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How to Care for Your Dog After Surgery

How to Care for Your Dog After Surgery

Being aware of how to care for your dog properly after surgery can help them return to normal as soon as possible and without any complications. In today's blog, our Plains veterinarians share some tips on how to properly care for your pup after surgery.

Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

Surgery can be a source of stress for pet owners and dogs alike. But, knowing what to expect when your pup is recovering from surgery can be critical to helping your companion to return to their normal, active lifestyle.

Regardless of which kind of surgery your dog has been scheduled for, your surgeon, vet or specialist will make sure they provide you with precise instructions for the post-operative care you will need to provide your pet with afterward. Make sure you follow your vet's instructions closely since they may be both specific and important depending on the kind of surgery your dog has undergone. 

Nonetheless, there are a few basic tips that can help you to keep your pet safe and comfortable while they recover and get back to normal. 

What to Expect After Surgery

Most veterinary surgeries require the use of general anesthetis. This knocks your pet out and prevents them from feeling pain during the procedure, but can take some time to wear off afterward. General anesthetic's lingering effects may leave your dog a little sleepy or shaky on their feet. These are normal side effects and should disappear pretty quickly.

A few other side effects that you may notice, include more subdued behavior than usual, appearing as if they are feeling a little bruised or sore, and a temporary lack of appetite.

Feeding Your Dog After Surgery

Your dog may feel a little queasy or lose their appetite after surgery. When it's time to feed them, try offering your pet a light meal about half or even a quarter the size as they usually eat, comp[osed of things like rice or chicken which are a bit easier for them to digest. You should be able to see your pet's appetite return within 24 hours of their surgery. At this time, they should be able to gradually return to eating their regular diet.

That said, if your dog's appetite doesn't return within 48 hours contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can also indicate pain or infection.

It's important to note that feeding your dog a nutritious diet while they are recovering, as well as on a regular day-to-day basis, is a key element of caring for your pet's overall health. If you are unsure about what the best food for your dog is, speak to your vet. Your vet will be able to recommend a food with all the key ingredients your dog needs for optimal health, and they will be able to calculate the right number of calories to feed your pet in order for them to maintain a healthy weight.

Managing Your Pet's Pain After Surgery

After your pet's surgery, a vet will take time to explain the medications meant to manage your pup's pain. They will explain both the dosage, how to administer it and how frequently to do so. Make sure you adhere to your vet's instructions closely to both prevent pain and avoid side-effects. 

Antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication to relieve post-op discomfort are the 2 most commonly prescribed medications for pets after surgery. If your pooch is anxious or high-strung your vet may also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm while they are healing.

Home remedies aren't recommended, however, if there is a remedy that you would like to use to help your pet feel better, call your vet to ask if the ingredients are safe for pets. Never give human medications to your pet without consulting your veterinarian first. Many drugs that can help humans to feel better are toxic to dogs.

Keeping Your Dog Comfortable When They Get Home

After having surgery, it's key to make sure they have a comfortable and quiet place to rest, both away from children and other pets. If your dog generally curls up on a small bed to sleep, you may want to get a larger one for them so their incision site isn't pulled. Allowing your dog to spread out may help them feel better and recover more quickly.

Restricting Your Pet's Movement

Regardless of why your pet is having surgery, it is likely that your vet will recommend limiting your dog's activities and movement for a period of time following the operation. Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.

Most surgeries won't require significant confinement like complete "crate rest" to aid in recovery. And most pets cope well with being kept indoors for a few days. It can often be more difficult to stop your pup from jumping onto furniture or climbing stairs. Preventing these behaviors will be key to making sure they don't injure themselves or reopen their incision site. 

Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest is Required

Orthopedic surgeries, however, will quite often require strict limits to your pup's movement for optimal recovery. If your vet recommends that your dog gets crate rest following surgery, there are some ways to help your dog adjust to their confinement and help them get comfortable with spending more time in their crate.

Make sure that your dog's crate is big enough to allow your dog 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 ensure that there is plenty of room for food and water dishes, without risking spills that can cause your dog's bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

It can be challenging 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 pup from reaching the wound. Dogs can often adjust to wearing a cone collar within a couple of hours, 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-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet-shirts).

Your Pet's Stitches

Staples or stitches will generally be removed by your vet after about two weeks following the procedure. Depending on the specific surgery, these stitches may instead dissolve inside your dog's wound as it heals instead. Your vet will let you know what kind of stitches they used during the procedure. 

Regardless of which type of stitches your veterinary surgeon uses, you will still need to prevent your dog from licking the wound in order to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.

Your Pet's Bandages

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

Your pet's 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;s critical that your dog's bandages aren't left on them for too long after their procedure. Not changing their bandages at the right time may cause pressure sores or even affect their blood flow to the area around their wound. It's a good idea, instead of changing the bandages yourself, to let your the specially-trained professionals at your vet's office to handle this.

Between appointments, if your pet's bandage falls off, or you notice swelling, blood seeping through the bandages, or an unpleasant odor at the incision site, make an appointment with your vet immediately.

Keeping Your Doggie Happy During Recovery

Dogs don't understand when they are recovering from surgery and will probably become quite frustrated with their reduced level of activity, the itchiness of their incision site as it heals and the lack of stimulation following their surgery. It is important that you provide your pet with love, stimulation and reassurance in safe ways. 

Keep your pup amused with a rotating selection of gentle games that won't cause any stretching or jumping, such as dog-friendly chew toys or squeaky playthings. Limit the number of toys you offer your dog to one or two items at a time, and switch to a different toy on a regular basis to help prevent boredom.

Treats can be a great way to cheer up your dog up but keep in mind that your pup's reduced activity level means that they are burning fewer calories. Too many treats can equal too much of a good thing.

Remember that simply taking some time out of your busy day to sit quietly with your pup, stroking their fur and chatting with them calmly, can help your dog stay calm and feel loved. 

Typical Recovery Times For Pets Following Surgery

Soft tissue operations like neutering and spaying, abdominal surgeries and more tend to have quick recovery times when compared to surgeries affecting bones, ligaments and joints. Soft tissue surgeries will generally be 80% healed after 2-3 weeks and will often be completely healed by 6 weeks. 

On the other hand, surgeries involving bones and ligaments will likely take much longer and are usually around 80% healed after about 8 - 12 weeks, although it can take as long as 6 months for your pet to recover completely following surgeries such as those to repair a torn cruciate ligament (CCL). 

Reassurance for Loving Pet Parents

Dog owners will often feel guilty about restricting their dog's movement for a long period of time. But try to keep in mind that dogs will often bounce back from surgery much quicker than people and, by following your vet's post-surgical care instructions, you are doing your best to help your dog recover quicker and get back to their normal happy and healthy self.

Are you worried about your dog's recovery from a recent surgery? Contact your primary care vet for advice, or contact our veterinary specialists for assistance. The team of veterinary professionals at Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital are here to help your pet recover from their surgery as quickly as possible.

From Happy Pet Owners

  • They saved my dog’s life three years ago with a spinal surgery. He’s still doing great!
    Kevin C.

(570) 208-8844