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How to Care for Your Pet After Surgery

Following your pet's surgery, providing attentive post-op care is critical to their recovery. Conscientious, diligent care can help them return to their normal life as soon as possible. Here, our Westport vets give some tips on how to care for your pet after surgery. 

Follow Surgery Post-Op Instructions Carefully 

Both you and your pet are likely experiencing some stress prior to and following their surgery. That said, being able to anticipate their needs and understanding how to care for your four-legged companion after they come home is essential to helping them get back to their routine as soon as possible. 

After your pet's operation, your vet will give you clear, detailed instructions about how to care for your pet at home. Following these closely will be critical to a safe, successful recovery. If you are confused by any of the steps, make sure to clarify. 

Even if you arrive home and notice that you've forgotten how to complete some of the instructions, get in touch with your vet.

How to Care for Your Pet After Surgery, Westport Vets

Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

Whether our veterinarians perform your pet's procedure or have to refer you to a veterinary surgical specialist near Westport, our team at Westport Veterinary Associates is dedicated to providing your pet with experienced, high-quality care — and guiding you through at-home steps that can have a significant impact, such as post-op care.

We've found that most pets tend to recover from soft tissue procedures such as spaying/neutering (keep in mind that a spay is more invasive than neutering) or abdominal surgery more quickly than operations involving joints, ligaments or bones. Numerous soft tissue surgeries typically heal about 80% after 2 to 3 weeks. Complete healing is usually expected within 6 weeks. 

Of course, these are general guidelines. If the surgery was performed on ligaments or bones, it may take more time for your pet to recover. While 90% recovery will typically take place between the 8 to 12-week timeframe, complete recovery from major surgery may take as long as 6 months. During this time, your pet should be strictly confined to let the bone properly heal (more about this below). 

Here are a few important tips to keep in mind to help your pet stay calm and comfortable as they recover at home:

Effects of General Anesthetic

Your vet probably used general anesthetic to keep your pet unconscious and prevent them from experiencing any pain during the surgery. After the procedure is complete, effects of anesthesia may take some time to wear off.

You may notice these effects in your pet, including sleepiness, shakiness on their feet and lack of appetite. These are normal and should disappear quickly with some rest.

Feeding Your Pet After Surgery

As stated above, temporary lack or loss of appetite, in addition to nausea, are common after-effects of anesthetic. You may consider offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice or chicken, as your pet may find this easier to digest than regular store-bought food.

Your pet’s appetite should return within approximately 24 hours after surgery. You can then start to gradually reintroduce their regular food. If you notice their appetite hasn’t come back within 48 hours, get in touch with your veterinarian (or vet surgeon if your veterinarian has referred you to one). Loss of appetite can be a symptom of infection.

Managing Your Pet’s Pain After Surgery

Following surgery, the veterinarian will dedicate time to explaining any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet so you’ll be able to prevent infection and manage post-surgery pain or discomfort.

The vet will explain the dose needed, how often you should administer the medication and how to do so safely. Ensure these instructions are followed carefully to prevent unnecessary pain as your pet recovers, and to eliminate risk of side effects. Ask follow-up questions if you are unsure of any instructions.

Some pets experience anxiety post-surgery or may be high-strung. In these cases, your vet may also prescribe sedatives or anti-anxiety medication to help your pet stay calm while they heal.

A word of caution: Never administer human medications to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian. While medications for people help us feel better, they are dangerous for our pets.

Set up A Quiet, Comfortable Space

Your pet will need a quiet space to rest and recover. This spot should be furnished with a soft bed and have room for them to spread out, away from the busyness of the rest of the house.

The soft bed is important as it can prevent undue pressure on sensitive or bandaged parts of your pet’s body.

Restrict Your Pet’s Movement

For a specified period following surgery, your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’s movement and physical activity. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt recovery and cause the incision to reopen.

For some surgeries, you will not need to take significant measures such as complete crate or cage rest to confine your pet. Most pets do well with staying indoors for a few days, making essential trips outdoors for bathroom breaks.

However, you may find it difficult to keep your dog from jumping on furniture they like to nap on or climbing stairs. To keep him from doing this, you may need to keep him in a safe, comfortable room of the house if you are unable to provide direct supervision.

For recovery from orthopedic surgery, your dog may need to be confined to a laundry-sized (or smaller) pen, with slowly increasing amounts of exercise as recovery progresses.

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.

Looking for more tips about how you can help make your pet's recovery from surgery as quick and safe as possible? Contact our Westport veterinary team to schedule a consultation. We can address your questions and concerns. 

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Westport Veterinary Associates has been providing comprehensive veterinary care for your cherished pets in Fairfield County since 1993.

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