To help your pet recover quickly and without any complications after surgery, it's important to know how to care for them properly. Our Pittsboro vets have provided some helpful tips to speed up your pet's healing process.
Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
Knowing how to care for your pet after surgery is crucial to help them return to their active lifestyle.
Your vet will provide specific instructions, but there are also basic tips that can make the healing process safer and more comfortable for your pet.
What to Expect After Your Pet's Surgery
Most veterinary surgeries involve general anesthesia, which causes your pet to become unconscious and unable to feel pain during the procedure.
However, it can take some time for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off, which may result in normal side effects such as sleepiness or unsteadiness.
Your pet may also show signs of subdued behavior, soreness, and temporary loss of appetite. These side effects should disappear quickly with some rest.
Your Pet May Have a Poor Appetite
General anesthesia may cause your pet to feel queasy and lose their appetite after surgery. To help them regain their appetite, offer a light meal or special post-surgery food recommended by your vet.
If your pet's appetite does not return within 48 hours, contact your vet, which may indicate pain or infection. Providing a nutritious diet for your pet is important for their overall health, and your vet can recommend the best food with all the necessary ingredients and calories for your pet's needs.
Managing Your Pet's Pain after Surgery
A veterinary professional will explain the medications prescribed for your pet's post-surgery pain, including the required dose, frequency, and how to administer them.
Following these instructions carefully is important to prevent unnecessary pain and avoid any side effects. If you're unsure about the instructions, ask your vet for clarification.
Antibiotics and pain medication are commonly prescribed after surgery, and a sedative or anti-anxiety medication may also be recommended for anxious pets.
Using home remedies without consulting your vet is not recommended, as some ingredients may not be safe for pets. Human medications can also be toxic to animals, so always check with your vet before giving any medication.
Keeping Your Dog or Cat Comfortable When They Get Home
After your dog or cat's surgery, providing them with a comfortable and quiet place to rest is important, 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 four-legged friend feel better after surgery and even help them recover more quickly.
Restricting Your Pet's Movement
Your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet's activities and movement after surgery to avoid interfering with the healing process and reopening the incision. While most surgeries won't require significant confinement, preventing sudden stretching and jumping movements is important. Your pet may need to be kept indoors for a few days, with only essential trips outside. To prevent your pet from jumping on furniture or climbing stairs, you may need to confine them to a small, safe room when unsupervised.
Helping Your Pet When Cage-Rest is Required
Orthopedic surgeries often require strictly limiting your dog or cat's movements for a good recovery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your four-legged family member following surgery, there are ways to help your animal 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 dog or cat 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 animal 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.
Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site
It can be challenging to prevent your animal from biting, chewing or scratching at their bandages or incision site. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan-collar (available in hard and soft versions) effectively prevents your animal companion from reaching the wound. Dogs and cats 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).
Your Pet's Stitches
Your vet will remove stitches or staples around 10-14 days after surgery, although some surgeries may use dissolvable stitches.
It's important to prevent your pet from licking the wound to avoid infection and promote healing, regardless of the type of stitches used.
Your Pet's Bandages
Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element of helping your animal's incision heal quickly. Whenever your dog goes outside, make sure 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. Cats should be kept indoors while they recover from surgery.
Don't Skip Your Pet's Follow-Up Appointment
Your pet's follow-up appointment gives your vet the opportunity to monitor your animal's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes more serious.
It is also essential that your dog or cat'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. Your pet's veterinary hospital professionals have been trained in dressing wounds correctly. When it comes to keeping your furry friend'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
Dogs and cats 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 pet amused with a rotating selection of gentle games that won't cause any stretching or jumping, such as dog-friendly chew toys or squeaky playthings for cats. 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 your pet up, but remember that your animal's reduced activity level means 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 pet, stroking their fur, and chatting with them calmly, can help your cat or 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.
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. However, 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).
Reassurance for Loving Pet Parents
Pet parents often feel guilty about restricting their beloved pet's movements for a seemingly long amount of time. But try to keep in mind that animals 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 cherished pet recover quickly and get back to their normal active lifestyle as soon as possible!
Ask your vet about Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy uses low-intensity laser or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to help improve healing, enhance and stimulate cell function, and assist with pain relief.
There are a handful of conditions that have displayed improvement with the use of veterinary cold laser therapy, including muscle spasms, arthritis symptoms as well as muscle and joint pain.
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.