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Caring For Your Pet After Veterinary Surgery

If your beloved pet is having surgery it will be important to know how to provide proper care once they are back home in order to help them heal quickly without any issues. Today, our Fairhaven vets share some information on caring for your pet after veterinary surgery and what to do if you have any concerns.

Follow Post-Op Instructions After Veterinary Surgery

If your pet needs to have veterinary surgery then it can cause a lot of anxiety among owners and pets, 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 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 from veterinary surgery and get back to normal. 

What You Should Expect After Veterinary Surgery

The majority of veterinary surgical procedures require the use of general anesthetic. 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 general anesthetic to wear off. The lingering effects of 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.

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

Your Pet's Appetite After Veterinary Surgery

General anesthetic given during veterinary surgery 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.

That said 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 food 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 in order for them to maintain a healthy weight.

How To Manage Your Pet's Pain After Veterinary Surgery

After the veterinary surgery, your vet will take some time to discuss the medications that they have prescribed to help manage your pet's 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 in order to effectively prevent any unnecessary pain while your pet recovers, 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 well.

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

Home remedies aren't recommended, however, if there is a remedy that you would like to use to help your pet feel better, call your vet to ask if the ingredients are safe for pets. Never give human medications to your pet without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that can help humans to feel better are toxic to pets.

Ways To Help Keep Your Pet Comfortable After Veterinary Surgery

When your pet has experienced veterinary surgery it will be important that they are given a calm and safe space where they will be able to rest, away from children and other pets. If your pet typically curls up on a small bed to sleep you may want to invest in a larger bed so that the incision site isn't pulled. Allowing your pet to stretch out, so there’s no extra pressure on any bandaged or sensitive parts of their body, may help your pet to feel better after surgery and may even help them to recover more quickly.

Try To Restrict Your Pet's Movement After Veterinary Surgery

No matter the reason for the veterinary 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 your pet 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.

What To Do If Crate Rest is Required After Veterinary Surgery

That said, orthopedic veterinary surgeries often require strictly limiting your pet’s movements for a good recovery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your pet following surgery, there are ways to help your pet adjust to this strict confinement and help them to get more comfortable with spending long periods of time in a crate.

Make sure that your pet's crate is big enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around. If your pet requires a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking, 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 your pet's bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.

How To Care For Your Pet's Incision After Veterinary Surgery

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 your pup from reaching the wound. Pets can often adjust to wearing a cone collar within a couple of hours, but if your pet is struggling to get used to 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).

Caring For Your Pet's Stitches After Veterinary Surgery

If stitches or staples were used during your pet's veterinary surgery they 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 your pet's wound which dissolve as the incision heals. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.

Regardless of which type of stitches your veterinary surgeon uses, you will still need to prevent your pet from licking the wound in order to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.

Keeping Your Pet's Bandages Clean After Veterinary Surgery

Along with the stitches or staples that your pet received after veterinary surgery the incision site will also be covered with a bandage. It is very important you keep this bandage as dry as possible. Whenever your pet goes outside make sure that the bandages are covered with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from damp or wet 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 Miss Any Follow-Up Appointments After Veterinary Surgery

After veterinary surgery, your pet will have follow-up examinations which will give your vet the opportunity 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.

Between appointments, if your pet's bandage falls off, or you notice swelling, blood seeping through the bandages, or an unpleasant odor at the incision site, make an appointment with your vet immediately.

Keeping Your Pet Happy During Recovery From Veterinary Surgery

After veterinary surgery, it is important to keep in mind that your pet may not understand when they are in recovery and are likely to become frustrated at the reduced level of activity, the itchiness of their incision site, or just the overall lack of stimulation following surgery, so it's important to show your pet plenty of love and affection and spend this time reassuring them.

Keep your pup amused with a rotating selection of gentle games that won't cause any stretching or jumping, such as pet-friendly chew toys or squeaky playthings. Limit the number of toys you offer your pet to one or two items at a time, and switch to a different toy on a regular basis to help prevent boredom.

Treats can be a great way to cheer up your pet but keep in mind that your pup's reduced activity level means that they are burning fewer calories. Too many treats can equal too much of a good thing.

Remember that simply taking some time out of your busy day to sit quietly with your pup, stroking their fur and chatting with them calmly, can help your pet stay calm and feel loved. 

Typical Recovery Times For Pets Following Veterinary Surgery

Soft tissue operations such as spaying, neutering or abdominal surgeries tend to recover more quickly than procedures involving the bones, joints and ligaments. Many soft tissue surgeries have typically healed about 80% after 2-3 weeks and may be completely healed in about 6 weeks.

On the other hand, surgeries involving bones and ligaments will likely take much longer and are usually around 80% healed after about 8 - 12 weeks, although it can take as long as 6 months for your pet to recover completely following surgeries such as those to repair a torn cruciate ligament (CCL). 

Provide Your Pet With an Abundance of Reassurance After Veterinary Surgery

Pet parents often feel guilty about restricting their pet's movements for a seemingly long amount of time. But try to keep in mind that pets generally bounce back much more quickly from surgery than humans do, and by following your vet's post-surgery instructions you are doing your very best to help your pet recover quickly, and get back to their normal active lifestyle as soon as possible!

If your pet has recently gone through surgery and you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to contact our vets at New England Animal Hospital in Fairhaven.

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