Following your dog's surgery, it's important to know how to care for them so that they can get back to their normal, active lifestyle as soon as possible. Today, we share a few tips from our the Pacific Northwest vets on how to care for your pooch after surgery.
Always follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
After your dog has had surgery, you and your pup are likely to be feeling stressed. That said, knowing how to care for your dog when they arrive home from surgery is critical to helping them get back to their normal routine as quickly as possible.
After performing your dog's surgery the vet, veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse will give clear and specific instructions about how to care for your pet when they get home. It's imperative that you follow these instructions carefully. If these instructions contain anything that you do not understand, make sure to ask. Even if you realize that you've forgotten how to perform a specific instruction after you get home, give you vet a call to clarify. Your team of veterinary professionals is always happy to address any questions you may have about post-op instructions. We all want the best for your dog and their recovery.
Here are a few essential tips you can use to keep your pet safe and comfortable as they recover at home:
After-Effects of General Anesthetic
General anesthetic is required for most veterinary surgical procedures. After the general anesthetic is administered, your pet will be unconscious and they will not feel any pain during the procedure. However, it can take some time for general anesthetic to wear off after the surgery is complete. Side effects of general anesthetic include sleepiness. You may also find your dog is shaking after surgery. 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 general anesthetic.
Feeding Your Dog After Surgery
Your pup may feel somewhat queasy and lose their appetite after being given general anesthetic. When feeding your dog after surgery, try to offer your pet a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which they can digest easier than regular store-bought dog food. Their appetite should return within about 24 hours after surgery. At this time, you can start to serve their regular food once again.
If you find that your dog hasn't regained their appetite within 48 hours, contact your veterinary surgeon or vet. Loss of appetite may indicate infection or pain.
Managing Your Dog's Pain After Surgery
When your dog is ready to come home after their procedure, a veterinary professional will review the medications prescribed to help you manage your dog's post-surgery pain. They will tell you the required dosage, how to administer the medications and how often your dog should take them. To prevent any unnecessary pain or experience of side effects while your dog recovers, ensure you stick to the vet's instructions. Ask for clarification if you are unsure about any instructions.
Pain medications and antibiotics are often prescribed for pets following surgery to help relive 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 their 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 it is likely that your vet will recommend limiting your pup's activities and movement for a period of 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 in order 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 of time 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 in. 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 their 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 their 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 damp or wet 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 gives your vet the opportunity 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 their 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.
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.