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Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

Knowing how to care for your pet properly after surgery can help you to get your pet 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 pet 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 pet following surgery is important for helping your animal get back to its normal, active, lifestyle.

Whatever type of surgery your pet 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 pet to feel sleepy or shaky on their 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 Pet After Surgery

A general anesthetic could cause your pet to feel a little queasy, and lose its appetite. When it's time to feed your pet 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 pet 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 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 remember that feeding your pet 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 pet. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a food that contains all of the key ingredients that your pet 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 pet'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 pet 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 pet'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 pets.

Keeping Your Pet Comfortable When They Get Home

It is critical to provide your pet with a comfortable and quiet place to rest away from children and other pets after surgery. If your pet sleeps on a small bed, you may want to invest in a larger bed to prevent the incision site from being pulled. Allowing your pet to stretch out so that no extra pressure is placed on any bandaged or sensitive parts of their body may help your pet 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 pet's activities and movement for some 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 pet 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 pet to a safe and comfortable room when you are unable to directly supervise them.

Helping Your Pet When Cage-Rest is Required

That said, orthopedic 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 in a crate.

Make sure your pet's crate is large enough for him to stand up and turn around. If your pet needs a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking, you may need to buy a larger crate for him to recover. You'll also want to make sure there's enough room for food and water dishes without risking spills, which can ruin your pet's bedding and bandages.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

Preventing your pet from biting, chewing, or scratching at its bandages or incision site can be difficult. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar (available in hard and soft versions) is an effective way to keep your pet from getting to the wound. pets can usually adjust to wearing a cone collar within a couple of hours, but if your pet 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 pet'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 pet from licking the wound to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.

Your Pet's Bandages

Another important aspect of assisting your pet's incision to heal quickly is to keep bandages dry at all times. When your pet goes outside, cover the bandages with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from the damp 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 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 critical that your pet's bandages are not left on for an extended period 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 pet'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 Pet Happy During Recovery

pets 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 you must give your pet stimulation and loving reassurance in other ways.

Keep your pet entertained with a variety of gentle games that don't require any stretching or jumping, such as pet-friendly chew toys or squeaky toys. Limit the number of toys you give your pet to one or two at a time, and rotate toys regularly to help prevent boredom.

Treats can be a great way to cheer up your pet but keep in mind that your pet'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 pet, stroking their fur, and chatting with them calmly, can help your pet stay calm and feel loved. 

Typical Recovery Times For Pets Following Surgery

Soft tissue procedures, such as spaying, neutering, or abdominal surgery, tend to heal faster than procedures involving bones, joints, and ligaments. Many soft tissue surgeries typically heal at 80% within 2-3 weeks and may be completely healed within 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). 

Reassurance for Loving Pet Parents

Pet parents frequently feel guilty for restricting their pet's movements for what appears to be an extended period. However, keep in mind that pets 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 pet recover quickly and return to its normal active lifestyle as soon as possible!

If you're concerned about your pet's recovery from recent surgery, contact us for assistance. Our veterinary professionals at Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital are here to help your pet feel better. 

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Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Statesboro companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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