Knowing how to care for your pet properly after surgery can help you to get your dog back to normal as quickly as possible, without complications. In today's blog, our veterinarians share a few tips on how to care for your pup following surgery.
Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
Surgery can be a stressful time for pet parents and pets alike, but knowing how to look after your dog following surgery is important for helping your animal get back to its normal, active, lifestyle.
Whatever type of surgery your dog is scheduled for, your specialist, vet, or veterinary surgeon will give you clear and specific instructions on how to care for your pet after the procedure. Make sure to carefully follow your vet's instructions; 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 and get back to normal.
What to Expect After Surgery
A general anesthetic is required for the majority of veterinary surgical procedures. The general anesthetic knocks your pet out and keeps them from feeling any pain during the procedure, but the effects of the general anesthetic can take some time to wear off. The aftereffects of general anesthesia may cause your dog to feel sleepy or shaky on its feet. These side effects are normal and should go away quickly with rest.
A few other side effects that you may notice, include more subdued behavior than usual, appearing as if they are feeling a little bruised or sore, and a temporary lack of appetite.
Feeding Your Dog After Surgery
A general anesthetic could cause your dog to feel a little queasy, and lose its appetite. When it's time to feed your dog after surgery try offering your pet a light meal (1/4 or 1/2 of the regular meal) such as chicken and rice which can be easier to digest than regular store-bought dog food. 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 dog'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 dog a nutritious diet while they're recovering, as well as on a daily basis, is an important part of caring for their overall health. Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about the best food for your dog. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a food that contains all of the key ingredients that your dog requires for optimal health, as well as calculate the appropriate number of calories to feed your pet in order for them to maintain a healthy weight.
Managing Your Pet's Pain After Surgery
Following your pet's surgery, a veterinary professional will explain the medications prescribed to manage your dog's post-surgery pain. They will explain the dosage, how often the medications should be given to your pet, and how to administer the medications. It is critical for your pet's health that you follow your veterinarian's instructions in order to avoid unnecessary pain while your dog recovers without causing any side effects. If you have any questions about the instructions, please contact your veterinarian. Your veterinary team wants to assist you in assisting your dog's recovery.
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 dogs.
Keeping Your Dog Comfortable When They Get Home
It is critical to provide your dog with a comfortable and quiet place to rest away from children and other pets after surgery. If your dog sleeps on a small bed, you may want to invest in a larger bed to prevent the incision site from being pulled. Allowing your dog to stretch out so that no extra pressure is placed on any bandaged or sensitive parts of their body may help your dog feel better after surgery and may even help them recover faster.
Restricting Your Pet's Movement
Regardless of why your pet is having surgery, it is likely that your vet will recommend limiting your dog'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, thankfully, do not necessitate significant confinement, such as complete 'crate-rest,' and most pets do well with being kept indoors for a few days (with only essential trips outside for potty breaks). Preventing your dog from jumping up on furniture they like to sleep on or climbing stairs is often a more difficult task. To prevent these behaviors for a few days, confine your dog to a safe and comfortable room when you are unable to directly supervise them.
Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest is Required
That said, orthopedic surgeries often require strictly limiting your dog’s movements for a good recovery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your dog following surgery, there are ways to help your dog adjust to this strict confinement and help them to get more comfortable with spending long periods of time in a crate.
Make sure your dog's crate is large enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If your dog needs a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking, you may need to buy a larger crate for him to recover in. You'll also want to make sure there's enough room for food and water dishes without risking spills, which can ruin your dog's bedding and bandages.
Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site
It can be difficult to keep your dog from biting, chewing, or scratching at bandages or incision sites. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar (available in hard and soft versions) is an effective way to keep your dog from getting to the wound. Dogs can usually adjust to wearing a cone collar within a couple of hours, but if your dog is having trouble getting used to wearing one, there are other options. Consult your veterinarian about effective and less obtrusive options such as donut-style collars or post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet shirts).
Your Pet's Stitches
Stitches or staples are usually removed by your veterinarian 10 to 14 days after surgery. Depending on the surgery, veterinarians may use stitches inside your dog's wound that dissolve as the incision heals. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision.
Regardless of which type of stitches your veterinary surgeon uses, you will still need to prevent your dog from licking the wound in order to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.
Your Pet's Bandages
Another important aspect of assisting your dog's incision to heal quickly is to keep bandages dry at all times. When your dog goes outside, cover the bandages with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from damp or wet grass. When your pet returns inside, remove the plastic covering. If you leave the plastic over the bandage, sweat can collect under it and cause an infection.
Don't Skip Your Dog's Follow-Up Appointment
Your pet's follow-up appointment gives 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 critical that your dog's bandages are not left on for an extended period of time after the procedure. Failure to change the bandages on time may result in pressure sores or even a disruption in the blood supply to the area. The staff at your pet's veterinary hospital has been trained to properly dress wounds. When it comes to keeping your dog's healing process on track, it's best to leave bandage changes to the professionals.
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 Doggie Happy During Recovery
Dogs just don't 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 that you give your pet stimulation and loving reassurance in other ways.
Keep your pup entertained with a variety of gentle games that don't require any stretching or jumping, such as dog-friendly chew toys or squeaky toys. Limit the number of toys you give your dog to one or two at a time, and rotate them on a regular basis to help prevent boredom.
Treats can be a great way to cheer up your dog 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 dog stay calm and feel loved.
Typical Recovery Times For Pets Following 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.
Surgery involving bones and ligaments, on the other hand, is likely to take much longer and is usually around 80 percent healed after about 8 - 12 weeks, though it can take up to 6 months for your pet to recover completely following surgeries such as those to repair a torn cruciate ligament (CCL).
Reassurance for Loving Pet Parents
Pet parents frequently feel guilty for restricting their dog's movements for what appears to be an extended period of time. However, keep in mind that dogs recover much faster from surgery than humans do, and by following your vet's post-surgery instructions, you are doing everything you can to help your dog recover quickly and return to their normal active lifestyle as soon as possible!