Is severe twitching normal after liver shunt surgery in dogs?
January 14, 2010 6:52 PM   Subscribe

My dog had liver surgery yesterday. He is now twitching and groaning. Is this okay?

My 8-month-old miniature schnauzer puppy had surgery yesterday to correct an extraheptic liver shunt. This was done using an ameroid constrictor. He now has a fentanyl patch between his shoulders to help with the pain. It was originally sutured on with three threads. Two of the threads came off within an hour of him being home, despite our limiting his movement. We ended up wrapping him in an ace bandage just to keep him from scratching the patch completely off, and it seems that the sticky part is still intact.

Now that he is sleepy, his entire body is very twitchy. Sometimes it will be his whole body, all at once, sometimes just a limb, and sometimes his eyes. I understand that he is going to be exeriencing discomfort, even with the patch. The twitching scares me, though. One of the symptoms of the liver shunt was seizures, and so I panic a little at anything seemingly neurological. Is this normal after surgery? Could it just be a side effect from the fentanyl, or perhaps from all the drugs used during the surgery?

I've tried calling the on call post op tech, twice, and she will not answer the phone/return my calls.

Can you ease my mind? Thanks in advance.
posted by starbaby to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
I would call an emergency/24 hour vet if your vet is unavailable.
posted by amethysts at 6:53 PM on January 14, 2010

Forgive me if you've already considered this and it's obviously not this: When my dog has a particularly active, eventful, or unusual day, he dreams more. This involves just the kind of twitching it sounds like you're describing. Sounds like some hypnic jerks + dreams. I would still act the vet, but don't worry too much in the meantime.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:56 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My local emergency vet is pretty much a "yeah, you will have to bring him in" type, and since we just dropped three grand on the surgery, I'd really like to avoid the ER costs if possible. If I don't hear from the post op tech soon, my paranoia will probably result in an ER visit anyway, but I'm trying not to freak out in the mean time.

Also, it's QUITE like dream jerks, only it's when he's awake and tired, not asleep. Actually, now that he's asleep, it's almost stopped.
posted by starbaby at 6:58 PM on January 14, 2010

Wow. I'm really surprised that they sent him home so soon after surgery. Anyway...

IANAV, but there are a lot of reports of dogs having reactions to Fetanyl (we heard a lot at the clinic I worked at). Is your dog on any other medications?

I would imagine your dog will be fine (it just sounds agitated), but I would definitely call your vet first thing in the morning. Just like people, some don't tolerate certain drugs well. (For example, prescription narcotics make my dad hyper and irritable)

Hope this helps.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:24 PM on January 14, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, they kept him overnight, but that was it. Luckily, tomorrow my local vet will keep him and then for the next five days, either my husband or I is off work, so he won't be alone for a full week following surgery.

He seems better now. He had a run-in with our laptop cord a little earlier, and we think it brushed against his wound. He started screaming and barked/ran around for a minute, freaking out. I am thinking maybe the adrenaline from that incident may have caused the twitches. I really wish they had kept him longer, too...

Thank you.
posted by starbaby at 7:28 PM on January 14, 2010

if it has lightened up now that the pup is sleeping, and heartbeat and respiration seem normal, you might relax a bit about it, I would, but, I'm NOT a vet, don't hold much to this opinion..

That said, get for the future, locate a couple of good discussion boards for your brand of puppy...or a good generic dog oriented board... I find the folks here are good at answering these questions, but, frequently, those boards have a few pretty expert kind of folks responding to these types of emergent issues!
posted by HuronBob at 7:31 PM on January 14, 2010

"get for the future"... an artifact of bad editing! sorry..

and...hope the pup is ok and good for you for the love you're showing him!
posted by HuronBob at 7:33 PM on January 14, 2010

Just some anecdata..... every time I have a general anaesthetic (I've had about 15 or more) I get jerky legs afterwards for a couple of days.... while awake. I've always put it down to the upset your neurological system gets from the paralysis of the general anaesthesia.
posted by taff at 4:54 AM on January 15, 2010

Have you considered a padded crate/ enclosure for him? It may seem a little cruel to us humans, but my pets have actually responded quite well to them after getting used to the idea (and sleep there voluntarily when I'm not home). It will keep him from tripping over household items or hurting himself because he can't be still, which in turn could keep you from visiting the ER again in the future.
posted by _cave at 5:39 AM on January 15, 2010

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