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How can I help my dog recover after surgery?

After your dog's surgery, proper care is important to help them recover and get back to their normal, active lifestyle. Our Murfreesboro vets have shared tips on how to care for your pup after surgery in this post.

Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions

When your dog returns home from surgery, both you and your pup may feel stressed for the first few days. Understanding how to care for your dog and make them comfortable is important to help them get back to their routine quickly.

Your veterinarian will provide specific instructions for post-surgery care that must be followed carefully. Call your vet for clarification if you have any questions or forget an instruction. They can help answer any concerns you have.

To ensure your dog's comfort and safety during their recovery, here are some essential tips you can follow at home.

After-Effects of General Anesthetic

A general anesthetic is usually necessary for veterinary surgeries, which will render your pet unconscious and unable to feel any pain during the procedure.

However, it may take some time for the effects of the anesthetic to wear off after the surgery. Sleepiness and shaking are normal side effects that should dissipate with rest. Another common side effect is a temporary lack of appetite.

Feeding Your Dog After Surgery

After administering the general anesthetic, your puppy may feel somewhat queasy and lose its appetite. When feeding your dog after surgery, try offering your pet a half-size portion of a light meal such as chicken and rice, which they will likely be able to digest than regular store-bought food more easily. Their appetite should return within about 24 hours after surgery. At this time, you can start to serve their regular food again. 

If you notice that your dog's appetite hasn't returned within 48 hours, get in touch with your veterinary surgeon or vet. Loss of appetite can be an indicator of pain or infection.

Managing Your Dog's Pain After Surgery

A veterinary professional will review the prescribed medications to help manage your dog's post-surgery pain. They will provide instructions on administering the medications, how often your dog should take them, and the correct dosage.

Following these instructions is crucial to avoid unnecessary pain or side effects during your dog's recovery. If you have any doubts, ask for clarification. Pain medications and antibiotics are usually prescribed after surgery to relieve discomfort and prevent infection.

If your dog is anxious or high-strung, the vet may prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to keep them calm during healing. 

Never give your pet human medications without consulting a veterinarian, as they may be toxic to dogs.

How to Keep Your Dog Comfortable When They Get Home

After surgery, giving your pet a quiet, comfortable place to rest away from children and other pets is essential. If your dog has a soft, comfortable bed and lots of room to spread out, this can help to prevent pressure on any sensitive or bandaged parts of its body.

If Your Dog is Coughing After Surgery

During anesthesia, an endotracheal tube is inserted into the dog's throat to help them breathe and receive medication.

This tube may cause irritation and inflammation, which can lead to coughing. The vet can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to alleviate these symptoms, and the cough usually goes away within a week.

If Your dog won't eat after surgery 

After surgery, dogs need energy and nutrients to heal, which can cause changes in their appetite. Factors such as pain, medication side effects, and changes in routine or environment can decrease a dog's appetite.

In contrast, an increased appetite may indicate that the body needs more energy for healing. Dogs need to eat and drink after surgery to aid in their recovery, even if their appetite is decreased.

Veterinarians will provide specific post-operative feeding instructions, which may include smaller, more frequent meals or soft, easy-to-eat food.

Pet owners can encourage their dogs to eat by offering tasty, digestible food and hand-feeding if necessary. Monitoring the dog's eating and drinking habits and reporting any concerns to a veterinarian is essential.

Restricting Your Pet's Movement

After your dog's surgery, the vet will recommend limiting your pup's activity and movement to avoid interfering with the healing process and reopening the incision.

While most surgeries do not require complete confinement, it may be necessary to keep your dog indoors and limit their movements for a few days.

You can confine them to a safe and comfortable room when you can't supervise them to prevent jumping on furniture or climbing stairs.

Helping Your Dog When Cage-Rest (Crate-Rest) is Necessary

While most surgeries do not require crate rest, orthopedic surgeries do often require strictly limiting your dog's movements to help them recover well. If your vet recommends crate rest for your dog following surgery, there are ways to help your dog adjust to this strict confinement to become more comfortable spending long periods in a crate.

Ensure your dog's crate is large enough to allow your pup to stand up and turn around. If your dog requires a plastic cone or 'E-Collar' to prevent licking, you may need to purchase a larger crate for your dog to recover. You must also ensure plenty of room for their food and water dishes without risking spills that could cause your dog's bedding and bandages to become soiled and wet.

Your Pet's Stitches

Many vets now choose to place stitches on the inside of your dog's wound rather than the outside. Inside stitches dissolve as the incision heals. If your vet uses outside stitches or staples, they will typically need to be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.

Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site

It can be difficult to prevent your dog from biting, chewing, or scratching at its bandages or incision site. A plastic cone-shaped Elizabethan collar (available in hard and softer versions) effectively prevents your dog from licking its wound.

Many dogs adjust to wearing a cone collar relatively quickly, but other options are available if your dog struggles to get used to wearing a cone. Speak to your vet about effective, less cumbersome options such as donut-style collars or post-op medical pet shirts.

Keep Your Pet's Bandages Dry

Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element of helping your dog's incision heal quickly. When your dog goes outside, ensure the bandages are covered with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from the damp grass. Remove the plastic covering as soon as your pet comes back inside. Leaving the plastic over the bandage could cause sweat to collect under the bandage and lead to an infection.

Don't Skip Your Dog's Follow-Up Appointment

A follow-up appointment with your vet is important to monitor your pet's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes serious.

It's crucial to not leave bandages on for too long after the procedure to avoid pressure sores or problems with blood supply to the area.

The veterinary professionals are trained to dress wounds correctly, and bringing your dog for a follow-up appointment allows them to change the bandages and ensure your dog's healing process is on track.

Do you have concerns about your dog's recovery from a recent surgery? Please contact Brogli Lane Weaver & Alexander Animal Hospital today for advice.

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