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How To Care For Your Pet After Surgery

How To Care For Your Pet After Surgery

After your pet has had surgery, it's important to know the best ways to care for them during their recovery. Hopefully, your pet can return to normal life as quickly as possible. Here are some tips and tricks from our Douglasville veterinary team about caring for your pet after surgery.

Follow Post-Op Instructions

Both you and your pet are sure to be somewhat stressed around the time of your animal companion's procedure. However, knowing how to care for your four-legged friend after you return home is a key part of their fast, safe recovery. 

After your pet's surgery, the vet will give clear and detailed instructions regarding how to care for your pet at home. It’s essential to follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you do not understand, be sure to ask.

If, once you get home, you realize that you've forgotten how to complete a specific instruction you were given, make sure to call your vet to clarify.

Post-Surgery Recovery Times For Pets

For the most part, pets will recover from soft tissue procedures like spaying and neutering or abdominal surgeries more quickly than those operations which involve joints, bones or ligaments. Usually, soft tissue surgeries will be almost entirely healed by the 2-3 week mark after the operation. It will likely take about 6 weeks until your pet is fully healed.

For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery may take considerably more time. Pets can achieve about 80% recovery 8 - 12 weeks in, although it could take as long as 6 months for complete recovery, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind as you try and keep your pet comfortable and content during their at-home recovery:

General Anesthetic Effects

Your vet will likely use a general anesthetic during your pet's procedure to render your pet unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain during their operation. After your pet's procedure, however, it will take some time to wear off .

General anesthetic may temporarily cause sleepiness, or make your pet feel shaky on their feet. These are normal after effects and should disappear quickly with a little rest. Temporary lack of appetite is another common side effect attributed to general anesthesia.

Feeding Your Pet After Surgery

After your vet administers the general anesthetic, your pet may feel moderately nauseated and lose their appetite. When it's time to feed your pet after surgery (your vet will let you know the duration to wait before feeding them), try offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as bland, unseasoned rice and unseasoned chicken (no salt for either), which may be easier to digest than regular store-bought pet food.

You can expect your pet's appetite to return within 24 hours of the operation. After that, they can begin to eat their regular food again. If your find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours of their operation, contact your veterinarian or surgeon. Loss of appetite can indicate excessive pain or an infection in your pet.

Managing Your Pet's Post-Surgery Pain

Before taking your pet home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage post-surgery pain or discomfort.

You will learn about your pet's dosage, frequency, and how to safely administer it. Make sure you follow these instructions as carefully as possible to avoid unnecessary pain and avoid possible side effects and ensure you follow up with a veterinary professional if you are unsure about the instructions you were given.

Pain medications and/or antibiotics are often prescribed for pets after surgery to help relieve discomfort and to prevent infections following the procedure. If your pet experiences anxiety or tends to be on the high-strung end of the spectrum, your vet may also prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help your pet stay calm while healing.

Never give your pet human medication unless instructed to by your vet. Many medications which help humans feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.

Helping Your Pet Stay Comfortable At Home

After their operation, make sure you create a comfortable and quiet place for your pet to rest by keeping them out of the hustle and bustle of other pets, household chores and children. Set up a soft bed for them and give them plenty of room to spread out so they can avoid putting pressure on part of their body that may be sensitive.

Restricting Your Pet’s Physical Activity

After your pet's surgery, your vet will probably recommend that you limit your companion's movement for a period of time. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt their healing and potentially reopen an incision.

Luckily, the majority of procedures for our pets don't require significant confinement of your pet like 'crate rest,' and most pets will cope well with staying mostly indoors during their recovery with only supervised and leashed trips outside as required.

Despite your best efforts, you may find it difficult to keep your pet from climbing stairs or jumping up on furniture they love to sleep on. Preventing these actions for a few days may require keeping your pet in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.

Helping Your Pet With Cage-Rest

Unlike other surgeries that don't require cage rest, orthopedic surgery, unlike other surgeries which don't require cage-rest, will need strict limiting of your pet's movements. If your vet recommends crate rest for your pet after their surgery, there are plenty of actions you can take to help your pet adjust and cope with their strict confinement to make them as happy and comfortable as possible.

Make sure the crate is large enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your pet has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure they have plenty of room for their water and food dishes, without risking spills that may cause bandages or bedding to become wet and soiled.

Taking Care Of Your Pet’s Stitches

You may notice stitches have been placed on the inside of your pet’s wound rather than the outside. Stitches on the inside of the surgical incision will dissolve as the incision heals.

If your pat has had stitches or staples placed on the outside of their incisions, your vet will need to remove them sometime within 14 days of the surgery. They will let you know what type of stitches they used and about any follow-up care they might require from you.

The Incision Site

You might have a challenge dissuading your pet from chewing, biting, scratching or generally bothering their incision site or bandages. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.

Often, pets will adapt to this collar pretty quickly. If your pet is having a hard time adjusting, there are also other choices available to your. Ask your vet about less cumbersome, more effective products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.

Keep Your Pet’s Bandages Dry

Making sure your pet's bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping their surgical site heal quickly.

Make sure your pet's bandages are covered in plastic wrap or a bag if they must go outside. This will prevent dampness, grass, or dirt from getting between their bandage and their skin. Removed the covering when your pet returns inside, since it may cause sweat around their incision - and that can lead to infection.

Take Your Pet To Follow-Up Appointments

The follow-up appointment allows your vet a chance to monitor your pet’s recovery progress and look for any signs of infection before it develops into a serious condition.

Make sure to change your pet's bandages at the appointed time as well. Leaving bandages on for too long can cause pressure sores or cut off your companion's blood supply. Bringing your pet in to your vet for a follow-up appointment allows for them to help you redress their wounds if need be. This allows for your pet's healing process to remain smooth and on track for a full recovery.

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.

Concerned about your pet's recovery from a recent surgery? Contact Douglasville Veterinary Hospital for advice or answers about taking care of your pet after a procedure.

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