poor nutrition, or older age can contribute to delayed healing. Your vet may recommend supplements or a special diet to encourage recovery.

Preventing Complications with Careful Postoperative Management

After your pet has had surgery, your primary job is to follow your vet’s instructions to the letter. This involves:

  • Limiting your pet’s physical activity

  • Keeping the incision site clean and dry

  • Ensuring they take all prescribed medications

  • Returning for follow-up visits as recommended

It’s also worth considering where you take your pet for surgery. Centers like Cascade Vet Referral are equipped with the expertise and facilities to provide excellent surgical care and handle any complications should they arise.

Diet and Nutrition

Feeding your pet high-quality food that’s appropriate for their age, breed, and health status can also promote quick healing. Your vet may suggest a therapeutic pet food or supplements to support recovery.

Watching for Odd Behavior

You know your pet better than anyone else, so trust your instincts. If they’re not acting like themselves or if you’re worried for any reason, it’s better to investigate a false alarm than to miss an early sign of a problem.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Even with the best care, unforeseen complications can happen. It’s essential to know where your nearest emergency vet is located and their hours of operation, just in case you need to seek immediate attention for your pet.

Keep Emergency Contacts Handy

Have contact information for your regular veterinarian, the nearest emergency animal hospital, and even an animal poison control center. Knowing you’re prepared can provide peace of mind during the recovery period.

Monitoring and Communication

Regular monitoring of your pet post-surgery is critical. You’ll want to keep an eye on their appetite, activity level, pain levels, and surgical site. Communicate regularly with your vet about your pet’s progress, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

When to Call the Vet

If you notice any of the following, it’s time to call your vet:

  • Sudden changes in behavior

  • Difficulty breathing or persistent coughing

  • Uncontrolled pain

  • Signs of infection at the incision site

And remember, it’s always better to be overly cautious when it comes to the health of your beloved pet.

Understanding the Recovery Timeline

Each pet and each type of surgery will have its recovery timeline. Some pets bounce back within days, while others take weeks or even months. Your vet will give you a rough idea of what to expect, but be prepared for this to vary depending on how your pet heals.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with pet surgery can be daunting, but understanding common complications and how to prevent them can ease your mind. Be attentive to your pet’s needs, adhere to the vet’s instructions, and be proactive about any signs of trouble. With love and proper care, you’ll be able to support your buddy through their recovery, getting them back on their paws in no time.