After your dog's surgery, it's critical to know how to care for them so that they can return to their normal, active lifestyle as soon as possible. In this post, our Orlando vets share tips on how to care for your pup after surgery.
Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
After your dog comes home from surgery, you and your pup will likely feel stressed, at least for the first few days. That said, understanding how you can care for your pup and help make him or her more comfortable once they're home and settled is essential to helping them return to their normal routine as quickly as possible.
You'll receive clear and specific instructions from your vet, veterinary surgeon, or nurse about how to care for your pet when they come home. These instructions must be followed carefully. If you come across any points in the instructions that you do understand, make sure to ask. Even if you realize that you've forgotten how to perform a specific instruction after you arrive home, call your vet to clarify. Your team of veterinary professionals can answer any questions you might have about post-op instructions.
Here are a few essential tips you can use to ensure your pet's comfort and safety as they recover at home.
After-Effects of General Anesthetic
For most veterinary surgical procedures, a general anesthetic will be required. Your pet will be unconscious after the general anesthetic is administered; they will not feel any pain during the procedure. However, it may take some time for the general anesthetic to wear off after your pet comes out of surgery. Sleepiness is one of the side effects of this drug. You might also notice your dog is shaking after surgery. Rest assured that both of these side effects are normal and should disappear quickly with some rest. Temporary lack or loss of appetite is another common side effect of a general anesthetic.
Feeding Your Dog After Surgery
After the general anesthetic is administered, your pooch may feel somewhat queasy and lose its appetite. When feeding your dog after surgery, try offering your pet a half-size portion of a light meal such as chicken and rice, which they will likely be able to more easily digest than regular store-bought food. Their appetite should return within about 24 hours after surgery. At this time, you can start to serve their regular food again.
If you notice that your dog's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours, get in touch with your veterinary surgeon or vet. Loss of appetite can be an indicator of pain or infection.
Managing Your Dog's Pain After Surgery
A veterinary professional will review the medications prescribed to assist you in managing your dog's post-surgery pain. They will let you know how to administer the medications, how often your dog should take them, and what the required dosage will be. To prevent any unnecessary pain or experience of side effects while your dog recovers, ensure you follow the vet's instructions to the letter and ask for clarification if you are unsure about any instructions.
Pain medications and antibiotics are often prescribed for pets following surgery to help relieve any post-op discomfort and to prevent infection. If your pooch tends to be high-strung or suffers from anxiety, the veterinarian may also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help your dog stay calm while they heal.
Never provide your pet with human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to dogs.
How to Keep Your Dog Comfortable When They Get Home
After surgery, it's essential to give your pet a quiet, comfortable place to rest away from children and other pets. If your dog has a soft, comfortable bed and lots of room to spread out, this can help to prevent pressure on any sensitive or bandaged parts of its body.
If Your Dog is Coughing After Surgery
When your dog is put under anesthesia, an endotracheal tube will be inserted. Sometimes, this hollow tube is inserted through the mouth and reaches down the throat to the lungs. The tube allows the dog to breathe and receive the oxygen he needs while receiving other medications (which may interfere with the dog's ability to breathe on his own).
While the endotracheal tube is vital during surgery, it can cause inflammation and irritation, leading to a cough. Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help with this and coughing typically tends to resolve within a week on its own.
Restricting Your Pet's Movement
After your dog's surgery, your vet will likely recommend limiting your pup's activities and movement for some time. Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.
Fortunately, most operations will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ to aid in recovery, and most pets cope well with being kept indoors for a few days (with only essential trips outside for bathroom breaks). That said, it can be difficult to prevent your dog from jumping up on furniture that they love to sleep on, or climbing stairs. Preventing these behaviors for a few days may require confining your dog to a safe and comfortable room when you are unable to supervise them directly.
Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest (Crate-Rest) is Necessary
While most surgeries do not require crate rest, orthopedic surgeries do often require strictly limiting your dog’s movements to help them recover well. If your vet recommends crate rest for your dog following surgery, there are ways to help your dog adjust to this strict confinement so that they become more comfortable with spending long periods in a crate.
Ensure that your dog's crate is large enough to allow your pup to stand up and turn around. If your dog requires a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate for your dog to recover. You will also need to make sure that there is plenty of room for their food and water dishes, without risking spills that could cause your dog's bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.
Your Pet's Stitches
Many vets now choose to place stitches on the inside of your dog's wound rather than the outside. Inside stitches dissolve as the incision heals. If your vet uses outside stitches or staples they will typically need to be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.
Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site
It can be difficult to prevent your dog from biting, chewing, or scratching at its bandages or incision site. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar (available in hard and softer versions) is an effective way to prevent your dog from licking its wound.
Many dogs adjust to wearing a cone collar relatively quickly, but if your dog is struggling to get used to wearing a cone, there are other options available. Speak to your vet about effective and less cumbersome options such as donut-style collars, or post-op medical pet shirts.
Keep Your Pet's Bandages Dry
Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element of helping your dog's incision heal quickly. Whenever your dog goes outside make sure that the bandages are covered with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from the damp grass. Remove the plastic covering as soon as your pet comes back inside. Leaving the plastic over the bandage could cause sweat to collect under the bandage and lead to an infection.
Don't Skip Your Dog's Follow-Up Appointment
The follow-up appointment allows your vet to monitor your pet's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes more serious.
It is also essential that your dog's bandages aren't left on for too long following the procedure. Not changing the bandages at the right time could lead to pressure sores or even affect the blood supply to the area. The professionals at your pet's veterinary hospital have been trained in dressing wounds correctly. Bringing your dog in for a follow-up appointment allows your team of veterinary professionals to change your pet's bandages properly to help keep your dog's healing process on track.