My Pet Just Had Surgery, Now What?

Surgery can be scary for both pets and their owners. The first couple of weeks they require special care and attention. The post care consists of simple instructions that can help your dog or cat on the road to recovery. The last thing you want is an emergency visit to your veterinarian.

The first couple of days after you take your pet home from having surgery you may see your pet tired, and sleeping more than usual. They may experience poor balance, in which you need to watch your pet around stairs and not to leave them unattended outside. They may also have a loss of appetite and may vomit. You should wait to feed your pet until the evening after morning surgery. A small meal is ideal after surgery, about half of what you would normally feed your dog or cat since they may be nauseous from the anesthetic.

There are two layers of sutures. The inside ones are dissolvable; however, the outside sutures are closed with non-dissolvable sutures must be removed after 14 days. For some surgeries, the incision is closed with surgical glue, for instance when the laser is used for cutting. It is important that the incision is kept dry for 14 days. That includes preventing your pet from licking the incision. It is their instinct to lick and soothe wounds, so it is very likely that your pet may do so. The licking may disrupt the external stitches or glue, as well as introducing bacteria into the site. There are many different options for after surgery wear for dogs and cats. The cone collar is the most common anti-lick preventive. Cones come in a plastic or fabric material as well as a blow-up tube that prevents them from turning their head to access the area. If your pet is using the cone collar for the first time, prepare for them to act negatively at first. It can take up to 24 hours for your pet to get used to wearing a cone. Another option for after surgery wear is dog and cat onesies that covers the incision. You can purchase these at most vet clinics, or an old t-shirt can be used as long as they can’t reach the incision with it on. The incision can be itchy, and your dog may want to scratch at the area, little booties or socks can help to minimize damage to the incision. Bitter apple spray can be applied around (not directly on) the incision to help detour licking.

It is important to keep your best friend from running and jumping. Short walks on a leash are recommended. Lowering the pet’s activity can be a challenge, especially with puppies. Depending on the dog or cat, some pets recover from the anesthetic quickly after surgery and want to go back to their routine of running and jumping. Placing them in a confined small room or crate can help to limit their activity.

Separating your recovering dog or cat from your other pets is recommended, at least for the first few days. The furry roommates may treat your recovering pet differently when he/she is groggy. Bullying can occur, and your pet would have troubles defending themselves. Wearing a cone will help prevent licking. However, you should keep a close eye on your other pets so that they will not lick or bother at the incision site as well. Male dogs may still be able to impregnate a female up to a month after being neutered. It is best advised to keep them away from unfixed females in the meantime.

A small amount of swelling dried blood, or bruising around the incision may be normal the first few days following surgery. A firm, small swelling under the skin is generally a normal inflammatory response to surgery and will get smaller over several weeks. If you see signs of excessive swelling, pain, redness or discharge, as well as a fever or lethargy, contact your clinic. Pain medications and/or antibiotics may be prescribed after the pet’s surgery depending on what procedure was done.

Written by: Meagan Gladu, CCR