How do I care for my pet after surgery?
Peppa just had surgery recently (she was speyed) and the kids were very concerned about how they would need to look after her when she came home.
The post-operative care required for your pet will differ depending on the procedure they have had, so always listen to your vet’s advice. If you are unsure, ask your vet to write down the instructions for you (though most vets will print out a sheet of discharge instructions for you to take home these days). It’s also a good idea to ask your vet before the surgery so you can be as prepared as possible.
Below are some general rules to follow for when your dog or cat comes home after surgery.
REST IS BEST
The most important point of all: give your pet time to rest and recover from the procedure. It’s completely normal for your pet to sleepy and a bit lethargic for the first 12-24 hours after surgery.
FOOD AND DRINK
Make sure there is fresh water available but don’t be concerned if they aren’t interested in eating. If they do want to eat (and your vet has said that it’s ok to do so) then offer a small amount of their normal meal, maybe half only. Sometimes the anaesthetic drugs can make them feel a bit nauseous and they may vomit.
CONFINE YOUR PET TO SPEED UP HEALING
Once you get your pet home, it’s very important to confine them to a small space to give them time to heal and rest. Choose a small space, for example laundry, bathroom or kitchen and keep your pet confined her for at least 48 hours. If your pet is crate trained, then a large crate would work well too (there must be enough space in the crate for the pet to turn around fully though). Use a baby gate across the doorway rather than shutting the door on your pet. This way you can check on them regularly and they can see out too, which will help them to settle in their confined space.
Make sure they have comfortable bedding or blankets and enough space to lie on the floor to cool down, particularly if the weather is warm. You will also need to make sure there is fresh water available and a litter tray for cats.
By keeping your pet as quiet as possible, you will give the tissues time to heal. If the wound isn’t allowed to heal properly, then hearing can be delayed and you run the risk of an infection.
After most small, less invasive surgeries, your vet will probably recommend restricted exercise for up to seven days. This might include routine desexing operations in male pets, lump removals and possibly speys in younger female dogs and cats. During this time, only allow short walks outside for the toilet on a lead. More complicated surgeries may require a longer period of restricted activity, and even physiotherapy, so always check with your vet and follow their advice.
If required, your vet may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for your pet for a few days post-op. Antibiotics might be needed to prevent infection and anti-inflammatories are sometimes recommended to reduce pain or swelling. Don’t worry if your vet doesn’t send you home with any tablets for your pet – they may have administered some via injection during or after the operation, or they might not be necessary at all, especially after a short, minor procedure.
MONITOR THE WOUND
The best advice is always to leave the wound alone! Unless specifically instructed to do so by your vet, do not wash, clean or put anything on the wound. However, you should check the wound twice daily and make sure that it isn’t becoming swollen, hard or red, and doesn’t ooze or have a discharge. If it does, then speak to your vet immediately or take the pet back to be checked. Be aware that rubbing alcohol or peroxide will sting so don’t apply these to your pet’s wound!
Your pet also needs to leave the wound alone – easier said than done if the wound gets itchy! Licking, biting, scratching or otherwise interfering with the wound can disrupt the healing process. An Elizabethan or e-collar, also known as the ‘cone of shame’ might be required if your pet keeps licking their wound. The e-collar needs to stay on ALL THE TIME and is flexible enough to be worn when sleeping, eating and walking on a lead. No matter how resistant your pet might be initially, they will get used to wearing it with some gentle encouragement. Make sure water and food bowls are small enough to go inside the collar so your pet can eat or drink. Raising the bowl and moving it away from the wall can also help.
Here’s a great website with information about Elizabethan collars.
As a general rule of thumb – if you are worried at all then call the vet clinic. These days it’s very easy to take a photo and email it to your vet if you are concerned and can’t get your pet into the clinic straight away. Trust me, your vet would much prefer that you double checked with them sooner rather than later!
I hope this has helped prepare you and your pet for surgery and the post-op recovery period. To those pets having surgery soon, best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Please check out the following articles if you would like further information: