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Caring for a Dog After Surgery: What to Expect

Caring for your dog after surgery is essential when it comes to helping them make a full recovery. Here, our Chino Hills vets share some advice on how to help your dog return to full health as quickly and safely as possible.

Always Follow Post-Op Instructions

No doubt both you and your pup will feel some stress around the time of your animal companion's procedure. However, knowing how to care for your four-legged family member once you return home is key to helping them get back to being themselves as quickly as possible.

After your pet's surgery, the vet will give clear and detailed instructions regarding how to care for your pet at home. It’s essential to follow these instructions carefully. If there are any steps you do not understand, be sure to ask.

If, once you get home, you realize that you've forgotten how to complete a specific instruction you were given, make sure to call your vet to clarify. Our veterinary team at TLC Animal Clinic is dedicated to providing the best possible care for your pet and is always happy to help you understand the post-operative instructions we have provided. 

Typical Recovery Times for Dogs After Surgery

We find that most often pets will recover from soft tissue procedures like spaying and neutering or abdominal surgeries more quickly than those operations which involve joints, bones or ligaments. Usually, soft tissue surgeries will be almost entirely healed by the two to three-week mark post-operation although in some cases it may take up to six weeks to completely heal. 

For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery may take much longer - 80% recovery will usually occur about eight to 12 weeks, with full recovery taking as long as six months in some cases, particularly for complex surgeries such as torn cruciate ligament (CCL) repair. 

Here are a few key tips and tricks to keep in mind as you try and keep your dog comfortable and content during their at-home recovery:

Effects of General Anesthetic

Your vet will probably use a general anesthetic during your dog's procedure.  This will have rendered your dog unconscious and prevented them from feeling any pain during their operation. However, it will take some time to wear off after their surgery is complete.

A general anesthetic may temporarily cause sleepiness, or make your dog feel shaky on their feet. These are normal after-effects and should disappear quickly with a little rest. You may also notice your dog coughing after surgery. This is typically due to throat irritation caused by the tube that was placed in their throat while under anesthesia to help them breathe. This irritation should clear up in a few days. 

How to Feed Your Dog After Surgery

It's normal if your dog won't eat immediately after surgery, a general anesthetic may cause your pup to feel somewhat nauseated and lose their appetite. When feeding your dog after surgery, try offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which may be easier to digest than regular store-bought pet food.

You can expect your pet's appetite to return within 24 hours of the operation. After that, they can begin to eat their regular food again. If your find that your pet's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours of their operation, contact your veterinarian or surgeon. Loss of appetite can indicate excessive pain or an infection in your pet. 

Managing a Dog’s Pain After Surgery

Your dog may be prescribed pain medication to help them deal with any discomfort following their procedure. If your dog experiences anxiety or tends to be on the high-strung end of the spectrum, your vet may also prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help your dog stay calm while healing.

Your vet will explain your pup's dosage, how often you should provide them their medication and how to safely administer it. Make sure you follow these instructions carefully to avoid unnecessary pain and avoid possible side effects. Always follow up with a veterinary professional if you are unsure about the instructions you were given.

Never give your dog human medication unless instructed to by your vet. Many medications which help humans feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends. 

Helping Your Dog Stay Comfortable At Home

After their operation, make sure you create a comfortable and quiet place for your dog to rest. Keep them away from the hustle and bustle of other pets, household chores and children. Set up a soft bed for them and give them lots of room to spread out so they can avoid putting pressure on parts of their body that may be sensitive.

Restricting Your Dog’s Movement

After your dog's surgery, your vet will probably recommend that you limit your companion's movement for a period of time. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt their healing and potentially reopen an incision.

Thankfully, most procedures won't require significant confinement or crate rest for your dog. However, you may find it difficult to keep your dog from climbing stairs or jumping up on furniture they love to sleep on. Preventing these actions for a few days may require keeping your dog in a safe, comfortable room of the house when you are unable to directly supervise them.

Helping Your Dog With Cage-Rest

In some cases, your canine companion will need to have their movements completely limited, and crate rest will be required. This is often the case after orthopedic surgery. If your vet recommends crate rest for your dog after their surgery, there are plenty of actions you can take to help your dog adjust and cope with their strict confinement to make them as happy and comfortable as possible.

Confirm that the crate is large enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your dog has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure he or she has plenty of room for their water and food dishes, without risking spills that may cause bandages or bedding to become wet and soiled.

You should also keep the crate in a room you frequent so you can be near to your dog to give them lots of encouragement and affection.

Caring for Your Dog’s Stitches

You may notice stitches have been placed on the inside of your pet’s wound rather than the outside. Stitches on the inside will dissolve as the incision heals.

If your dog has had stitches or staples placed on the outside of their incisions, your vet will need to remove them sometime within 14 days of the surgery. They will let you know what type of stitches they used and about any follow-up care they might require from you.

The Incision Site

You might have trouble keeping your dog from chewing, biting, scratching or generally bothering their incisions site or bandages. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.

Often, dogs will adapt to this collar pretty quickly. If your pet is having a hard time adjusting, you could also try a donut-style collar or post-op medical shirt. Talk to your vet about what they recommend. 

Keep Your Dog's Bandages Dry

Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your dog's surgical site heal quickly.

Make sure your dog's bandages are covered in plastic wrap when they go outside. This will prevent dampness, grass, or dirt from getting between their bandage and their skin. Remove the covering when your pet returns inside.

Attend Your Dog’s Follow-Up Appointment

The follow-up appointment allows your vet a chance to monitor your pet’s recovery progress and look for any signs of infection before it develops into a serious condition. It's important you attend this appointment so you can be sure your pup is on their way to making a full recovery. 

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.

Has your pet recently had surgery with us? Our Chino Hills vets are here to answer any questions you may have. Please don't hesitate to contact us

New Patients Welcome

TLC Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Chino Hills companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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2575 Chino Hills Pkwy B Chino Hills CA 91709 US


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