It is difficult when our pets get sick or injured, and as pet owners we do our best to make sure we do all we can to speed the healing process. However, sometimes, pet surgery is needed and the healing process is a bit more complicated and takes a bit longer. Here are some tips on caring for a cat or dog after surgery.
One way to help ensure the healing progresses goes as smoothly and as quickly as possible is to follow some simple guidelines.
- To help make the healing period of your pet as easy as possible, it is best to involve the entire family in his recovery. This can be done with simple things like letting children help put his smaller feedings out for him, or allowing those too young to actually help at least be present when he is given his food or any medications.
- Make sure all children, particularly very young ones, understand the importance of keeping your healing pet calm and comfortable while he recovers. If necessary, limit access to your pet to toddlers and visiting children who may not understand fully the limits that are temporarily needed.
- Keeping your pet’s sleeping areas and food areas as clean and clutter- free as possible will help to ensure his risk of infection remains as low as possible.
- If your pet’s surgery makes it difficult for him to reach his food or his sleeping area, make any necessary adjustments to help him reach these areas with as little effort as possible. A bowl that is too low can be put on a phone book to raise it up to a better level. Or a bed that has high sides can be put in an area that allows him easier access.
- Some handling may be necessary to administer medicines and change bandaids or access a pet bed. Try to keep excess handling to a minimum until your pet is stronger, or until your veterinarian advises it's okay. Be sure to keep giving him love and affection; removing physical contact completely may have a negative affect. Ask your veterinarian for tips or suggestions if you are unsure just how much handling your recovering pet can comfortably handle.
If your pet has had surgery or a minor procedure at the veterinarian’s office that requires a change to his daily routine, it is imperative that you follow those instructions just as they have been given to you. Although your veterinarian does not know your pet as personally as you do, his professional expertise in the healing of animals will is very beneficial and is aimed at giving your pet the best chance for an uneventful recovery.
A speedy recovery affects your pet’s overall health. A healing pet does not need the added stress of a lengthy period of recuperation.
If it is necessary to take your pet home in a carrier to help protect him after his surgery, then it is vital that you do so. Limiting risk of re-injury or complications will help ensure his recovery does not take longer than necessary.
Although your pet will obviously be excited to see you and other family members following surgery and possibly an overnight stay in the hospital, it is important to keep him calm to avoid movement or activity that may compromise a bandaged limb or sutures that might be securing a wound. Either situation could result in another visit to the veterinarian and possibly additional recovery time at a hospital to ensure he remains calm; both of which would stress your pet and interfere with the healing process.
Feeding and Nutrition
In order for your pet to heal properly and at a satisfactory pace, it is important to monitor his feeding and water intake, particularly immediately following surgery when a pet is less likely to want to eat and drink sufficiently. If your veterinarian has given specific instructions regarding limited or adjusted intake of food or water, it is your responsibility to see that your pet adheres to that regimen as closely as possible. Generally, food and water will be limited for the first 12 to 24 hours following surgery, while your pet recovers from anesthesia and his body readjusts to its normal levels. This is usually done to help prevent vomiting, which is not only physically aggravating, but emotionally stressful.
If your veterinarian prescribes a special diet, begin with smaller than normal feedings so your pet will be able to adjust more easily. If you find that your pet wants smaller amounts more often during a 24-hour period, check with your veterinarian to make sure this is adequate. A pet that stops eating altogether is at a far greater risk than one who eats less but still manages to get some nutrition while recovering. Once a pet stops eating completely it is extremely difficult to get them to eat once again.
Because your pet’s feedings may be adjusted or reduced for a temporary period following surgery, you may also notice a reduction in bowel movements as well. Your veterinarian will tell you what to expect; however, make sure you contact him at once if you have any concerns or your pet exhibits any strange symptoms when attempting elimination of both urine or feces.
Exercise and Activity
In many instances, your post-surgery pet will be limited from strenuous and high energy or physically demanding activities until he is finished healing. In some cases, this may only last until a cast or bandage is no longer required, or sutures have been removed. Because our pets love to interact with us, and depending on the breed (some are naturally more hyperactive than others), a period of reduced or limited activities may be difficult to enforce, but patience and calm persistence will give you positive results.
If necessary, you may have to block access to stairs and limit the number of rooms your pet can enter in order to keep his activity level reduced to the level your veterinarian has recommended. This is especially important during the first 24 hours when your pet may still be experiencing grogginess due to the anesthesia.
If your pet has had surgery to a limb and it is necessary to keep the surgical area clean and dry, you can place a plastic bag over the bandaged area so that he can still go outside to relieve himself. When you pet needs to go outside, you should stay with him in case he is unsteady on his feet and needs assistance to keep his balance while he is urinating.
Medications and Follow-up Visits:
- Do not leave your post-surgical pet alone for long periods of time to make sure he does not chew or aggravate the surgical area if he is able to lick, scratch or bite it.
- If the bandage requires changing, follow your vet’s instructions exactly as they have been given. If you are having difficulty because your pet resists the procedure, it may be helpful to have one person restrain him, while you change the bandage or apply any needed topical medications.
- Watch the bandaged area closely and check it daily for any discharge. Your veterinarian will indicate what is normal and what is not, as far as the amount, the color and any particular odor. If any discharge is excessive or begins to have a foul odor, don’t guess about it, report it at once to your veterinarian. Report any swelling or increase in redness around the surgical areas at once, as this could indicate a possible infection.
- Report any adverse reaction or aversion to any prescribed medications to your veterinarian immediately. Do not stop administering these unless told to do so by your veterinarian, as this could inhibit healing, increase the risk of infection or otherwise affect the healing process.
- No matter how well your pet seems to be doing, DO NOT skip any scheduled post-surgical visits to your veterinarian. He is a trained professional and he will be able to assess your pet’s progress with the greatest degree of accuracy and prescribe any changes that may be needed to help your pet continue to heal at a good pace.
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