Providing your pet with proper surgery aftercare can help them feel better faster and avoid potentially serious complications. Today, our Westfield vets offer some advice about how to care for your dog after surgery and the importance of their follow-up visit.
What to Expect During Your Dog's Recovery After Surgery
Soft tissue procedures, such as abdominal surgeries and spaying or neutering, are found to recover more quickly in dogs than operations involving ligaments, bones, and joints. Many soft tissue surgeries heal about 80% of the time in 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to fully recover.
For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery may take much longer - 80% recovery will usually occur about 8 to 12 weeks in, though may take as long as 6 months for complete recovery, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.
Here are some of the ways that you can help care for your dog after surgery:
Providing Appropriate Nutrition After Surgery
After your vet administers the general anesthetic, your dog may feel somewhat nauseated and lose its appetite. When feeding your dog 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 may notice that your dog won't eat after surgery but your dog's appetite should return in about 24 hours. They can then gradually resume eating their normal diet. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your dog's appetite hasn't returned after 48 hours. Appetite loss can indicate an infection or pain.
Managing Your Dog's Post-Op Pain
Your vet will likely prescribe medications for you to administer to your dog after you get home in order to help with pain relief.
They will explain the dose needed, how often you should provide the medication, and how to safely administer the meds. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. If you are unsure about any instructions, ask follow-up questions.
Following surgery, pain medications and/or antibiotics are frequently prescribed for dogs to help relieve discomfort and prevent infections. If your dog has anxiety or is on the high-strung end of the spectrum, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help them relax while they heal. Contact your vet if you notice that your dog is shaking due to pain or other possible complications.
Human medications are not meant for animal consumption and can prove fatal if given to your furry friend. Always consult with your vet before offering any medications to your dog.
Ensuring Your Cat or Dog's Comfort Once at Home
During your dog's recovery from surgery, you will want to offer them a place where they can relax away from other animals or people. Setting up a soft, comfortable bed for them and giving them plenty of room to spread out can help to avoid putting undue pressure on any sensitive or bandaged areas of their body.
Preventing Your Dog From Being Active
Once your dog has surgery it is very likely that your vet will ask you to prevent your dog from jumping, running or playing. When cats or dogs move around quickly after surgy it can result in a reopening of the incision.
Fortunately, most procedures will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ (cage-rest) to help your dog recover, and most dogs will cope well staying indoors for a few days, taking only the odd essential trip outside for bathroom breaks.
You might have a hard time keeping your dog from climbing the stairs or jumping up on the furniture they like to sleep on. When you are unable to directly supervise your dog for a few days, you may need to keep them in a safe, comfortable room of the house.
Offering Crate Rest For Your Dog to Relax
While most surgeries do not necessitate cage rest, if your dog has undergone orthopedic surgery, part of his or her recovery will include limiting your dog's movements. If your veterinarian recommends cage rest for your dog following surgery, there are steps you can take to help them adjust to the strict confinement and become more comfortable spending long periods in a crate.
Confirm that the crate is large enough to allow your dog 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 he or she has plenty of room for their water and food dishes, without risking spills that may cause bandages or bedding to become wet and soiled.
Caring for Your Dog's Stitches
The stitches that your dog receives may either be on the outside or internal. If the stitches are on the inside, they will dissolve on their own and not require removal.
If your vet used staples or stitches on the outside, they will typically need to be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your dog's incision, as well as any necessary follow-up care.
Check on Your Dog's Incision Daily
Stopping your dog from chewing or clawing at their bandages may be a difficult task but it is necessary in order to help prevent further injury or infection. To keep your dog from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions).
Many dogs adapt to the collar relatively quickly, but if your dog is struggling to adjust, other choices are available. You can ask your vet about various protective gear or clothing that can prevent your dog from being able to reach the incision area.
Don't Allow Your Dog to Get Their Bandages Wet
In order to help ensure that the wound heals properly, you will need to prevent your dog from getting their bandages wet.
If your dog goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your dog returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, resulting in infection.
The Importance of Bring Your Dog to Their Follow-Up Exam
Your vet will use the follow-up visit to monitor your dog's progress during recovery as well as to examine their wound and provide any care that is needed before complications occur.
It's also important to change your dog's bandages regularly, as leaving them on for too long can cause pressure sores or cut off blood flow. Bringing your dog in for a follow-up appointment allows this process to take place, as well as allows us to assist in keeping your dog's recovery on track.
Your vet can also address any concerns that you may have including issues with pain, nutrition or symptoms such as if your dog is coughing after surgery.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets