In this post, our Palmyra vets share some tips to help you take care of your pet after surgery so they can recover as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Follow All Post-Op Instructions Your Vet Provides
We understand how you and your pet may be feeling some stress around the time of your furry friend's procedure. However, knowing how to care for your cat or dog once the two of you return home is key to helping them recover as fast as possible.
After your pet's surgery, the vet will provide you with clear and detailed instructions on how to care for your pet at home. It’s essential to follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you do not understand, you must ask.
If, once you get home, you realize you have forgotten how to complete a specific instruction you were given, call your vet to get clarification. Our veterinary team at Palmyra Animal Clinic is dedicated to giving your pet the best possible care and is always happy to help you understand the post-operative instructions we have provided.
A Pet's Recovery After Surgery
We find that most pets recover from soft tissue procedures such as spaying and neutering or abdominal surgeries more quickly than those operations that involve joints, bones, or ligaments. Usually, soft tissue surgeries will be almost entirely healed by the two to three-week mark post-operation. It will likely take about six weeks until your pet is fully healed.
For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery could take much longer - 80% recovery will usually take place about 8 to 12 weeks in, though may take as long as 6 months for complete recoveries, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.
Here are a few key tips and tricks you should remember as you try and keep your pet comfortable and content during their at-home recovery:
The Effects of General Anesthesia
Your vet will probably use a general anesthetic during your pet's procedure. This will render your pet unconscious and prevent them from feeling any pain during their operation. However, it will take some time to wear off after their surgery is complete.
General anesthesia can temporarily cause 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 attributed to general anesthesia.
Feeding Your Pet After The Surgery
After your vet administers the general anesthetic, your pet may feel somewhat nauseated and lose its appetite. When feeding your pet after surgery, try offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which may be easier to digest than regular store-bought pet food.
You can expect your pet's appetite to return within twenty-four hours of the operation. After that, they can begin to eat their regular food again. If you find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned within forty-eight hours of its operation, contact your veterinarian or surgeon. Loss of appetite can indicate excessive pain or an infection in your pet.
Managing Your Pet’s Pain After Their Procedure
Before you and your pet head home after surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet, so you can manage your cat or dog's post-surgery pain or discomfort.
Your vet will tell you your pet's dosage, how often you should give 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 vet 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 our animal companions.
Keeping Your Cat or Dog 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 ensure they have lots of room to spread out so they can avoid putting pressure on the parts of their body that may be sensitive.
Limiting Your Pet’s Movement
After your pet's surgery, your vet will probably recommend that you limit your cat's or dog's movement for some 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 pet from climbing stairs or jumping up on furniture they love to sleep on. Preventing these actions for a few days may require keeping your cat or dog in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.
Helping Your Furry Friend Cope 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 pet has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure they have lots of room for their water and food dishes, without risking spills that may make their bedding or bandages wet and soiled.
Taking Care of Your Animal'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 pet has had stitches or staples placed on the outside of its 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 that is required.
Protecting The Incision Site
You might have trouble keeping your pet from chewing, biting, scratching, or generally bothering its incision 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 its wound.
Often, pets will adapt to this collar pretty quickly. If your pet is having a hard time adjusting, there are also other options available to you. Ask your vet about less cumbersome, more effective products like post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.
Make Sure Your Pet’s Bandages Stay Dry
You must make sure the bandages stay dry at all times to help your pet’s surgical site heal quickly.
Keep your pet's bandages 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 its incision - and that can lead to infection.
Attend Your Cat or Dog's Follow-Up Appointments
The follow-up appointment lets your vet monitor your pet’s recovery progress and look for any signs of infection before it develops into a serious condition.
Remember to change 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 your vet for a follow-up appointment allows them to help you redress their wounds if need be. This helps ensure your pet recovers smoothly and quickly.
Physical Rehabilitation For Your Pet's Post-Operative Care
Pets that undergo surgery may be able to benefit in the long term from varying levels of exercise. Promoting mobility and exercise for your cat or dog through physical rehabilitation could give your pet their best chance at a fast recovery, and long and healthy life. Some examples of physical rehabilitation services that can be offered for pets include neuromuscular electric stimulation, cold laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, hydrotherapy, K-laser, and more.
If you think your pet's surgical recovery may benefit from physical rehabilitation, talk to our veterinarians at Palmyra Animal Clinic.
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.