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Dog Recovering from Surgery

You can help your dog recover after surgery by knowing the right things to do and how to provide care for them. In this blog, our San Gabriel vets share a few tips on how to care for your dog following surgery.

Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

Undergoing surgery can be a challenging experience for both pets and their owners. However, understanding how to provide proper post-operative care for your dog is crucial in ensuring a smooth recovery. By knowing how to care for your dog after surgery, you can help them quickly return to their normal lifestyle, and alleviate some of the stress that comes with surgery.

Regardless of the type of surgery your dog is undergoing, your vet will provide you with personalized, step-by-step instructions on how to care for your pet during the recovery period. Be sure to follow all your vet's instructions. There may be specific and important instructions relating to the injury your pet has.

Here are a few basic tips that can help you keep your pet safe and comfortable while they recover from surgery.

What to Expect After Surgery

Most veterinary surgical procedures typically necessitate the administration of general anesthesia. This anesthesia induces unconsciousness in your pet, ensuring they don't experience any pain throughout the procedure. However, it may take some time for the effects of general anesthesia to wear off. The lingering effects of a general anesthetic may leave your dog shaking after surgery or feeling sleepy. These side effects are normal and with a little rest should disappear very 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

It is normal if your dog won't eat after surgery. General anesthetic could cause your dog to feel a little queasy, and lose their appetite. When it's time to feed your dog after surgery try offering your pet a light meal (1/4 or 1/2 of the regular meal) such as chicken and rice which can be easier to digest than regular store bought dog food. Your pet should regain their appetite within approximately 24 hours post-surgery, signaling a gradual return to their normal diet.

That said, if your dog is not eating 48 hours after surgery, contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can also indicate pain or infection.

It's crucial to emphasize the significance of providing your dog with a nourishing diet during their recovery period and as part of their daily care regimen to maintain their overall health. If you are unsure about what the best food for your dog is then speak to your vet. Your vet will be able to recommend 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 for them to maintain a healthy weight.

Managing Your Pet's Pain After Surgery

Following your pet's surgery, a veterinary professional will dedicate time to elucidate the prescribed medications for managing your dog's post-operative pain. They will detail the necessary dosage, and frequency of administration, and provide instructions on administering any medications. It is essential for your pet's health that you adhere to your vet's instructions to effectively prevent any unnecessary pain while your dog recovers, without causing any side effects. If you are unsure about any instructions ask your vet to clarify. Your veterinary 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 two most commonly prescribed medications for pets after surgery. If your dog 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

Following your dog's surgery, offer them a cozy and tranquil resting spot, separated from children and other pets. If your dog typically curls up on a small bed to sleep you may want to invest in a larger bed so that the incision site isn't pulled. Allowing your dog to stretch out, so 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.

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 while following the operation. Abrupt stretching and jumping motions can disrupt the healing process and potentially lead to the incision reopening.

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). Frequently, a challenging aspect involves deterring your dog from leaping onto cherished furniture or ascending stairs, which could impede their recovery. Confining your dog for a short time may be necessary to prevent these behaviors for a few days.

Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest is Required

Orthopedic surgeries often require limiting your dog’s movements for an effective 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 in a crate.

Make sure 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. You will also need to ensure 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 is 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 one 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 wear 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

Stitches or staples will typically be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery.  Depending on the surgery, 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 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

The follow-up appointment for your pet enables your veterinarian to track their progress and detect any signs of infection before it escalates.

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

Dogs 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 you must 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 regularly to help prevent boredom.

Offering treats can uplift your dog's spirits, but remember, their decreased activity level implies they're burning fewer calories. Excessive treats can tip the balance, so moderation is key.

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 surgeries like spaying, neutering, or abdominal procedures generally have swifter recoveries compared to surgeries involving bones, joints, and ligaments. Typically, soft tissue surgeries are around 80% healed within two to three weeks and may achieve complete healing in approximately six 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 six 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 owners frequently experience guilt when limiting their dog's activity post-surgery for what seems like an extended period. However, it's essential to remember that dogs typically recover much faster from surgery than humans. By diligently adhering to your vet's post-surgery guidelines, you're optimizing your dog's chances of a swift recovery and a return to their usual active lifestyle as soon as possible!

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.

Contact us for assistance if you are worried about your dog's recent surgery. Our veterinary professionals at Temple City Animal Hospital are here to help your pet feel better. 

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