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How can I help my dog recover after surgery?

Discover valuable tips from our vets in Mechanicsburg on caring for your dog post-surgery. Ensuring proper care for your furry friend after their surgery is crucial for their swift recovery and a prompt return to their active, normal life. 

Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

After your dog's surgery, both you and your furry friend may feel stressed, especially during the initial days. However, it is crucial to understand how you can take care of your dog and make them more comfortable once they are back home. This will help them get back to their regular routine as quickly as possible.

When your pet returns home, your veterinarian, veterinary surgeon, or nurse will give you clear and specific instructions on how to care for them. It is critical to follow these instructions precisely. If you come across any points that you do not understand, please ask for clarification. Even if you forget how to follow a specific instruction once you're home, call your veterinarian for clarification. Your veterinary team is available to answer any questions you have about the post-surgery instructions.

Here are a few essential tips to keep your pet comfortable and safe at home while they recover.

After-Effects of General Anesthetic

Most veterinary surgeries need a general anesthetic. It makes your pet unconscious, so they won't feel any pain. But it takes time for the effects of the anesthetic to go away after the surgery. Sleepiness and shaking in your dog after surgery are normal side effects that will go away with rest. Your pet may also have a temporary decrease in appetite after the anesthetic.

Feeding Your Dog After Surgery

After receiving the anesthesia, your dog may feel nauseous and lose interest in eating. To help your dog recover from surgery, feed them a smaller portion of a light meal, such as chicken and rice, which is easier for them to digest than regular store-bought food. Typically, their appetite will improve within 24 hours of surgery, and you can gradually return to their regular diet.

If you observe that your dog still won't eat about 48 hours after surgery, it's important to contact your veterinary surgeon or vet. A dog not eating after surgery could indicate potential pain or infection.

Managing Your Dog's Pain After Surgery

A veterinarian will evaluate the medications prescribed for your dog's post-surgical pain. They will explain how to administer the medications, including the frequency and correct dosage. To avoid unnecessary pain or side effects during your dog's recovery, strictly adhere to the veterinarian's instructions and seek clarification if you have any questions.

Pets are frequently given pain relievers and antibiotics following surgery to help them recover and avoid infection. If your dog is anxious or easily stressed, the veterinarian may prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them relax while they recover.

Remember to always check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any human medications. Many drugs that are considered safe for humans can be harmful to dogs.

How to Keep Your Dog Comfortable When They Get Home

After surgery, it is critical to provide your pet with a quiet and comfortable place to rest, away from children and other animals. By providing your dog with a plush and snug bed with plenty of room to stretch out, you can reduce any potential strain on delicate or bandaged areas of its body.

If Your Dog is Coughing After Surgery

When your dog is anesthetized, a special tube will be inserted to help him breathe. This tube is inserted through the mouth and down into the lungs. It allows the dog to receive oxygen and other necessary medications while under anesthesia. However, this tube can occasionally cause irritation and inflammation, resulting in coughing. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the discomfort, but the coughing usually resolves within a week without treatment.

Restricting Your Pet's Movement

Following surgery, your veterinarian will advise you to limit your dog's activities and movement for a period of time. Sudden stretching and jumping can disrupt the healing process, potentially reopening the incision. Fortunately, most surgeries will not necessitate complete confinement, such as being in a crate all the time, for recovery.

Most pets do well with staying indoors for a few days (only going outside for bathroom breaks). However, it may be difficult to keep your dog from jumping on furniture they like to sleep on or climbing stairs. To prevent these behaviors for a few days, you may need to keep your dog in a safe and comfortable room where you cannot directly supervise them.

Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest (Crate-Rest) is Necessary

Most surgeries do not require crate rest, but orthopedic surgeries frequently do. Limiting your dog's movements is critical to their recovery. If your veterinarian recommends crate rest after surgery, you can help your dog get used to it. Here's how.

  • Make sure the crate is big enough for your dog to stand and turn around.
  • Consider getting a larger crate if your dog needs a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking.
  • Ensure there's enough space for food and water dishes in the crate, without risking spills that could soil the bedding and bandages

Your Pet's Stitches

Many veterinarians now choose to stitch your dog's wound from the inside rather than the outside. The inside stitches dissolve as the incision heals. If your veterinarian uses outside stitches or staples, they will usually need to be removed 10 - 14 days after the surgery. Your veterinarian will tell you what type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

Keeping your dog from biting, chewing, or scratching his bandages or incision site can be difficult. One effective solution is to use a plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar, which is available in hard and soft versions. This collar effectively prevents your dog from licking its wounds.

While most dogs quickly adapt to wearing a cone collar, some may struggle to adjust. In such cases, you can consider alternative options recommended by your veterinarian. Donut-style collars and post-op medical pet shirts are both effective and less bulky options.

Keep Your Pet's Bandages Dry

To help your dog's incision heal faster, keep the bandages dry at all times. When your dog goes outside, remember to wrap the bandages in a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from the damp grass.  

Once your pet has returned inside, remove the plastic covering from the bandage. Leaving the plastic on the bandage can cause sweat to accumulate and lead to an infection.

Don't Skip Your Dog's Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment allows your veterinarian to monitor your pet's progress and detect any signs of infection before it worsens.

It is also critical that your dog's bandages are not kept on for too long after the procedure. Failure to change the bandages on time may result in pressure sores or disrupt the blood supply to the area. Our veterinary hospitals have been trained to properly dress wounds. Bringing your dog in for a follow-up appointment allows your veterinary team to properly change your pet's bandages, which helps keep your dog's healing process moving forward.

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 concerns about your dog's recovery from a recent surgery? Feel free to contact Silver Springs Animal Clinic today for advice.

New Patients Welcome

Looking for a vet in Mechanicsburg PA? Silver Springs Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our skilled veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of Central Pennsylvania companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

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