Caring for Your Pet After Surgery: Common Post Surgical FAQs

Caring for your pet after surgery is part of healing your petIf your pet has had surgery, likely you’ve left the hospital with a long list of home care instructions. Once your pet leaves the operating room and is on her way home, it’s up to you to help make her more comfortable using these instructions, so that the healing process can begin.

But this responsibility can be daunting, and there are common questions that arise after surgery. Since we all want to make sure our pet is as comfortable as can be, Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is spending some time talking about these frequently asked questions, and how to best care for your pet after surgery.

Common Questions About Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

What should I do when I first get my pet home?

If you’ve ever had surgery yourself, you know that rest is the number one thing that your body needs to recover from this event. It’s the same for your pet, so hopefully you’ve created a warm, comfortable, safe and quiet space for rest for your pet.

Pets though, often don’t understand what they’ve been through, and how to keep themselves rested. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Keep them on the floor
  • Keep them away from other pets and children
  • No jumping or running
  • No stair climbing
  • No playing or roughhousing

A small space is best for most post surgical recovery. If your pet is crate trained, this is often ideal. If not, consider turning your laundry room, small bedroom, or mud room into their recovery room for awhile.

How should I care for the incision?

Your pet will have an incision, and if you’ve never seen sutures before this can be a bit startling. Remember that some swelling and redness is normal for up to 2-3 days after surgery, but this should subside and the incision should be looking better with each passing day.

  • Monitor the incision daily for redness, swelling, discharge and tenderness
  • No bathing or getting the incision wet
  • Monitor your pet carefully to make sure they are not licking the incision
  • Never put anything on the incision unless specifically told to do so by your veterinarian

How do I know if my pet is in pain?

Surgery is a painful procedure, but modern veterinary pain management is a critical part of our surgery protocol. Pain can slow healing, so we combat it in a number of ways before, during, and after surgery. If your pet is in pain, please call us right away so we can help.

Signs of pain include:

  • Crying
  • Trembling
  • Restlessness/ unable to settle
  • Not eating
  • Biting or growling if you get near the surgery site

We’ve prescribed pain medication for your pet to take at home. Be sure to give the medication as directed, but if you feel your pet is still in pain, please call us right away so that we can adjust or make changes in your pet’s pain management.

My Pet is Not Eating After Surgery – What Should I Do?

Stomach upset is a common occurrence after general anesthesia and should pass within a couple of days. Offer small, frequent meals as well as small amounts of water at a time. Follow all instructions from us about nutritional requirements. Other tips:

  • Many pets won’t eat their regular, dry kibble immediately following surgery
  • Consider a recovery diet such as a/d
  • Try slightly warming some food in the microwave, to enhance the flavor; stir before feeding to dissipate heat
  • Hand feed your pet so that they get the flavor of the food; this may entice them to eat
  • Talk to us about protein sources you can feed at home

What should I do if my pet is licking the incision?

Licking can cause the sutures to some out and/or cause irritation, redness, and possible infection. Discourage licking with the use of a recovery collar or bite not collar, available from our office. Most of the time your pet will be sent home with one.

If your pet is still bothering the incision, even with the collar, consider other reasons for this, such as pain or discomfort. Call us with any concerns.

When should my pet be going to the bathroom after surgery?

Your pet has had a great deal of fluids for hydration during surgery, so they may need to urinate more often than normal. Take them to the litter box or outside on a leash ONLY for frequent bathroom breaks after surgery.

Most pets don’t have a bowel movement for the first several days following surgery, due to the fasting period before surgery and their decreased appetite after surgery.

If your pet has not had a bowel movement for 4 days following surgery, you can try adding some canned pumpkin to their diet to help move things along. Metamucil is also commonly given to help soften the stool. Give us a call for instructions.

In general, your pet should improve every day after surgery. If your pet’s condition changes suddenly, please don’t hesitate to call us or the local emergency clinic right away. Your goal by following post surgery instructions is to help your pet get back to a pain free, normal life as soon as possible, and we are here to support you in caring for your pet after surgery each step of the way.

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