After your pet has had surgery, it's important to be informed about how to best take care of them as they recover. Today, our New Hope vets share some tips for looking after your pet after their surgery.
Always Follow Post-Op Instructions
Undoubtedly, both you and your pet will feel at least a little stressed around the time of your animal companion's procedure. However, knowing how to care for your four-legged family member once your pet is discharged to go home is key to helping them get back to being themselves as quickly as possible.
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're unsure about how to carry out a specific instruction you were given, make sure to contact your vet to clarify. Our team of veterinarians at New Hope Animal Hospital is dedicated to providing the best possible care for your pet and is always happy to help you understand post-operative instructions.
Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Often, pets 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 post-operation. It will likely take about 6 weeks until your pet is fully healed.
For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery may take much longer. Usually, your pet will be at about 80% recovery about 8 to 12 weeks in, though may 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:
Effects of General Anesthetic
Your vet will probably use general anesthetic during your pet's procedure. This is a common step to ensure the patient is unconscious and cannot feel any pain during the operation, but it will take some time to wear off after their surgery is complete.
General anesthetic may cause sleepiness, or make your pet unsteady 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 somewhat nauseated and lose their appetite. When feeding your pet after surgery, try offering a half-size portion of a bland meal such as plain white rice and unseasoned cooked chicken, 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 pain or an infection in your pet.
Post-Surgery Pain Management For Your Pet
Before you and your pet head home after surgery, a veterinary professional explains any medications or pain relievers prescribed for your pet so you can manage your cat or dog's post-surgery pain or discomfort.
Your vet will explain your pet's dosage, how often to give them their medication 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. Always 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 post-surgery care to help relieve discomfort and to prevent infections after 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. Keep them away from the hustle and bustle of other pets, household chores and children. Set up a soft bed for them and give them lots of room to spread out so they can avoid putting pressure on parts of their body that may be sensitive.
Restrict Your Pet's Movements
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.
Thankfully, most procedures won't require significant confinement of your pet as restrictive as 'cage rest'.
And the majority of pets will cope well with staying mostly indoors during their recovery - with only infrequent trips outside as required.
However, 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 cat or dog in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.
Helping Your Pet Heal With Cage Rest
Orthopedic surgical procedures are an example of surgeries that require cage-rest, wherein your pet will need strict limiting of their movements. If your vet recommends crate rest for your pet after their surgery, there are plenty of actions you can take to help you pet adjust and cope with their strict confinement to make them as happy and comfortable as possible.
Confirm that 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.
Caring for 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 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 trouble keeping your pet from chewing, biting, scratching or generally bothering their incisions 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 you. 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
Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s 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.
Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment
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 you are changing 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.