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How to Care for Your Pet After Surgery

It's very important to stay informed on how to take care of your pet after they have had surgery to help them recover. Today our veterinary surgeons in Bedford discuss ways you can help your furry friend get better as quickly as possible after they have had surgery.

Always Follow Post-Op Instructions

We expect that both you and your pet will experience stress when your furry friend has surgery. However, you must know how to take care of your pet when you both get home after the procedure. It is essential in helping your pet recover as fast as possible.

Following your pet's surgery, your veterinarian will provide you with very clear, specific, and detailed instructions on how to take care of your animal friend at home. It's critical for you to follow these instructions very carefully. Always ask if you aren't sure about any of the steps or instructions.

If you arrive home and have forgotten about an instruction that was given to you call your vet and clarify, our pet surgeons in Bedford strive to provide you and your pet with the best care possible and help you understand all of your post-surgery instructions. 

Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

We find that most often pets will recover from soft tissue procedures like spaying and neutering or abdominal surgeries more quickly than operations that involve joints, bones, or ligaments. Usually, soft tissue surgeries will heal almost entirely two or three-week after the operation. It will probably take approximately six weeks until your pet is fully healed. 

For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery may take a lot longer - 80% recovery will usually occur after about 8 to 12 weeks, though it can take as long as 6 months for full recovery, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.

Below are a few important tips and tricks you should keep in mind as you try and keep your pet comfortable and content during their at-home recovery:

Effects of General Anesthetic

Your vet will most likely use a general anesthetic during your pet's operation. This will have rendered your pet unconscious to prevent them from feeling any pain during their operation. However, it will take a bit of time to wear off after their surgery is finished.

A general anesthetic can cause temporary sleepiness, or make your pet feel shaky on their feet. These are normal after-effects and should disappear quickly with a little rest. Temporary lack of appetite is another common side effect associated with general anesthesia.

How to Feed Your Pet After Surgery

After your vet administers the general anesthetic, your pet might feel a little nauseated and lose their appetite. When feeding your pet after the surgery, try offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which could be easier for them to digest than regular store-bought pet food.

You can expect your pet's appetite to return with twenty-four hours of the operation. After that, they can start eating their regular food again. If your find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned within forty-eight hours of their operation, call your vet surgeon. Loss of appetite can be a sign of excessive pain or an infection in your pet. 

Pain Management After a Pet’s Surgery

Before you and your pet go home after surgery, a veterinary professional will explain any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage post-surgery pain or discomfort.

Your vet will discuss your pet's dosage, how often you should provide them their medication and how to safely administer it. Make sure you follow these instructions as carefully as possible to avoid unnecessary pain and avoid possible side effects. Always follow up with a veterinary professional if you are unsure about the instructions you were given.

Pain medications and/or antibiotics are often prescribed for pets after surgery to help relieve discomfort and to prevent infections following the procedure. If your pet experiences anxiety or tends to be on the high-strung end of the spectrum, your cat or dog surgeon may also prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help your pet stay calm while healing.

Never give your pet human medication unless instructed to by your vet. Many medications which help humans feel better are toxic to animals. 

Help Your Pet Be Comfortable At Home

After their operation, make sure you create a comfortable and quiet place for your pet to rest. Keep them away from the hustle and bustle of other pets, household chores, and children. Set up a soft bed for them and give them lots of room to spread out so they can avoid putting pressure on the parts of their body that might be sensitive.

Restrict Your Pet’s Movements

After your pet's surgery, your vet will probably recommend that you limit your companion's movement for a period of time. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt their healing and potentially reopen an incision.

Thankfully, most procedures won't require significant confinement of your pet such as "crate rest." And the majority of pets will cope well with staying mostly indoors during their recovery - with only infrequent trips outside as required.

However, you may find it difficult to keep your cat or dog from climbing stairs or jumping up on furniture they love to sleep on. Preventing these actions for a few days could require keeping your pet in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.

Helping Your Pet With Cage-Rest

Orthopedic surgery, unlike other surgeries which don't require cage-rest, will need strict limiting of your pet's movements. If your vet recommends crate rest for your pet after their surgery, there are plenty of actions you can take to help your pet adjust and cope with their strict confinement to make them as happy and comfortable as possible.

Confirm that the crate is large enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your dog has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure they have plenty of room for their water and food dishes, without risking spills that may cause bandages or bedding to become wet and soiled.

Taking Care of Your Pet’s Stitches

You may notice stitches have been placed on the inside of your pet’s wound rather than the outside. Stitches on the inside will dissolve as the incision heals.

If your pat has had stitches or staples placed on the outside of their incisions, your vet will need to remove them sometime within 14 days of the surgery. They will let you know what type of stitches they used and about any follow-up care they might require from you.

The Incision Site

You might have trouble keeping your pet from chewing, biting, scratching, or generally bothering their incisions site or bandages. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.

Often, pets will adapt to this collar pretty quickly. If your pet is having a hard time adjusting, there are also other choices available to you. Ask your vet about less cumbersome, more effective products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.

Keep Your Pet’s Bandages Dry

Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s surgical site heal quickly.

Make sure your pet's bandages are covered in plastic wrap or a bag if they must go outside. This will prevent dampness, grass, or dirt from getting between their bandage and their skin. Remove the covering when your pet returns inside since it may cause sweat around their incision that can lead to infection.

Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment gives your vet the opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery progress and look for any signs of infections before they can develop into a serious condition.

Make sure you are changing your pet's bandages at the appointed time as well. Leaving bandages on for too long can cause pressure sores or cut off your companion's blood supply. Bringing your pet to the vet for a follow-up appointment allows for them to help you redress their wounds if need be. This allows for your pet's healing process to remain smooth and on track for a full recovery.

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.

Contact our vets at Fine Animal Hospital if you are worried about your pet's recovery after their surgery. Our animal surgeons in Bedford are happy to answer any questions about your pet's recovery following any of our surgeries

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