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Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

Is your pet scheduled to undergo surgery? It's important to understand how to care for them appropriately as they recover so they can get back to their normal life as quickly as possible. Our Carlsbad vets share some tips about how to care for your pet after surgery in this post.

Follow Post-Op Instructions

Leading up to and after your pet's surgery, you and your canine or feline companion will likely feel some anxiety. However, knowing how to care for your animal after they return home is vital to helping your pet return to their normal life as soon as possible. 

After your pet's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your veterinarian on how to care for your pet at home. It's essential that these instructions are followed carefully. If there are any steps you're not sure about or do not understand, make sure to ask. Even if you arrive home and realize you've forgotten how to complete a specific step, call your vet to clarify. 

Recovery Timeframes for Pets After Surgery

Our team has found that most pets tend to recover from soft tissue procedures including spaying, neutering or abdominal surgeries more quickly than procedures involving joints, ligaments and bones. Many soft tissue surgeries are about 80% healed 2-3 weeks following veterinary surgery, and typically take about 6 weeks to heal completely. 

Recovery from surgeries involving bones and ligaments takes much longer. Approximately 80% of your pet's recovery will likely occur within about 8-12 weeks after surgery. However, many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more to completely recover from. Cruciate ligament (ACL/CCL) surgeries fall under the umbrella of orthopedic surgeries. 

Here are a few tips from our Carlsbad veterinary team to help you keep your pet healthy, comfortable and content as they recover at home.

Recovering from General Anesthetic Effects

General anesthetic will be used during your pet's surgical procedure to render them unconscious and keep them from feeling any pain during the operation. That said, it will take some time to wear off after the surgery has concluded. 

The anesthetic may temporarily make your pet feel unsteady on their feet or cause some nausea. These side effects are normal and should fade quickly with some rest. Another common side effect attributed to general anesthesia is temporary lack of appetite. 

Your Pet's Diet & Eating After Surgery

Your pet might lose their appetite or feel nauseated after the surgery is over. After they arrive home, try offering your furry best friend a half-size portion of a light meal such as chicken or rice, which may be easier to digest than regular store-bought pet food. 

Expect your pet's appetite to return within about 24 hours after surgery. At this point, you can gradually start to reintroduce your pet's regular food. If you find that your pet's appetite is still missing within 48 hours, contact your veterinary surgeon or veterinarian near Carlsbad. Loss of appetite can point to infection or pain. 

Pet Pain Management

Our veterinary team will explain any medications or pain relievers they've prescribed for your pet before you go home after the surgery, so you'll be able to manage post-surgery discomfort or pain. 

They'll review the dose needed, how frequently the medication should be administered and how to provide the dosage. Make sure to follow these instructions carefully to keep your pet from suffering any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. Unsure about any instructions you receive? Don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions. 

Pain medications and/or antibiotics are often prescribed for pets after a vet has performed 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 provide your pet human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.

Keeping Your Pet Comfortable At Home

After surgery, it’s important to provide your pet with a quiet, comfortable place to rest, away from the hustle and bustle of the house, other pets and children. Setting up a comfortable, soft bed and allowing them lots of room to spread out can help to prevent undue pressure on any parts of their body that may be sensitive or bandaged.

Restricting Movement

Your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’s movement for a specified period after surgery. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.

Fortunately, most procedures will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ (cage-rest) to help your pet recover, and most pets will cope well staying indoors for a few days, taking only the odd essential trip outside for bathroom breaks.

It can be challenging for some pet parents to keep their 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 Cope With Crate Rest

While most surgeries will not require crate rest, if your pet has had orthopedic surgery, part of recovery will involve strictly limiting their movements.

If your vet prescribes crate rest for your pet after surgery, there are measures you can take to help your pet adjust to the strict confinement so they feel more comfortable with spending long periods in their crate.

Make sure that your pet's crate is large enough to allow your fur baby 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 that your animal has plenty of room for their water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and uncomfortable place to spend time, and cause bandages to become wet and soiled.

Stitches & Bandages

Stitches that have been placed on the inside of your pet's incision will dissolve as the incision heals.

If staples or stitches have been used on the outside, your vet will need to remove them approximately 10 to 14 days after surgery. Your veterinarian will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet’s incision, and about any follow-up care that will be required.

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

If your pet walks around or goes outside, ensure the bandages are covered with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. When your pet returns inside, remove the plastic covering, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, leading to infection.

The Incision Site

Pet parents often find it challenging to prevent their pet from scratching, chewing, biting or otherwise bothering their 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 their wound.

Many pets adapt to the collar quickly, but if your pet is struggling to adjust, other options are available. Ask your veterinarian about less cumbersome products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.

Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your pet’s recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your pet’s bandages.

Our veterinary team at Carlsbad Animal Hospital have been trained to correctly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen - and for us to help keep your pet’s healing on track.

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.

Is your pet scheduled to undergo surgery at Carlsbad Animal HospitalContact our friendly team to learn more about how you can prepare for your pet's at-home care.

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