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 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 specialist, vet, or 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 and get back to normal.
What to Expect After Surgery
The majority of veterinary surgical procedures require the use of a 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 them 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 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 Pet After Surgery
A general anesthetic 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 about 1/4 or 1/2 of a regular meal. Ask your vet if they have any recommendations for a post-surgery diet. 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.
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.
Managing Your Pet's Pain after Surgery
After your pet's operation, a veterinary professional will take the time to explain the medications prescribed to manage post-surgery 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 follow your vet's instructions 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 companion recover.
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 pet 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 animals.
Let Them Rest
After your pet has had surgery it is important to provide them with a comfortable and quiet place to rest, away from children and other pets.
Restricting Your Pet's Movement
Regardless of why your pet is having 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. Another option is to not give them access to items they tend to climb up. For pets like cats, this means hiding the climbing trees and for pets like dogs, it may mean not letting them into the living room so they don't jump up on the sofa.
What to Do When Cage-Rest is Required
That said, orthopedic surgeries often require strictly limiting of movements for a good recovery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your pet following surgery, there are ways to help them 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 them 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. You will also need to ensure that there is plenty of room for food, water dishes, and for some pets a litter-box, without risking spills that can cause the bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.
Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site
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 them from reaching the wound. 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).
Your Pet's Stitches
Stitches or staples 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 the wound which dissolves 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 to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.
Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element of helping your pet's incision heal quickly. 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 Skip Your Pet's Follow-Up Appointment
Your pet's follow-up appointment allows your vet 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.
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.