The Night Before Pet Surgery: What to Do, Prepare, and Expect

Veterinary surgery is a common, necessary procedure that helps keep our furry friends healthy and happy. Though it may be routine for your vet, it’s likely a very new and scary experience for your pet.

The night before your pet’s surgery, there are a few things you’ll need to do to prepare. Here’s what you need to do to help them—and you—through it.

1. Talk to your vet about your concerns.

The night before your pet’s surgery, feeling anxious and having questions is normal. Call the vet clinic or hospital and ask about anything on your mind, no matter how small.

For example, you might want to know:

  • How long the surgery will take
  • What type of anesthesia will be used
  • What pain management type will be available during and after the surgery
  • What kind of aftercare you’ll need to provide at home
  • Are there any bloodwork tests that need to be done beforehand
  • What time you should drop off your pet the following day
  • What time you can expect to pick them up

You can also ask about the vet’s experience with this particular type of surgery. The more experience they have, the better.

2. Make sure your pet is well-fed.

Your vet will probably instruct you to withhold food from your pet the night before surgery. This is because anesthesia can cause nausea and vomiting. To avoid an empty stomach, feed your pet their dinner early in the evening, around 6 to 8 hours before they’re scheduled to arrive at the vet’s office.

If your dog needs emergency care due to an accident, vets can give them special pre-anesthetic food to help prevent nausea. Also, you may need to take them to the vet for a pre-surgical blood test, in which case you will be asked when to withhold food.

3. Get everything you need ready.

The night before your pet’s surgery, gather everything you’ll need so you’re not scrambling in the morning. This includes:

  • Your pet’s leash and collar
  • A carrier or crate
  • Any medicine your pet is currently taking in its original container
  • A list of your pet’s current medications, including dosages
  • A list of any allergies your pet has
  • Your pet’s medical records
  • Proof of vaccination
  • Your payment method

Ask the veterinary surgeons or a staff member for help if you have any concerns.

4. Take them out for a potty break.

Before leaving for the night, take your pet for one last potty break. This will help minimize accidents in their crate overnight. If your pet typically goes to the bathroom right after eating, you may want to set the alarm so you can take them out first thing in the morning, too.

5. Get everything ready for the morning.

The night before your pet’s surgery, pack their crate or carrier with everything they need for the ride home. This includes:

  • A blanket or towel
  • Their favorite toy
  • Extra bag of food and water (in case you get held up at the vet’s office)
  • Any medications they take on a regularly

Put your other pets’ food and water bowls in a safe place where your recovering dog can’t reach them. Surgery can be stressful, and you don’t want your other animal companions to feel left out.

6. Set aside some quiet time.

Your pet will need some quiet to recover after a long day at the clinic or hospital. Once you’re home, set them up in a quiet room away from kids and other animals. Keep your other pets separated until your vet gives the okay.

7. Prepare for some changes in behavior.

It’s normal for your pet to act differently after the surgery. They may be tired, sore, or grumpy. It’s important to give them time to rest and heal.

If your pet is feeling pain, talk to your vet about giving them over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or Tylenol. Never give your pet medication without checking with your vet first.

As your pet heals, they may not have much of an appetite. Try offering small meals more often throughout the day instead of their usual large meals. Call your vet if your pet doesn’t eat for more than 24 hours.

8. Watch for signs of complications.

Most pets recover from surgery without any problems. But it’s essential to be on the lookout for any signs that something isn’t right, such as:

  • Excessive bleeding or discharge
  • Decreased energy levels or activity
  • Increased pain or discomfort
  • Swelling and redness at the incision site
  • Loss of appetite or vomiting

Tell your vet immediately if you notice these signs.


The night before your pet’s surgery can be stressful, but try to stay calm. They will be in good hands with the veterinary team, and you’ll be reunited before you know it.