We know it can be intimidating bringing your pet home after a surgical procedure. Don’t worry! Below we have addressed the five things you need to know for successful at-home care after surgery.
1. Activity Restriction
Most animals’ activity will need to be restricted for 10-14 days after surgery while the incision heals. This means your pet should be confined to a small area where there is minimal furniture to jump up on. Great options include blocking off a portion of the kitchen or laundry room with a kid’s playpen or a large dog gate (especially for cats!). It is okay to allow your pet to be out of this area as long as he/she is supervised the entire time.
If your pet’s activity isn’t restricted, delayed healing and further injury can result. Running, jumping, playing with other dogs, and stairs should be avoided. For most abdominal procedures, most activity can return to normal after two weeks. For most orthopedic surgeries, activity restriction extends for 6-8 weeks.
2. General Monitoring
It is important to make sure your animal is eating and drinking normally. Most pets will sleep a fair amount the first day following surgery. Over the first 1-2 days after surgery, your pet’s appetite should be gradually returning to normal. Contact your family veterinarian if you notice any vomiting and diarrhea or if your pet is not eating. Also, it’s common for a pet not to have a bowel movement for up to a week after surgery. Don’t worry- your pet will poop eventually! If you notice your pet is straining to defecate, contact your family veterinarian.
3. Incisional Monitoring
Typically you don’t need to put any ointments or cream on the incision. You will need to monitor the incision, however.
- Signs to Contact Veterinarian: Excessive redness, foul-smelling discharge, or evidence that the incision is opening up.
Significant bruising in the first few days after surgery. This should gradually improve over 2-3 days.
- Normal: After some procedures, a sterile fluid pocket under your pet’s skin may develop. This is known as a seroma. As long as the swelling does not seem painful when you touch it and there is no discharge, seromas usually resolve on their own.
- You can apply a cold compress to the incision for 12-24 hours and then a warm compress for a few days to help decrease swelling and inflammation.
If you have any concerns or questions, always contact your family veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. The surgery team at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota encourages their clients to send a photo of the incision along with any questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A very common question we get post-operatively is “Does my pet need to wear an E-collar? He doesn’t usually chew or scratch at his body.”
The short answer is “YES.”
Depending on where the incision is, sometimes a pet can wear a t-shirt or onesie instead of an E-collar, but it’s essential that your pet is unable to lick or chew at the incision. There is bacteria in your dog’s mouth, and licking the incision can introduce an infection or cause the incision to open up. The E-collar needs to be worn until the incision is completely healed which usually takes 10-14 days.
Most animals will go home with several days of pain medications. We recommend giving the medications for at least the first few days following the surgery. After the first few days, you can give the medication when and if your pet seems to be in pain. If you aren’t sure if it’s okay to give the medication, consult with your family veterinarian or veterinary surgeon.
We hope you find the above information helpful as you prepare for your pet’s post-operative care. If your pet is having surgery at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, our team is always willing to answer any more specific questions you may have about your pet’s surgery or post-operative care. No matter where you go for your pet’s surgery, you should always contact your family veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if any questions or concerns arise.