Safe Recovery

Monitoring animals is an important task from the time an animal comes out of surgery until the time it is able to lift its’ head (becomes sternal). The animals’…

  • temperature
  • color (gums)
  • heart rate, and
  • breathing

help to determine if the animal is recovering properly or if it needs additional attention.

When an unconscious animal is placed onto a recovery area (either onto a blanket or into its’ cage), gently pull the tongue forward to make sure the airway is open. This is not an issue if the animal pulls back on the tongue. Be sure the airway is open each time the animal is moved or turned. Recovery may take place on the floor or on a table. Either way, monitoring is vital.

Animals are not fully capable of regulating their body temperature while they’re compromised by anesthesia; do not expose them to extreme heat, cold or drafts. If recovering animals on the floor, feel the floor beforehand. A cold floor under an animal can sap its’ body heat. If need be, cover the pet with a towel or blanket. If you place a pet on a heated surface, such as an electric blanket, use a low setting.

A mild heat source (such as an electric blanket on a low setting) under a plastic table cloth or tarp and then covered by a blanket or quilt and newspaper creates a comfortable recovery surface that can be wiped clean. Cat carriers containing recovering cats can be placed on the blanket, warming them from underneath.

Do not overload the cages of recovering animals with towels and blankets; they can fall back to sleep and suffocate. Towels and/ or blankets should be flat or gently covering the pet.

The gums of a dog or cat should be pink and moist. If the gums appear pale or dry, immediately speak with the veterinarian or staff.

Checking the pet’s ‘capillary refill time,’ (CRT) enables you to check the blood flow of the animal. To check the CRT, press on the pets’ gums with a finger, then release the pressure. When the pressure is released, the blood should almost immediately refill the capillaries and the white spot created by the pressure on the gums will disappear, and turn back to pink. The normal time it takes for the capillaries to refill (for the gums to return to pink) in the dog or the cat is 1.5 seconds. A prolonged CRT occurs when the blood flow is not adequate and can indicate the pet is going into shock. If you check the CRT and it takes more than two seconds for the gums to return to pink, advise a staff person.


Blankets, plastic sheets, paper bowls, hot water bottles, thermometer, stethoscope (s), towels, Karo Syrup, electric blanket, tarp or plastic drop cloth to keep urine off electric blanket. nail clippers if nails are being clipped in recovery, newspaper or newsprint paper rolls.

Click here for a downloadable copy of our complete recovery instructions for the recovery table. We recommend that you have it laminated and keep it on the table while recovery is in progress.