Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

How to Care for Your Dog After Orthopedic Surgery

How to Care for Your Dog After Orthopedic Surgery

If your dog is about to undergo orthopedic surgery it's time to plan ahead for their recovery period. Knowing how to care for your pooch after the procedure is essential since recovery from orthopedic surgery can be long and frustrating for dogs. Here, our Plains vets provide tips on how to care for your dog after orthopedic surgery.

Veterinary orthopedic surgery is a term that encompasses any veterinary surgery which addresses problems with your dog's joints, ligaments, bones, tendons and other tissue associated with your pup's skeletal system.

Recovery from orthopedic surgeries takes weeks and can be stressful for you and your pet. To help you to help your pooch sail through the recovery period as stress-free as possible, here are some tips from our Plains orthopedic surgeons.

Follow Your Vet's Instructions

After your pet's orthopedic surgery is complete the veterinary surgeon or veterinarian will take the time to provide you with clear instructions for your pet's at-home postoperative care. Pay careful attention to your vet's instructions, taking notes, and asking any questions you may have.  In most cases, your vet will also provide you with written instructions that you can refer to throughout your dog's recovery period. 

If there is anything that you are unsure about or don't understand be sure to ask for clarification or, if you realize you have forgotten some aspect of your pet's post-operative care, simply call the vet's office and ask for the information you need. Keep in mind that your vet wants the very best for your dog and they will be happy to help.

Managing the After-Effects of Anesthesia

Orthopedic surgeries are performed under general anesthesia which may cause your pooch to feel nauseous or lose their appetite as they recover from its immediate effects. Most vets recommend feeding your dog a light meal (such as rice and chicken) to ease their digestion.

Your pup should recover from the effects of the general anesthesia within about 24 hours.

Keeping Your Dog Comfortable & Restricting Movement

Following orthopedic surgery, it's likely that your animal's orthopedic surgeon will advise you to restrict your dog's movements for a period of time. At first there's a good chance that your pup won't be very energetic or want to move very much, however as they begin to feel better they may want to start moving around more. That's where confinement comes in. As your dog recovers from orthopedic surgery it is essential to prevent them from running, jumping, climbing stairs or other strenuous activities until the surgery has healed (more on that shortly).

The best way to restrict your dog's activity is by confining your four-legged friend to either a playpen (if they are smaller) or to a small comfortable room (if they are medium or larger) without anything to jump on or injure themselves with. Depending on the surgery and your dog's personality, your vet may recommend strict "crate rest" for some of your dog's recovery period.

Be sure you make whatever space your dog is confined to as comfortable for them as possible, with their favorite toys, blankets, cushions and lots of space to spread out and relax.

Managing Your Dog's Pain After Orthopedic Surgery

Your dog's vet, orthopedic surgeon or veterinary nurse will take the time to explain to you what medications they are prescribing for your pup to manage their post-surgery pain. They will likely provide you with written instructions regarding dosages and times to administer meds to help you on a day-to-day basis. It is a good idea to make a note whenever you give your dog their meds since it can be easy to lose track and miss a dose or accidentally double up.

Make sure you stick to your vet's instructions as much as possible to ensure efficacy and reduce the chance of side effects.

To help your pooch recover from orthopedic surgery your vet may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the chances of infection and pain medications. If your dog is anxious or high-strung, your vet may also prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or mild sedative to help your dog remain calm and relaxed throughout the process.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

It can be challenging to prevent your pup from biting, chewing or scratching at the incision site or bandages. A plastic cone-shaped collar (available in hard and softer versions) is an effective way to prevent your pet from reaching the wound. It typically takes a couple of hours for dogs to adjust to wearing a traditional cone collar (Elizabethan collar) but if your dog is struggling to get used to one, there are other options available that are effective and less cumbersome such as donut-style collars, or post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet-shirts). Speak to your vet about other available options, if your dog is unable to relax while wearing a cone collar.

Stitches will typically be removed 10 - 14 days after surgery, although many vets have stopped using external skin sutures, and prefer to use stitches placed inside of your dog's wound which simply dissolve as the incision heals. Regardless of which type of stitches your pup's 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.

It is also essential to keep the bandages dry at all times. 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.  Remember to remove the plastic covering as soon as your pooch comes back inside. Leaving the plastic over the bandage could cause sweat to collect under the bandage and lead to an infection.

Keeping Your Dog Amused Durning Recovery

Recovering from orthopedic surgery takes a number of weeks and your pooch is bound to have moments of boredom.

Dog's simply don't understand when they are in recovery and may become frustrated at the reduced level of activity, the itchiness of their incision site, or just the overall lack of stimulation following surgery. That's why it's important that you give your pet reassurance in other ways.

Try rotating a selection of dog-friendly chew toys or squeaky playthings. Only offer one or two items at a time, and switch to a different toy on a regular basis to help prevent boredom.

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

Simply taking some time to sit quietly with your dog, stroking their fur and chatting with them calmly, can help your pup stay relaxed and feel loved. 

Typical Recovery Times Following Orthopedic Surgery

The length of time required for your pup to recover from an orthopedic surgery will depend on a number of factors, including the type of surgery, your dog's age, general health and rehabilitation needs. 

Many orthopedic surgeries will be largely healed about 2 and 3 months after the procedure, however, it can take up to 6 months for your dog to fully recover. 

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.

Do you have questions about helping your dog recover from orthopedic surgeryContact our vets at Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital we do everything we can to get your pup up and running as quickly and safely as possible! 

From Happy Pet Owners

  • My pup Fiona has had both CCL’s fixed in her hind legs by Dr. Hassinger. He has been straight-forward about everything from the start. I couldn’t be happier with what he has done with her. The staff is also patient and kind, you can tell that they really love every animal that comes through those doors.
    Matt J.

Contact (570) 208-8877