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How to Care for Your Pet After Veterinary Surgery

If your pet has recently had surgery it is important that you are aware of how to provide appropriate care for them while they recover. Our veterinary surgeons in Tracy discuss how to properly care for your pet after they have had surgery.

Follow The Post-Op Care Instructions From Your Veterinary Surgeon

Undergoing a surgical procedure can be frightening and it is no different for your pet. Your pet surgeon is here to ensure that it goes as smoothly and successfully as possible. They will also ensure that recovery goes well by providing you with all of the information needed to properly care for your pet after the surgery.

Once your cat or dog's surgery is complete, your vet surgeon will provide you with all of the information that you need for at-home care for your pet. These instructions are usually precise and will need to be followed closely, be sure to speak with your vet if you have any questions. 

Once you are home with your pet you may not remember some of the post-op instructions that you were provided, and if you need to ask any more questions or have anything clarified be sure to call your veterinary surgeon. Our vet surgeons in Tracy are dedicated to providing the best care possible for your pet.

What Are The Typical Recovery Times After Surgery?

When it comes to cat and dog surgery, the recovery time is typically much quicker for procedures involving soft tissue such as spay or neuter surgery. Other surgeries which involve joints, bones or ligaments will usually take much longer to heal.

If your pet has undergone surgery on soft tissue then you should expect your pet to be feeling more like itself around two or three weeks post-op. Although for your pet to be fully healed from surgery it could take around six weeks.

If your cat or dog has undergone surgery that involves their bones, joints, or ligaments then you should expect the healing process to reach about 80% around 8 to 12 weeks into recovery. In order for your pet to fully recover from their surgery, it may take as long as six months.

What Are The Typical Effects of General Anesthetic?

It is most likely that your veterinary surgeon will require the use of an anesthetic for your pet during surgery.  This anesthetic will ensure that the surgery is safe and successful as your pet will be unconscious and be unable to feel the procedure. Once the surgery is finished your pet will need some time to recover from the effects of the anesthetic.

Some of the most common effects of general anesthetic are that your pet may be groggy or sleepy as well as unstable while standing. These effects are perfectly normal and after a short while and some rest your pet should be feeling normal again. It is also possible for a general anesthetic to cause a temporary lack of appetite, this should also return after a short while. If you have any concerns, please contact your veterinary surgeon. 

Will My Pet Need a Special Diet After Surgery?

Because of the use of a general anesthetic your cat or dog may experience a lack of appetite as well as possible nausea for a short while. It is a good idea during this time to only feed them a half portion of a lighter type of meal until they are feeling well again. 

On average your pet's appetite should return within 24 hours post-op. At this point, you can begin to feed your pet as you normally would. If 48 hours have passed and your pet still hasn't returned to regular eating habits then it is highly recommended to contact your vet surgeon as a loss of appetite is a sign of excessive pain or an infection in your pet. 

How Can I Help Manage My Pet's Pain?

Once it is time for you to bring your pet home, your veterinary surgeon will most likely prescribe medications for you to give your pet for pain. 

Your cat or dog's surgeon will thoroughly explain the medication and what it is used to treat, what the dosage is and any other instructions that you will need to know about administering the medication. It is important to follow these instructions exactly as this will ensure that your pet recovers with ease and lowers the risk of possible side effects. If you have any questions be sure to reach out to your vet surgeon.

Following the procedure, your vet may prescribe medications such as pain medications or antibiotics to assist with your pet's recovery. Some pets also suffer from anxiety and in these cases, your vet surgeon may also prescribe an anxiety medication in order to help keep your pet relaxed through the duration of the healing process.

Never give your pet human medications as these can be fatal to your pet.

How Can I Make My Pet Comfortable While Recovering?

It is very important to provide your pet with a safe space that they can use to relax quietly and recover without being disturbed. Ensure that they are kept away from any excitement until they are fully healed such as children, household excitement and other pets. Providing them with a soft bed will allow them to lay down comfortably without putting pressure on the surgical site.

Keep Your Pet Relaxed

Once your pet is home from surgery it is important to keep them as calm as possible and restrict movement and play as any excessive excitement or jumping could potentially open the would and cause complications.

Most pets will do just fine without resorting to confinement. The main thing is just to avoid playtime and keep trips outdoors to necessary walks.

If your pet enjoys jumping up on the furniture then it is recommended to keep them in an area where they will be unable to do this.

Using a Kennel During Recovery

For most surgeries, it may be necessary to confine your pet. Some surgeries, however, such as orthopedic surgeries, may require confinement or crate rest in order to prevent your pet from moving and causing complications. If confinement is recommended for your pet after surgery then there are ways to ensure that this experience is still a positive one for your pet.

The crate should be large enough for your pet to comfortably turn around in while having plenty of space for any dishes and their bed. It is important that they can move freely without knocking over dishes in order to keep their crate clean and avoid getting wet or dirty while wearing bandages.

Caring For The Wound During Recovery

If your veterinary surgeon used stitches that are on the inside of the wound then you will not need to bring your pet in to have these removed as they will dissolve on their own over time.

For stitches that are on the outside of the wound, you will need to bring your pet back in approximately 2 weeks in order to have these removed. Your veterinary surgeon will let you know of what is required before you leave.

How To Protect The Incision

While it may not always be a concern, some pets may lick, bite, or chew at their bandages and the incision site. For these pets, it may be recommended to fit them with a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) in order to ensure that this doesn't happen.

There are many different versions of this product on the market that will all provide the same result.

Ensure The Bandages Stay Clean and Dry

One of the most important things is to be sure that your pet's bandages stay clean and dry in order for the wound to heal quickly and to avoid possible infection.

Covering your pet's wound in plastic wrap will ensure that the bandages are safe if your pet needs to go outside at all. Using plastic wrap will keep the bandages clean from dirt, grass and water. It is important to remove this plastic wrap as soon as you bring your pet back inside.

What are some signs to look out for after surgery?

While uncommon, there are some possible symptoms and conditions that could occur after surgery. If your pet experiences any of these signs, please contact your veterinary surgeon. Some of these signs and symptoms are:

  • Straining or discomfort during bowel movements or while urinating
  •  Vomiting
  • Shaking (In dogs that don't normally shake)
  • Seizures
  • Heavy or difficult breathing
  • Coughing
  • Depression
  • Runny nose with yellow or blood-tinged discharge
  • Infection

What are the signs of infection?

Your pet's veterinary surgeon will have ensured that all possible precautions were taken in order to minimize the risk of infection for your dog or cat. Even so, it is important to know the sign of infection and when to contact your vet.

Not all infections are apparent from looking at your pet as it is possible for infections to affect the internal structures and systems of your pet.

If the infection is affecting the internal systems of your pet you may notice:
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Lack of Appetite
For infections of the wound, you may see signs such as:
  • The incision area could be red and painful.
  • Swilling or discharge in the area of the incision.
  • Your pet may not be moving around much.
  • Your pet is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea.
If you are concerned that your pet may be experiencing an infection, call your veterinary surgeon right away. Your vet may want to run tests and examine your pet for any signs of possible infection.

Post-Op Follow-Up Exam

Bringing your pet in for a follow-up exam with your veterinary surgeon in Tracy is important as it allows your vet an opportunity to monitor for any possible adverse effects from the surgery. 

During the follow-up exam, your vet surgeon will also take the time to redress your pet's wounds if needed and ensure that they are properly bandaged.

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.

Did your pet recently have surgery? Contact our Tracy veterinary team to discuss what steps to take next and how to help your pet recover quickly from their procedure.

Looking for quality veterinary care for your pet in Tracy?

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