After your pet has had surgery, it's important to know how to care for them as they recover. Here are some tips and tricks from our Kennesaw team about caring for your pet after their surgery.
Follow Post-Op Instructions
Undoubtedly, you and your pet will be feeling a little anxious around the time of your animal companion's procedure. However, knowing how to care for your four-legged family member once the two of you return 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 you realize that you've forgotten how to complete a specific instruction you were given once you've already made it back home, make sure to call your vet to clarify.
Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
For the most part, pets can recover from soft tissue procedures like spaying and neutering or abdominal surgeries more quickly than those operations involving the joints, bones, or ligaments. Usually, soft tissue surgeries will be almost entirely healed by the 2- to 3-week mark post-operation. It will likely take about six weeks until your pet is fully healed.
For surgeries involving the structures of the skeleton (ligaments and bones), recovery may take much longer - 80% recovery will usually occur about 8 - 12 weeks in, though may take up to 6 months for complete recoveries, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.
Here are a few key tips and tricks to keep in mind as you try and keep your pet comfortable and content during their at-home recovery:
After-Effects Related To General Anesthetic
Your pet will likely receive a general anesthetic from the veterinarian during your pet's procedure. This will render your pet unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain during its operation. However, it will take some time to wear off after their surgery is complete.
A general anesthetic may temporarily cause sleepiness, or make your pet feel shaky on its feet. These are normal after-effects and should resolve quickly with a little rest. Temporary lack of appetite is another common side effect attributed to general anesthesia.
How to Feed Your Pet After Surgery
After your vet administers the general anesthetic, your pet may feel somewhat nauseated and lose its appetite. 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.
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 a Pet’s Pain After Surgery
Before you take your pet home after 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.
Your vet will explain 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. Always follow up with a veterinary professional if you are unsure about the instructions you were given.
Pain medications and/or antibiotics are usually prescribed for pets after surgery to help ease pain or discomfort and prevent infections. 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 away from the hustle and bustle of other pets, household chores, and children. Set up a soft bed for them and give them ample room to spread out so they can avoid putting pressure on parts of their body that may be sensitive.
Restricting Your Pet’s Movement
After your pet's surgery, your vet will likely recommend limiting your animal companion's movement for some time. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt their healing and potentially reopen an incision or cause injury to a healing limb.
Luckily, the majority of procedures won't require significant confinement of your pet such as "crate rest." For the most part, pets cope well with staying mostly indoors during their recovery - with only infrequent trips outside as required, and always leashed and closely supervised.
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 pet in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.
Helping Your Pet With 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.
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 dog has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure he or she has 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 pet has had stitches or staples placed on the outside of its incisions, your vet will need to remove them 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 its 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 its 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 to your vet for a follow-up appointment allows 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.