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Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog

Pawed Patient: Helping Your Pet Recover After Surgery

A cat in an e-collar.

After any surgery, the patient (whether human or animal) will need lots of rest, rehabilitation, and a slow return to normal life for complete healing. Knowing what to do in helping your pet recover after surgery will go a long way in getting them back on their paws in less time. Since post-surgical care is so important, the team at Hanford Veterinary Hospital is here with an overview on what you can do for your furry patient:

Follow the Instructions

After a surgical procedure, your veterinarian or specialist will send you home with medications and a detailed list of how to care for your recovering pet. Among these, you will find instructions on how to administer the medications, care for the incision site, what to feed them, and any restrictions on movement. It’s crucial to follow these instructions to a T to avoid any setbacks in your pet’s healing and to avoid an injury.

The First Few Days

Your pet will most likely be returned home to you the day of surgery, but will remain groggy from the anesthesia. They will need to have a secure area to rest, free from noise and outside distractions. Help them walk to relieve themselves outside or in their litter box, as they won’t be steady on their paws. 

You may want to put down plenty of pads and towels, as well as other things that are easily laundered since they may have accidents until they are more alert. Expect to keep your pet’s movement restricted for the first week by letting them recover in a crate or confined space. Your pet will likely be bruised, tired, and sore for a while, which is why most surgeries require postsurgical pain management through medications and rest.

Prevent your pet from chewing the sutures or surgical site by keeping an Elizabethean or E collar on at all times. Choose one that fits well and is comfortable, such as a soft donut collar or those made of sturdy fabric. 

Caring for the Incision Site

If your pet has stitches or staples, these will remain for up to 14 days when you will return to the clinic to have them removed (unless the veterinarian tells you they will dissolve on their own). Keep your pet’s incision site clean and dry, and don’t put any topical ointments or sprays on it unless otherwise instructed. Look for any signs of infection, such as oozing, bleeding, foul odor, redness, or swelling, and be sure to call us right away if these signs are present.

Exercise and Enrichment

Plan on minimal exercise during the first few weeks after surgery, depending on the complexity of the procedure. Some pets may require physical therapy and rehabilitation after certain procedures, such as with orthopedic surgeries. Gradual walking will likely be encouraged not long after your pet returns home.

Gentle walks outdoors or around the home help in encouraging recovery. Even if your pet cannot participate in exercise beyond an easy walk, you can still keep them entertained while they are healing. Challenging games and treat-dispensing puzzles are great ways to give them something to do. You can make a DIY slow-feeder by placing a tennis ball in their food bowl. Dental chews and toys such as Nylabone and Kong are also wonderful options.

You can even set your pet’s crate or enclosed pen in front of a picture window or patio door so they can watch birds and other small wildlife in the yard. If barking is an issue, it’s best to avoid the extra stress this might cause!

Questions About Helping Your Pet Recover?

Expect many adjustments in your pet’s daily routine if they are healing from a recent surgery. You will probably have most of your pet’s needs covered when speaking to your veterinarian about postoperative care, but we encourage you to reach out anytime. Your pet’s recovery is our priority. Please call us to set up an appointment or to inquire about your sweet pet.

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