How to Care for a Pet After Surgery

Feb 04, 2019

Surgery can be a stressful time for humans. When our pets need surgery, it is no different. Much like a human, pets need special post-surgery care. As a pet owner, a good deal of this care will fall into your lap, and it is best to be as prepared as possible if the need arises. AESC has some advice for owners of pets who are in need of a surgical procedure. Please keep in mind that these are general precautions and you should always follow your veterinarian’s discharge instructions if there are discrepancies.

Immediate Post-Surgery Care for Pets

Following a surgical procedure at AESC—major or minor—pets need specialized care. Immediately after the surgery, your dog or cat will be monitored by trained nurses and veterinary staff in our dedicated anesthesia recovery suite to make sure all vital signs are normal. If your pet is undergoing an out-patient surgery, your veterinarian will call to inform you that your pet is ready to go home. If your pet had a more complicated or serious procedure, then it is likely your veterinarian will call to update you on your pet’s status and the post-operative plan.

In some cases, you may not be able to visit right away. While uncommon, complications generally arise shortly after a surgical procedure, so giving your pet extra time to rest and heal before you visit could be best for them. Recovering pets are very closely monitored during this time period and beyond.

Before you take your dog or cat home from the hospital, you should ensure that you fully understand any home care instructions and that your home is set up to accommodate your recovering pet. You’ll want to set up a comfy, warm area where your pet can rest that has easy access to food and water.  Your pet will need to go outside on a leash for elimination purposes, or use a litterbox or potty pad in the confined area.   You might need to learn how to carry your pet or provide support if he or she needs to stand up. Additionally, you will be told when to return for a follow-up exam.

Post-Surgery Home Care for Pets

Even though your pet is awake, the effects of the anesthesia may still be noticeable. Your pet might be wobbly or unable to walk or stand properly. To prevent any injuries, it is best to keep your pet in a quiet, contained area. Rest is very important in this stage of recovery. It might be necessary to keep your pet contained to a small area for a few days to make sure that they aren’t moving around too much.

In fact, your vet may recommend keeping your pet in a crate for much of their recovery time. While this isn’t easy for you or your pet, it can be critical to proper recover. We don’t recommend leaving a toy or bone in the crate, especially unsupervised. Your pet will likely appreciate if you keep the crate in an area of your home where you and your family spend a lot of time.

During recovery, the only time pets should be allowed outside is for elimination purposes. When outside, they should be kept on a leash to ensure that they aren’t running around; this also gives you the opportunity to make sure that your pet is urinating and defecating normally. Often, pets will need to urinate more often than usual after a surgical procedure, especially if they were given fluids while in the hospital.

It is very likely that your pet will need medication during recovery. In most cases, pets are given pain relievers. These painkillers can affect your pet’s coordination, which is why you will need to restrict activity and keep your pet away from slippery surfaces and stairs. Your pet may also be given antibiotics to prevent infections. Generally, these medications need to be taken with food; therefore, make sure that your pet is eating normally.

Surgical sites will need to be closely monitored. Look out for signs of infection, which include heat, redness, swelling, pain, bruising, oozing, and odors. Prevent your pet from scratching or chewing at the wound or sutures with an Elizabethan collar, also called an e-collar. If anything looks out of the ordinary, call your veterinarian to see if your pet needs to be brought in for treatment.

Your doctor may instruct you to clean the wound or change the bandage at certain times. If there has been a drain put into the surgical site, you may also need to clean the drain. Your veterinarian can show you how to keep the wound and drain clean to prevent infection.

Follow-Up Appointment

Your pet will need to go back in for a follow-up examination with the veterinarian. During this visit, skin sutures or staples will be removed. Depending on the surgery performed, your pet may also need x-rays or other tests to make sure that everything is healing properly.

In some cases, physical therapy (or rehabilitation) may be necessary for adequate healing. There are numerous techniques that could be used to improve mobility for your pet. Physical therapy includes massage, hydrotherapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, and more. Every case is different where some pets may only need physical therapy for a few weeks while others may benefit from more.

AESC offers both surgical procedures and physical therapy for pets in need. If your primary veterinarian recommends a specialty center, get a referral or call us today at 720-842-5050. Our team is dedicated to helping pets get back on their feet.  Our rehabilitation therapist, Stevan Allen is also on-site for patients after a surgical procedure.