How to Care for Your Pet After Surgery

Knowing how to care for your pet properly after surgery can help you to get your animal companion back to normal as quickly as possible, without complications. In today's blog, our Riverbank veterinarians share a few tips on how to care for your pet following surgery.

Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

Surgery can be a stressful time for pet parents and pets alike, but knowing how to look after your pet following surgery is important for helping your animal get back to their normal, active, lifestyle.

No matter which type of surgery your pet is scheduled for, your vet or veterinary surgeon will be sure to provide you with clear and specific instructions on how to care for your pet following the operation. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions carefully, there may be very specific and important instructions relating to the type of surgery your pet has had.

Nonetheless, there are a few basic tips that can help you to keep your pet safe and comfortable while they recover and get back to normal.

What to Expect After Surgery

The majority of veterinary surgical procedures require the use of a general anesthetic. A general anesthetic knocks your pet out and prevents them from feeling any pain during the procedure, but it can take a while for the effects of a general anesthetic to wear off. The lingering effects of a general anesthetic may leave your pet feeling a little sleepy, or shaky on their feet. These side effects are normal and with a little rest should disappear very quickly. This does mean that you may have to carry your pet to and from your vehicle. If your pet is of a significant size you might want to enlist help.

A few other side effects that you may notice, include more subdued behavior than usual, appearing as if they are feeling a little bruised or sore, and a temporary lack of appetite.

Feeding Your Pet After Surgery

A general anesthetic could cause your pet to feel a little queasy, and lose their appetite. When it's time to feed your pet after surgery try offering your pet a light meal (1/4 or 1/2 of a regular meal). You can expect your pet to regain their appetite within about 24 hours following surgery, at which time they should gradually return to eating their regular diet.

If your pet's appetite doesn't return within 48 hours contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can also indicate pain or infection.

It's important to note that feeding your pet a nutritious diet while they are recovering, as well as on a regular day-to-day basis, is a key element of caring for your pet's overall health. If you are unsure about what the best food for your pet is, speak to your vet. Your vet will be able to recommend a diet with all the key ingredients your pet needs for optimal health, and they will be able to calculate the right number of calories to feed your pet for them to maintain a healthy weight.

Managing Your Pet's Pain after Surgery

After your pet's operation, a veterinary professional will take the time to explain the medications prescribed to manage your pet's post-surgery pain. They will explain the dose required, how often to give the medications to your pet, and how to administer the medications. It is essential for your pet's health that you adhere to your vet's instructions to effectively prevent any unnecessary pain while they recover, without causing any side effects. If you are unsure about any of the instructions ask your vet to clarify. Your veterinary team wants to help you to help your pet recover.

Antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication to relieve post-op discomfort are the 2 most commonly prescribed medications for pets after surgery. Your vet may also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm while they are healing.

Never give human medications to your pet without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that can help humans to feel better are toxic to our pets.

Restricting Your Pet's Movement

Regardless of why your pet is having surgery, it is likely that your vet will recommend limiting your pet's activities and movement for a period of time following the operation. Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.

Most surgeries fortunately will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ to aid in recovery, and most pets cope well with being kept indoors for a few days (with only essential trips outside for potty breaks). Often, a more difficult task is preventing them from jumping up on furniture that they love to sleep on, or climbing stairs. Preventing these behaviors for a few days may require confining your pet to a safe and comfortable room when you are unable to supervise them directly.

When Cage-Rest is Required

Orthopedic surgeries often require strictly limiting movement for a good recovery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your pet following surgery, make sure that the crate is big enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around. Some pets (often cats and dogs) require a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking their wound, you may need to purchase a larger crate for your pet to recover in. You will also need to ensure that there is plenty of room for food and water dishes, without risking spills that can cause the bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

It can be challenging to prevent your pet from biting, chewing, or scratching at their bandages or incision site. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar (available in hard and softer versions) is an effective way to prevent them from reaching the wound. If your pet is getting highly agitated from wearing a cone, there are other options available. Speak to your vet about effective and less cumbersome options such as donut-style collars, or post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet shirts).

Stitches or staples will typically be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery. Depending on the surgery so vets may use stitches placed inside of the wound which dissolves as the incision heals or they may use stitches on the outside that need to be removed. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.

Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element to healing quickly. If your pet goes outside make sure that the bandages are covered with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from the damp grass. Remove the plastic covering as soon as your pet comes back inside. Leaving the plastic over the bandage could cause sweat to collect under the bandage and lead to an infection.

Don't Skip Your Pet's Follow-Up Appointment

Your pet's follow-up appointment allows your vet to monitor your pet's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes more serious.

It is also essential that your pet's bandages aren't left on for too long following the procedure. Not changing the bandages at the right time could lead to pressure sores or even affect the blood supply to the area. The professionals at your pet's veterinary hospital have been trained in dressing wounds correctly. When it comes to keeping your pet's healing process on track, it's a good idea to let the professionals handle bandage changes.

Reassurance for Loving Pet Parents

Pet parents often feel guilty about restricting their pet's movements for a seemingly long amount of time but it needs to be done. It's important that you give your pet stimulation and loving reassurance. Try to keep your pet amused with a rotating selection of gentle games that won't cause any stretching or jumping, and switch to a different toy regularly to help prevent boredom.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

    Worried about your pet's post surgery recovery? Contact us at River Oak Veterinary Hospital today. We want to help your pet feel better