Tip of the Month

2/25/2013 Post Operation Pet Care

After Surgery Pet Care Tips

If your pet requires surgery, such as for spaying or neutering, you should be aware of the extra care and consideration he will need to recover quickly and completely.

At the time of your petís hospital discharge, a veterinary assistant or staff member will go over the veterinarianís instructions and answer any questions you may have regarding at-home care, follow-up appointments, exercise, feeding, etc.

Pet Medication

If your pet is prescribed medication, make sure you know what it is and its purpose. Every prescription should have a label that contains the following: the medicationís name and strength; administration instructions (how often and when, with or without food, shaken or diluted, etc.), storage instructions (refrigerated or not), expiration date and the veterinary hospitalís contact information.. If you miss a dose, check with your veterinarian on what to do. If this is your first time administering the type of medication prescribed, such as ear drops or a pill, ask the veterinary assistant to show you how before attempting it at home.


You will also be advised on feeding. Will your pet on a special post-op diet? This is especially important to know if you were planning on hiding the medication in something tasty. Youíll also want to know how often and how much you should feed your recovering pet. The majority of pets will be back to normal in no time. That said, it is better to feed your pet smaller but more frequent meals the first day or two following surgery. If your pet is in pain, he may have a decreased appetite. However, a complete absence of any desire for food should be reported to your veterinarian. Unless specifically instructed otherwise, fresh water should always be available.

Limit Your Pet's Activity

After the surgery, your pet should be kept calm in order to prevent injury; if needed you can use a crate or ask the veterinarian to prescribe a sedative. Designate a safe and quiet space for your petís recovery, and make sure he has proper bedding.

Your pet may also be groggy due to pain medication. Make sure he doesnít have access to the pool or stairs, and limit access to slippery surfaces as his balance and coordination may be affected. For routine procedures, such as spaying, you will be instructed to limit activity and exercise for approximately 14 days. For dogs, this means they should be on a leash when taken outside for any reason.

Prevent Wound Licking

Since dogs and cats have a tendency to lick at their wounds, you need to make sure you prevent this behavior as it can seriously jeopardize healing. Your pet should be fitted with an Elizabethan or cone collar. It should be longer than your petís muzzle so that he is incapable of reaching the wound. Bitter apple or similar bad-tasting sprays can also be topically applied to discourage your pet from licking; however, it may not always be effective.

Your petís incision site is another concern. Usually, a veterinary assistant will instruct you on how to keep the incision site clean. Applying non-prescribed ointments are not necessary and may be unwanted; check with your veterinarian before applying any over-the-counter ointments. If there is a bandage, it should be kept clean and dry at all times.

Watch For Excessive Discharge

What if there is discharge? Some redness and swelling is to be expected after a procedure, as is a small amount of reddish or yellowish fluid. Inspect the sutures daily. If you notice any additional redness, swelling, foul smelling odor, excessive discharge or opening of the wound, take your pet to the hospital as soon as possible. Even the most routine surgeries can have unexpected complications, so it is better to keep a vigilant eye on your petís recovery.

Older/Weak Pets Care Tip

Older or weak pets may need to an extra hand when it comes to getting upright and even walking. A towel underneath a dogís belly or a ďbelly slingĒ can be used to give them a boost, but only if it doesnít cover and put pressure on the wound site. (This method is not intended for spays, as the incision is on the belly.)

Make sure to call your veterinary hospital if you have any questions or concerns. Surgery can be pretty traumatic for a pet as well as the owner, but with some tender love and care, you can make the recuperation process a lot easier on your friendóand you.

By Vesna Ban-Smedberg, RVT

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