After your pet has had surgery, providing appropriate post-op care is essential to ensure they recover well. Attentive, diligent care can help them get back to their normal life as soon as possible. Today, our Orlando vets explain how to care for your pet after surgery.
Always Follow Surgery Post-Op Instructions
Both you and your pet are probably feeling some stress before and after their surgery. That said, understanding how to care for your furry companion after they get settled in at home is imperative to helping them return to their routine as soon as possible.
Following your pet’s procedure, your vet will provide clear, thorough instructions about how to care for your pet at home. Adhering to these carefully will be critical to a safe, successful recovery. If you do not understand any of the steps, be sure to ask.
Even if you get home and realize you’ve forgotten how to complete a certain step in the instructions, give your vet a call to verify. Depending on the procedure required, we will either perform the surgery in-house or if required, refer you to a professional veterinary surgeon near Orlando.
Whether our veterinarians perform the procedure or need to refer you to a veterinary surgical specialist near Orlando, our team at East Orlando Animal Hospital is committed to providing your pet attentive, high-quality care — and offering guidance on at-home measures that have a significant impact, such as post-op care.
Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
We’ve found that most pets tend to recover from soft tissue operations such as abdominal surgeries or spaying/neutering (though a spay is more invasive than neutering) more quickly than procedures involving ligaments, bones, or joints. Many soft tissue surgeries usually heal about 80% after 2 to 3 weeks. We typically expect complete healing to occur within 6 weeks.
These are general guidelines. Your pet may take longer to recover if the surgery was on bones or ligaments. While 90% recovery will usually occur between the 8 to 12-week timeframe, it may take as long as 6 months for complete recovery from major surgery. During this time, they should be strictly confined to allow the bone to properly heal (more about that below).
Here are a few essential tips to remember to help keep your pet comfortable and calm as they recover at home:
Effects of General Anesthetic
Your vet probably used general anesthetic to keep your pet unconscious and prevent them from experiencing any pain during the surgery. After the procedure is complete, the effects of anesthesia may take some time to wear off.
You may notice these effects in your pet, including sleepiness, shakiness on their feet, and lack of appetite. These are normal and should disappear quickly with some rest.
Feeding Your Pet After Surgery
As stated above, temporary lack or loss of appetite, in addition to nausea, are common after-effects of anesthetic. You may consider offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice or chicken, as your pet may find this easier to digest than regular store-bought food.
Your pet’s appetite should return within approximately 24 hours after surgery. You can then start to gradually reintroduce their regular food. If you notice their appetite hasn’t come back within 48 hours, get in touch with your veterinarian (or vet surgeon if your veterinarian has referred you to one). Loss of appetite can be a symptom of infection.
Managing Your Pet’s Pain After Surgery
Following surgery, the veterinarian will dedicate time to explaining any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet so you’ll be able to prevent infection and manage post-surgery pain or discomfort.
The vet will explain the dose needed, how often you should administer the medication and how to do so safely. Ensure these instructions are followed carefully to prevent unnecessary pain as your pet recovers and to eliminate the risk of side effects. Ask follow-up questions if you are unsure of any instructions.
Some pets experience anxiety post-surgery or may be high-strung. In these cases, your vet may also prescribe sedatives or anti-anxiety medication to help your pet stay calm while they heal.
A word of caution: Never administer human medications to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian. While medications for people help us feel better, they are dangerous for our pets.
Set up A Quiet, Comfortable Space
Your pet will need a quiet space to rest and recover. This spot should be furnished with a soft bed and have room for them to spread out, away from the busyness of the rest of the house.
The soft bed is important as it can prevent undue pressure on sensitive or bandaged parts of your pet’s body.
Restrict Your Pet’s Movement
For a specified period following surgery, your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’s movement and physical activity. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt recovery and cause the incision to reopen.
For some surgeries, you will not need to take significant measures such as a complete crate or cage rest to confine your pet. Most pets do well with staying indoors for a few days, making essential trips outdoors for bathroom breaks.
However, you may find it difficult to keep your dog from jumping on furniture they like to nap on or climbing stairs. To keep him from doing this, you may need to keep him in a safe, comfortable room of the house if you are unable to provide direct supervision.
For recovery from orthopedic surgery, your dog may need to be confined to a laundry-sized (or smaller) pen, with slowly increasing amounts of exercise as recovery progresses.
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.