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The Essential Guide to Preparing for and Caring for Your Pet After Surgery
While all surgeries come with some amount of risk, our pets can often sense when we’re worried. So, if your pet requires surgery, while it’s natural to feel anxious, being prepared and understanding the process will help you stay calm.
Whether it’s a routine surgery or a more complex procedure, here’s all you need to know when it comes to preparing your pet for surgery and the aftercare required to get them back up and bouncing around on all fours.
10 tips to prepare and care for your pet after surgery
Knowing what happens before, during and after a surgical procedure can help put your mind at ease. So, here’s all you need to know about pet safety for surgery.
1. Learn how to prepare your pet for surgery
It’s best to check with your veterinarian, but normally your cat or dog will need to fast for about 12 hours before surgery. This means no food should be available to them, and you should make all family members aware of this. However, you can provide your pet with fresh drinking water right up until the time of the procedure.
You should also ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date, and because they cannot have a bath for about 12 days after surgery, be sure to do this beforehand.
Additionally, take the opportunity to discuss with your vet any other procedures that could be performed while your pet is under, such as microchipping or nail trimming.
2. What happens once you arrive at the clinic
When you arrive at the clinic, you’ll need to complete an admission form for your pet which will include your emergency contact number. Now is a good time to ask any final questions about the operation before leaving your pet at the clinic for surgery. Be sure you’re clear about the procedure’s risks and what sort of aftercare you will need to provide.
Your pet will likely undergo blood tests prior to anaesthesia, particularly if they are a senior animal, to ensure there are no underlying health problems and to check your pet’s liver and kidney health in preparation for surgery.
3. What happens to your pet during surgery
Your vet will use your pet’s breed, health status and age to tailor the dose of the anaesthetic to their specific needs. Your pet will then have a small patch of hair on their front leg shaved so that an anaesthetic can be administered intravenously, or, in some cases, gas will be given via a tube in their windpipe.
Specialised equipment will be used to monitor your pet during surgery, and pain relief will be administered to help them recover following the procedure.
4. Post-surgery care for your cat or dog
A nurse will monitor your pet after surgery as a general anaesthetic will take a few hours to wear off. In most cases, it’s not necessary to stay at home with your pet following their surgery so long as they have somewhere warm and comfortable to rest. However, if you wish to be close to your pet as they recover, it’s best to plan some time off after the surgery rather than the day of the procedure. Your pet may appear drowsy for a day or so, but its behaviour should soon return to normal.
Be sure to follow the vet’s post-surgical instructions carefully and prepare a clean, quiet space in your house for your pet to rest, away from loud noises and other animals. Give them soft bedding in a warm space and avoid handling them too much during their first few days of recovery.
5. How pain management helps your pet
If your pet has been prescribed medication, be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Set an alarm on your phone to help you remember to give medicine on time and be sure to complete the whole course, even if your pet seems to be feeling better.
During this time, it’s also important to monitor your pet’s pain. Observe their behaviour, keep an eye out for signs of distress or discomfort and contact your veterinarian if your pet doesn’t seem to be getting better.
Excessive pain, irritation, bleeding, discharge or swelling, particularly near the suture site, could be a sign of infection, so contact your vet immediately if you notice these.
6. Why you need to restrict your pet’s activity
After a few days, your pet will be back to feeling its old self again. However, you may still need to restrict their movement and physical activity to ensure stitches stay in place and their healing continues. You can use a crate to prevent your pet from jumping or running before they’re physically ready. Your veterinarian will advise you when it’s safe for dogs to resume their normal exercise routines.
7. Wound care is crucial for your pet’s recovery
It is essential to prevent your pet from licking or chewing the surgical site as this can lead to infection or open the wound. Use an Elizabethan collar (often known as a neck cone) if your pet starts to irritate the wound, and only remove it when your pet is fully supervised.
You’ll need to keep their wound clean and dry for about two weeks after surgery, so no swimming or bathing during this time. You may also be required to clean the incision site and the skin surrounding it with antiseptic, salty water, or a topical medication, so ensure you are doing this as frequently as required. Check bandages and stitches on a daily basis, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns.
8. You might need to modify their diet
Often, cats and dogs may require a special diet to help them recover from surgery, particularly if the procedure was a part of treatment for illness or disease. Be sure to discuss any dietary restrictions with your vet before bringing your pet home. Otherwise, continue to feed them a balanced diet and provide plenty of fresh water to ensure their healing process continues smoothly.
9. Be sure to attend a discharge appointment
You may require a follow-up appointment following surgery so that your veterinarian can monitor your pet’s recovery or remove stitches. This is also a time for you to mention anything of concern regarding your pet’s progress.
10. Look out for signs of post-surgery complications
If you see any of the following signs in your pet after surgery, speak to your vet immediately:
- Prolonged loss of appetite
- Lethargy for more than a few days following surgery
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Redness, swelling, bleeding, discharge or odour from the surgical site.
A dedicated veterinary practice where every pet is a friend
While it can be difficult to put your pet’s safety in the hands of others, the veterinary professionals at Rossmore Veterinary Hospital treat all pets as if they are their own.
As surgery can be a difficult time for a pet owner, the staff at our Sydney clinic are here to answer any questions you may have regarding caring for your pet before or after a surgical procedure. Contact us or call us on (02) 9606 6984 if we can assist you or your pet in any way.