Nearly all pets will have surgery at some point in their lives, starting with spay or neuter surgery as kittens and puppies. Whether any additional surgeries are elective, such as dental cleanings, or non-elective, such as removing a tumor or repairing damage from an accident, proper post operative care is instrumental in helping your pet heal.
Follow these steps to help your pet on the road to recovery.
**Know what a healthy incision looks like, and check it every day. Take photos if you aren’t sure if the incision is healing correctly. Watch for bruising, bleeding, seepage and signs of infection.
**Don’t let your pet lick the incision excessively and don’t let him chew it at all. Use a barrier method, such as a surgical body suit or an E-collar if needed.
**Make sure you understand what your pet’s medications are, what they are being given for, and how often to give them. Ask for a demonstration if you aren’t sure how to medicate your pet. If your pet is taking multiple medications or if you have a hard time remembering when to give them, download a free medication reminder app for your smartphone. Never give human medications unless specifically instructed to do so, and if your pet is on antibiotics, finish the entire prescription, even if your pet seems better.
**Unless otherwise directed, give your pet’s pain medications with food. Combining medications with a meal, especially antibiotics or pain medication, will help protect the gut. Giving medication on an empty stomach can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. If your pet does develop any of these symptoms, don’t just discontinue the medication, but call the office. Your pet might be a candidate for a gentler form of pain control.
**Keep bandages clean and dry. If your pet has a bandaged foot, ask for an old fluid bag to cover the limb for walks on wet days. If the bandage does get wet, call the office, your pet might need a fresh bandage. If the bandage starts to smell bad, the incision underneath might be infected. Call for a recheck if you notice a bad smell.
**If your pet’s bandage is placed on an extremity, or if there is a cast, check the bandage/cast daily to make sure it’s not too tight. Look for swelling on either side of the cast or bandage and feel toes for warmth and look for pinkness. Call the office is you suspect the bandage or cast is too tight.
**Follow feeding instructions, even if your pet seems to feel okay. If you have been sent home with prescription food, be sure to feed it. Small frequent meals are easier on a stomach that might be upset from anesthesia. Good nutrition is important for recovery
**Follow exercise restrictions, even if your pet seems to be recovered. The most common reason for post operative complications is too much activity in the days and weeks after surgery. It takes a full two weeks for pets to heal after spay or neuter surgery, longer for more intense procedures. It is vitally important that you follow directions for cage rest, leash walks or limited activity until your vet says it is okay for your pet to resume normal activity. If you have a young and energetic pet and are struggling to keep him calm and quiet, ask about the possibilities of sedatives.
** Delay bathing until sutures or staples have been removed and incisions are healed, or until a bandage has been removed. Hopefully your pet isn’t smelly after surgery. But resist the urge to bathe him until he has been cleared for a bath. Getting bandages, casts and incisions wet can cause skin irritation or infection and can delay healing.
**Give your pet extra help moving around as needed. Pets recovering from surgery may take a few days to perk up. Help your pet with stairs if he is struggling or consider keeping him on one floor. Older dogs and those who have had spinal surgery might need extra help getting up and walking. Use a belly sling to assist your pet. If medications make your pet drowsy or uncoordinated, take steps to keep him safe, removing any slippery throw rugs, blocking off steps or confining him until he feels better.