Your pet’s surgery is finally over. What a relief! But now you have the responsibility of keeping your pet comfortable post-surgery and helping him recover as quickly as possible.
Recovery time is different for every pet. Their age, overall health, fitness level, and of course the type of procedure performed all factor in. Complete recovery from spay or neuter surgery usually takes about 10 to 14 days, while more involved surgeries can require recovery times of several weeks or even months.
It’s also important to know that even once the swelling has gone down and the incision has closed, the process of healing under the skin is still taking place. Safe and comfortable recovery after your pet’s surgery requires supervision and rest with a gradual return to normal activity.
That said, keeping your pet comfortable after surgery will take some effort. Many dogs and cats will want to be up and doing their normal activities right away, but that will only increase the potential for pain and possible infection.
Here are some general guidelines that will help you make your pet comfortable post-surgery and ensure the smoothest recovery possible.
1. Follow the medication schedule your vet recommends.
Be diligent about adhering to your pet’s medication schedule after surgery. Depending on what the surgery was for, your pet may be prescribed three different types of medication, or possibly none at all.
Pain medication will help to keep your pet comfortable. And, a pet who’s in pain will not only be uncomfortable, he will experience unnecessary stress, which will slow healing.
Some pets may also be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, depending on what type of surgery was performed. This will help to keep your pet calm so that his body can be focused on healing.
And finally, antibiotics may also be prescribed to reduce the potential for infections. Unless your vet has told you differently, it’s especially important to finish the entire course of antibiotics.
2. Ask your vet about wound management.
Proper wound management starts with monitoring the incision twice daily for signs of infections. These include draining, redness, inflammation, swelling, bleeding, or heat around the area. Contact your pet’s vet right away if you notice any of these issues.
Other than that, don’t apply any topical medications to your pet’s incision unless your vet has instructed you otherwise. If your vet gives the ok, you can apply an ice pack to the wound a few times a day. This will keep your pet more comfortable by relieving inflammation and redness.
Do not give your pet a bath or allow his sutures to get wet as this can increase the likelihood of infection. If the wound has a bandage, change it immediately if it becomes damp, wet, or develops an off odor.
3. Use the E-collar.
Nobody likes an E-collar (also known as a cone collar), least of all your pet. But it’s so important that you don’t give in to the temptation to take it off.
According to doctors at Bond Vet, who offer NYC-based neutering and spaying services, “If your pet licks the incision, even for just a moment, he could cause an infection or possibly even open up the incision.” Either one is going to cause unnecessary pain and prolong your pet’s recovery time.
So, keep the E-collar on until your vet tells you it’s safe to take it off. It’s the best way to make sure your pet doesn’t lick or chew on his wound. Keeping it on at all times will ensure that your pet gets used to having it on and isn’t bothered by it.
4. Restrict your pet’s activity.
It will probably be pretty easy to get your pet to rest for the first day or so after surgery. He’ll be feeling a little groggy and sore at first, but things can get more challenging as he begins to feel more like himself.
Your pet must have his activity restricted during his recovery, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be comfortable. Confine him to a small area or room with carpet or some other non-slip flooring. Make sure there’s no furniture for him to jump on or stairs to climb.
If your pet is already crate trained, this is an ideal place for him to rest, especially when you can’t be supervising him to ensure that he’s not running around the house. You could also use a playpen or simply a small room with a gate. Tethering your pet nearby is another option when you’re at home.
All trips outside should be on-leash to prevent running and jumping. Remember, your pet doesn’t know he needs to take it easy for his own good. You will have to be in charge of restricting your pet’s activity for as long as your vet recommends.
5. Support your pet’s emotional health during recovery.
If your pet is meowing, barking, or whining excessively, he may be anxious or in pain. Other signs of anxiety to look for are restlessness, panting, pacing, and digging.
You can support your pet’s emotional health during recovery by keeping him near the family when you’re at home. When you’re not home, keep him in his comfy, restricted area with the television or some music playing softly to keep him company.
Puzzle treats and chew toys can provide mental stimulation and prevent boredom, as long as your pet doesn’t get too rambunctious with them.
6. Introduce normal activities gradually.
Introducing activity too quickly can cause unnecessary discomfort and may slow recovery. When your vet gives the ok to reintroduce normal activities, it’s best to take things slowly.
Trips outside can be off-leash as long as you have an enclosed area. However, don’t encourage running or active play until your pet is fully recovered.
Jumping and climbing stairs should also be approached with caution. Don’t allow your pet to attempt them at all until he is fully recovered and has his balance and strength back.
A slow and steady return to activity will allow time for rehabilitation and help your pet reach full recovery more quickly. If your pet seems to be in pain or discomfort, reduce his activity again and consult with your vet for advice.
Don’t take your dog to the dog park until it is fully healed otherwise it might become reactive in defense, even if it has never acted that way in the past.
Wrapping Things Up
Most importantly, remember that every surgery and recovery is different. Talk with your veterinarian before the procedure to get an idea of what your pet’s recovery will look like. Then, get a copy of the post-op instructions and post it where your entire family can see it. And, be sure to have your vet’s emergency number on hand where all members of your household can access it in case it’s needed.