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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Caring For Your Pet After Surgery

Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

PetSmart Brent Carroll, D.V.M./Banfield

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Watch your pet closely for the first few days of recovery. Offer a strong dose of love, reassurance and pampering - and always follow the doctor's instructions. Here are some things to watch for:

Watch your pet closely for the first few days of recovery. Offer a strong dose of love, reassurance and pampering - and always follow the doctor's instructions. Here are some things to watch for:

Overeating. Pets excited about being home tend to eat or drink too much or too fast, which can cause vomiting. They may also be slightly nauseous from any anesthetics used. For the first 24 hours, feed your pet small quantities of its regular, well-balanced diet, as recommended by the doctor - and no table food. Your doctor may also recommend pet vitamin supplements to provide an extra boost after surgery.

Excess Licking. It's common for a pet to lick the surgical site once in a while, but excess licking can lead to infection or premature removal of the sutures. If your pet won't leave its sutures alone, call the veterinarian immediately. Your pet may need special collars or bandaging to protect the incision.

Be sure to check the incision site and stitches twice a day, and make sure the area is clean and dry. If you notice any redness, swelling, discharge or signs of pain, contact the veterinarian right away.

Exuberance. Pets excited by being home may want to celebrate with extra activity - but it's important to keep them quiet. Recovering pets need their strength to heal, and extra movement can put unnecessary strain on the incision site. Encourage them to rest when inside, and restrict their outside activity with a leash.

Other Physical Signs. Watch closely for vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, excessive tiredness after a day or two, depression and a lack of appetite. The doctor may also show you how to check your pet's temperature so you can make sure fever is not developing. If your pet exhibits any of these signs or you suspect any problem at all, give the veterinarian a call.

Bandage Care
Pets in splints, casts or bandages need extra special care. It's important to discourage licking or chewing, which can weaken and unravel a bandage. If your pet is giving excessive attention to a bandage, let us know right away. We may recommend a special collar, muzzle, spray or even a sedative to keep your pet safe and secure during recovery.

More tips for bandage care:

  • Keep the bandage clean and dry by keeping your pet quiet and indoors as much as possible. When you must take your pet outside, cover bandaged extremities with a plastic bag; be sure to remove the bag within one hour.
  • Most bandages must be changed every two to four days.
  • Check bandages daily for abnormal odors, discoloration, weakening or moistness. If you notice a problem, call us. The bandage may need to be reinforced or replaced. 
  • Line your pet's bedding with puppy pads to keep the bandage clean and to prevent any leakage from soiling the bedding.

Giving Medications

It is very important to leave the hospital with a clear understanding of prescription instructions - and to carry them out accurately at home. Follow the instructions on the back panel of this brochure that have been provided for you by your veterinarian. Don't hesitate to ask if you have questions - or to call if you forget to give your pet its medication!

Your veterinarian will demonstrate how to administer medicine to your pet. When giving your pet medication, always be firm, calm, and reassuring. If you feel uncomfortable or are experiencing difficulty with a stubborn pet, call your veterinarian for help.

Follow these tips when giving medication:

Tablet or Capsule. From an overhead position, use one hand to press your pet's upper lips gently behind both of the large canine teeth. With your other hand, gently and evenly open the lower jaw, and use your index finger to place the pill on the base of the tongue as far back as possible. Do these steps quickly - and don't keep your hand in your pet's mouth! Hold the mouth closed until your pet swallows. (Observe the throat for a swallowing motion and watch for your pet to lick its lips.)

For pets needing a bit more coaxing: Hide the pill in a Greenies pill pocket or lubricate the pill with a little margarine for easier swallowing. For pets that clamp their jaws shut, your veterinarian may prescribe a liquid medication.

Liquid. Hold your pet's head still and maneuver the dropper or syringe into the corner of the mouth. Dispense the medicine toward the back of the throat slowly to avoid gagging. Some liquids can be mixed with food, but please consult your veterinarian first.

Drops or Ointments. For the skin, rub medication gently in a circular motion with a cotton applicator, and make sure it's absorbed before letting your pet lick the area. Don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly after handling topical medications.

For the Ears. Gently hold one ear and carefully place the applicator at the ear base. Administer the medication, then massage the base of the ear where it contacts the head.

For the Eyes. Form a pouch by pulling down your pet's lower lid with the thumb of one hand. With your other hand, place medication in the pouch. If possible, avoid your pet's line of vision as you approach the eye with the applicator.

Your Responsibility
Your attention to these directions and to your pet will set the stage for a smooth, uncomplicated recovery! It's also very important to follow the doctor's recheck recommendations. Even pets that seem fine need an evaluation to make sure they are recovering on course. Sutures left in too long can cause scarring and lead to infection. Don't risk a relapse by missing a follow-up visit or forgetting to refill needed medications.

Authored and edited by Brent Carroll, D.V.M.
© Banfield 2002.11 HOEP #81118

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