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How can I help my dog recover after surgery?

Discover valuable tips from our vets in San Diego on caring for your dog post-surgery. Ensuring proper care for your furry friend after their surgery is crucial for their swift recovery and a prompt return to their active, normal life. 

Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

After your dog's surgery, both you and your furry friend may feel stressed, especially during the initial days. However, it is crucial to understand how you can take care of your dog and make them more comfortable once they are back home. This will help them get back to their regular routine as quickly as possible.

When your pet arrives home, your vet, veterinary surgeon, or nurse will give you detailed instructions on how to care for them. It is critical that you carefully follow these instructions. If you come across any points that you don't understand, make sure to ask for clarification. Even if you forget how to do something once you get home, it's best to call your vet and ask for clarification. Your veterinary team is available to answer any questions you may have about the post-surgery instructions.

To ensure your pet's comfort and safety during their recovery at home, here are a few essential tips you can follow.

After-Effects of General Anesthetic

Most veterinary surgeries need a general anesthetic. It makes your pet unconscious, so they won't feel any pain. But it takes time for the effects of the anesthetic to go away after the surgery. Your dog's sleepiness and shaking their head after surgery are normal side effects that will go away with rest. Your pet may also have a temporary decrease in appetite after the anesthetic.

If Your Dog is Not Eating After Surgery

Your dog may feel nauseous and lose interest in eating after receiving anesthesia. To aid your dog's recovery after surgery, feed them a smaller portion of a light meal, such as chicken and rice, which is easier for them to digest than regular store-bought food. Their appetite should return within 24 hours of the surgery, and you can gradually return to their regular diet.

If you see that your dog still won't eat after 48 hours after surgery, it's important to contact your veterinary surgeon or vet. This loss of appetite could indicate potential pain or infection.

Managing Your Dog's Pain After Surgery

A veterinary professional will evaluate the medications prescribed for your dog's post-surgery pain. They will explain how to administer the medications, as well as the frequency and dosage. To avoid unnecessary pain or side effects during your dog's recovery, strictly follow the vet's instructions and seek clarification if you have any doubts.

After surgery, pets often receive pain medications and antibiotics to alleviate post-operative discomfort and prevent infection. If your dog tends to get anxious or is easily stressed, the vet might also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm while they heal.

Remember to always consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any human medications. Many drugs that are safe for us can be harmful to dogs.

How to Keep Your Dog Comfortable When They Get Home

Following surgery, it is critical to provide your pet with a calm and cozy place to rest away from children and other animals. By providing your dog with a plush and snug bed with plenty of room to stretch out, you can reduce any potential strain on sensitive or bandaged areas of its body.

If Your Dog is Coughing After Surgery

When your dog is sedated, a special tube will be inserted to help them breathe. This tube enters the body through the mouth and travels to the lungs. It allows the dog to receive oxygen and other medications while under anesthesia. This tube, however, can occasionally cause irritation and inflammation, resulting in coughing. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the discomfort, and without treatment, the coughing usually improves within a week. 

Restricting Your Pet's Movement

After your dog has surgery, your vet will suggest limiting your pup's activities and movement for a while. Sudden stretching and jumping can disrupt the healing process and possibly reopen the incision. Luckily, most surgeries won't require complete confinement, like being in a crate all the time, for recovery.

Most pets do well staying inside for a few days (only going outside for bathroom breaks). However, it may be difficult to prevent your dog from jumping on furniture or climbing stairs. For a few days, you may need to keep your dog in a safe and comfortable room where you can't directly observe them.

Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest (Crate-Rest) is Necessary

Most surgeries do not necessitate crate rest, but orthopedic surgeries frequently do. Limiting your dog's movements is critical for his or her recovery. You can help your dog adjust to crate rest if your vet recommends it after surgery. Here's how:

  • Make sure the crate is big enough for your dog to stand and turn around.
  • Consider getting a larger crate if your dog needs a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking.
  • Ensure there's enough space for food and water dishes in the crate, without risking spills that could soil the bedding and bandages

Your Pet's Stitches

Many veterinarians now prefer to stitch the inside of your dog's wound rather than the outside. As the incision heals, the stitches on the inside dissolve. If your doctor uses outside stitches or staples, they will need to be removed by your doctor 10 to 14 days after surgery. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

Preventing your dog from biting, chewing, or scratching its bandages or incision site can be challenging. One effective solution is using a plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar, which comes in both hard and soft versions. This collar effectively stops your dog from licking its wound.

While most dogs adjust to wearing a cone collar fairly quickly, some may struggle. In such cases, you can investigate alternative options recommended by your veterinarian. Donut-style collars and post-op medical pet shirts are two effective and less bulky alternatives.

Keep Your Pet's Bandages Dry

It's critical to keep your dog's bandages dry at all times to help the incision heal quickly. When you take your dog outside, remember to protect the bandages with a plastic bag or cling wrap from the damp grass. 

As soon as your pet comes back inside, remove the plastic covering from the bandage. Leaving the plastic over the bandage can cause sweat to accumulate and result in an infection.

Don't Skip Your Dog's Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment allows your vet to monitor your pet's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes more serious.

It's also critical that your dog's bandages don't stay on for too long after the procedure. Failure to change the bandages on time may result in pressure sores or even a disruption in the blood supply to the area. Our veterinary hospitals have received wound dressing training. Bringing your dog in for a follow-up appointment allows your veterinary team to properly change your pet's bandages, which helps keep your dog's healing process on track.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have concerns about your dog's recovery from a recent surgery? Please contact San Diego Bay Animal Hospital today for advice.

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