If your pet is scheduled for surgery it’s important to know how you will need to care for them as they recover, so they can return to their normal life as quickly as possible. Here are some tips from our O’Fallon vets about how to care for your pet after surgery.
Follow The Post-Op Instructions
Pets and their owners are bound to feel some anxiety around the time of the surgery, but knowing how to care for your four-legged friend after they return home is essential to helping your pet get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Following your pet's surgery, your veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how to care for your pet at home. It is critical that you carefully follow these instructions. If you have any questions about any of the steps, please ask. Even if you get home and realize you forgot how to complete a specific instruction, contact your veterinarian to clarify.
Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Our team finds that most pets tend to recover from soft tissue procedures such as abdominal surgeries, and spaying or neutering more quickly than operations involving ligaments, bones, and joints. Many soft tissue surgeries are about 80% healed 2 - 3 weeks after surgery, and take about 6 weeks to completely heal.
For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery takes much longer. Approximately 80% of your pet's recovery will occur within 8 to 12 weeks of surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries require 6 months or longer for complete recovery. Cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery is an orthopedic procedure.
Here are a few tips from our O’Fallon vets to help you keep your pet contented and comfortable as they recover at home:
Getting Over the Effects of General Anesthetic
A general anesthetic is used during the surgical procedure to render your pet unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain during the procedure, but it can take some time to wear off after the surgery is complete.
A general anesthetic may cause your pet to become drowsy or shaky on its feet. These are normal side effects that should go away with some rest. Another common side effect of general anesthesia is a temporary loss of appetite.
Diet & Feeding Your Pet After Surgery
Due to the general anesthetic, your pet may feel somewhat nauseated and lose its appetite directly after surgery. When feeding your pet after surgery, try offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which may be easier to digest than regular store-bought pet food.
The appetite of your pet should return within 24 hours of surgery. At that point, your pet can gradually resume eating their regular food. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours. Loss of appetite can indicate an infection or pain.
Pet Pain Management
Before you and your pet head home after surgery, a veterinary professional explains any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage post-surgery pain or discomfort.
They will explain the dose needed, how often you should provide the medication, and how to safely administer the meds. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. If you are unsure about any instructions, ask follow-up questions.
Pain relievers and/or antibiotics are frequently prescribed for pets following surgery to help relieve discomfort and prevent infections. If your pet is anxious or on the high-strung end of the spectrum, your veterinarian may also prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help your pet stay calm while healing.
Never provide your pet human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.
Keeping Your Pet Comfortable At Home
It's critical to provide your pet with a quiet, comfortable place to rest after surgery, away from the hustle and bustle of the house, other pets, and children. Setting up a comfortable, soft bed and giving them plenty of room to spread out can help to prevent undue pressure on any sensitive or bandaged areas of their body.
Your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’s movement for a specified period after surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.
Fortunately, most procedures will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ (cage-rest) to help your pet recover, and most pets will cope well staying indoors for a few days, taking only the odd essential trip outside for bathroom breaks.
Some pet parents find it difficult to keep their dogs from climbing stairs or jumping up on furniture they like to sleep on. For a few days, you may need to keep your dog in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.
Helping Your Pet Cope With Crate Rest
While most surgeries will not require crate rest, if your pet has had orthopedic surgery, part of recovery will involve strictly limiting their movements.
If your vet prescribes crate rest for your pet after surgery, there are measures you can take to help your pet adjust to the strict confinement so they feel more comfortable with spending long periods in their crate.
Make sure your pet's crate is big enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If your dog wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate. Don't forget to leave enough space for your animal's water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and unpleasant place to spend time, as well as cause bandages to become wet and soiled.
Stitches & Bandages
Stitches that have been placed on the inside of your pet's incision will dissolve as the incision heals.
If staples or stitches have been used on the outside, your vet will need to remove them approximately 10 to 14 days after surgery. Your veterinarian will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet’s incision, and about any follow-up care that will be required.
Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s surgical site heal quickly.
If your pet goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to keep wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your pet returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage, leading to infection.
The Incision Site
It can be difficult for pet parents to keep their pet from scratching, chewing, biting, or otherwise bothering their incision site or bandages. To keep your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in soft and hard versions).
Many pets adapt to the collar quickly, but if your pet is struggling to adjust, other options are available. Ask your veterinarian about less cumbersome products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.
Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment
The follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your pet’s bandages.
Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital's team has been trained to properly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for a follow-up appointment allows this process to take place - and allows us to assist in keeping your pet's healing on track.
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.