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How to Care for Your Dog After Surgery

Being aware of how to provide your pet with the best care possible after surgery can mean the difference between a quick recovery and possible complications. In today's post, our Rockland Veterinary veterinary surgeons share some ways to make recovery go smoothly following surgery.

Follow Any Post-Operative Instructions

When your dog has surgery it can cause any caring pet parent to be anxious and stressed. It is important to keep in mind that the care you provide following surgery is crucial to your pet quickly recovering and returning to the things that they love.

No matter which type of surgery your dog is scheduled for, your veterinary surgeon in Rockland County will provide you with a set of instructions as well as any tips and advice you should follow for the duration of their recovery. Be sure to follow your veterinary surgeon's instructions carefully, there may be very specific and important instructions relating to the type of surgery your pet has had.

What to Expect After Surgery

Most veterinary surgical procedures will require the use of a general anesthetic for your dog. If your dog receives a general anesthetic for the procedure they will be unconscious for the entire process and won't feel anything. The lingering effects of a general anesthetic may leave your dog feeling a little sleepy, or unbalanced while standing or walking. These side effects are normal and with a little rest should disappear very quickly.

If you happen to notice any mild bruising or a lack of appetite it should be no cause for worry and these effects should pass quickly.

Diet During Post-Operative Care

General anesthetic may cause a lack of appetite in your dog and they may not feel very well for the first little while after they wake up. Once you are ready to feed your dog after they have woken from surgery it is important to remember this and only provide no more than half a portion and try to feed a light meal such as chicken as opposed to their usual dry food. Your pet should be feeling well enough to return to their regular eating habits about 24 hours after their surgery.

It is important to keep in mind that your pet should be eating as normal no more than 24 hours after the surgery was completed. If after this long your dog is still not eating then you should contact your veterinary surgeon immediately to have your dog examined. 

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.

How to Manage Any Pain During Recovery

Your pet will be prescribed pain medications for the recovery period after surgery. Your veterinary surgeon at Rockland Veterinary will discuss the dose required, how often to give the medications to your pet, and how to administer the medications. It is essential for your pet's health that you adhere to your vet's instructions in order to effectively prevent any unnecessary pain while your dog recovers, without causing any side effects. If you are unsure about any of the instructions ask your vet to clarify. Your veterinary surgery team wants to help you to help your dog recover well.

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.

Never treat your dog using home remedies unless you have spoken with your vet thoroughly about the treatment you plan to provide and do not administer any human medications to dogs as these can be toxic and potentially fatal.

How to Keep Your Dog Comfortable After Surgery

Your dog will require a quiet place where they can be alone and relax for the duration of their recovery. It may be best to provide your dog with a bed larger than they would normally use to allow your dog more space to stretch out and ensuring that there’s no extra pressure on any bandaged or sensitive parts of their body, may help your dog to feel better after surgery and may even help them to recover more quickly.

Keep Them Relaxed and Resting

No matter what surgery you dog had done there will be a recovery period in which they will be unable to . Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.

Most surgeries fortunately 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 potty breaks). Often, a more difficult task is preventing 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.

When to Use a Crate for Recovery

That said, orthopedic surgeries often require strictly limiting your dog’s movements for a good recovery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your dog following surgery, there are ways to help your dog adjust to this strict confinement and help them to get more comfortable with spending long periods of time in a 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 the Wound

Your dog will naturally be inclined to try to chew, claw and bite at the incisions while it is healing. Our veterinary surgeons recommend getting 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).

How to Care for Stitches

Stitches  or staples will typically be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery.  Depending on the surgery so vets may use stitches placed inside of your dog's wound which dissolve as the incision heals. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.

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.

How to Keep Bandages Clean and 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.

Ensure You Go to All Post-Op Appointments

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 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. When it comes to keeping your dog's healing process on-track, it's a good idea to let the professionals handle bandage changes.

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

Dog's just don't understand when they are in recovery and are likely to become frustrated at the reduced level of activity, the itchiness of their incision site, or just the overall lack of stimulation following surgery, so it's important that you give your pet stimulation and loving reassurance in other 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 such as spaying, neutering or abdominal surgeries tend to recover more quickly than procedures involving the bones, joints and ligaments. Many soft tissue surgeries have typically healed about 80% after 2-3 weeks, and may be completely healed in about 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

Pet parents often feel guilty about restricting their dog's movements for a seemingly long amount of time. But try to keep in mind that dogs generally bounce back much more quickly from surgery than humans do, and by following your vet's post-surgery instructions you are doing your very best to help your dog recover quickly, and get back to their normal active lifestyle as soon as possible!

If your dog recently underwent surgery and you have any questions about the recovery process please contact your veterinary surgeon in Rockland Veterinary. 

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At Rockland Veterinary we are passionate about animals and enjoy helping cats and dogs feel well. Contact our vets in Hudson Valley, North Rockland or Pomona today to schedule your furry companion's first appointment!