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How to Care for Your Pet After Surgery

If your pet has just had surgery you need to stay up to date on how you should be taking care of them, to help them recover faster. Below our vets at New England Veterinary Center & Cancer Care in Windsor discuss the best ways you can take care of your pet to help them recover after surgery.

Always Follow Post-Op Instructions

It's normal for both you and your pet to feel a little stress when your furry friend has to undergo surgery. But, knowing what to expect and how to take care of your pet once you both get home can help alleviate some of your worries and help your animal companion feel better again soon.

After your pet's surgical procedure, your veterinarian will provide you with specific detailed instructions on how to take care of your four-legged family member at home. It’s very important that you follow these instructions exactly as instructed. And, you need to ask for clarification if there are any steps you don't fully understand.

If you get home and realize you've forgotten how to perform a specific task you were given, you have to call your vet to clarify. Our team of veterinary professionals at  New England Veterinary Center & Cancer Care in Windsor  are dedicated to providing your pet with the highest quality of care and are always happy to help you understand the post-operative instructions we have given you. 

Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

We find that the majority of pets will recover from soft tissue procedures (cat/ dog spaying and neutering, etc.) or abdominal surgeries faster than operations that involve joints, bones, or ligaments. Generally, soft tissue surgeries will be almost entirely healed by the two or three-week mark post-operation. It will likely take about six weeks until your pet is fully healed. 

Surgeries that involve ligaments or bones can have a much longer recovery time - 80% recovery will typically occur about 8 to 12 weeks in, but full recovery could take as long as 6 months, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.

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

Effects of General Anesthetic

Your vet will probably give your pet a general anesthetic for their procedure. This will have rendered your pet unconscious in order to prevent them from feeling any pain during their operation. However, it could take a bit of time to wear off after the surgery has been completed.

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

How to Feed Your Pet After Surgery

Once your vet administers the general anesthetic, your pet could feel slightly nauseated and lose their appetite. When you are feeding your furry friend after their surgery, try giving them a half portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which could be easier for them to eat than their usual store-bought food.

You can expect your pet's appetite to come back approximately twenty-four hours after the operation. Then, they can go back to eating their normal food. If you notice that your pet's appetite hasn't returned after forty-eight hours, call your veterinary surgeon in Windsor. Loss of appetite can be a sign of excessive pain or an infection. 

Managing a Pet’s Pain After Surgery

Before our vets send your dog or cat home after the surgery, a member of our team will discuss the medications or pain relievers they have prescribed in detail to help you manage your pet's post-surgery pain or discomfort.

Your vet will go over 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 you can to avoid unnecessary pain and avoid possible side effects. Always follow up with a veterinary professional if you aren't sure about the instructions you were given.

Pain medications and/or antibiotics are often prescribed for pets following their surgery to help relieve discomfort and to prevent infections after 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 your vet has instructed you to. Many medications which help humans feel better are toxic to our furry friends. 

How To Help Your Pet Stay Comfortable After Surgery

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

Restrict Your Pet’s Movements

After your pet's surgery, your vet will most likely recommend limiting your companion's movement for a period of time. Sudden jumping or stretching could potentially disrupt their healing and reopen an incision.

Thankfully, most procedures don't require significant confinement of your pet ( such as "crate rest"). And most pets will be able to cope well with staying indoors most of the time during their recovery - with only an occasional trip outside as required.

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

Helping Your Pet With Cage-Rest

Orthopedic surgery will generally require 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 you have is large enough to let your pet stand up and turn around. You might have to buy a larger crate if your cat or dog has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure that they have plenty of room for their water and food bowls, without risking spills that may cause bandages or bedding to become wet and soiled.

Caring for Your Pet’s Stitches

You might notice that 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 their incisions, your vet will have 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) can be an effective option to keep your pet from licking their wound.

Usually, pets will adapt to this collar fairly quickly. If your pet is having a hard time adjusting to it, there are 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

Make sure your pet's bandages are dry at all times, it's critical in 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 because it could cause sweat around their incision (this can lead to an infection).

Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment gives your vet the oppoirtunity to monitor your pet’s recovery progress and look for any signs of infection before it develops 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 into your 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.

For more advice on how to help your pet recover after surgery contact our vets at New England Veterinary Center & Cancer Care. You can also learn more about the surgeries we offer in Windsor or about our onsite spay and neuter clinic by visiting our website.

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