Our Santa Clarita vets know that preparing for your pet to have surgery can be stressful. So we're providing advice about how to prepare your pet for surgery and what to do after the surgery.
Whether your pet is scheduled for a simple spay or neuter procedure or a more complex orthopedic surgery, you are bound to be feeling a little stressed and want to be sure you do everything you can to ensure that your pet's operation goes smoothly. That's why we have put together the answers to some of the questions worried pet parents ask leading up to and following their animal's surgery.
What to Do in the Week Leading Up to My Pet's Surgery?
In the week leading up to your pet's surgery, it can be a good idea to have your four-legged friend bathed or groomed so they are clean and ready for surgery day. You will need to keep the incision dry while it heals so you won't be able to get your dog or cat groomed for a while following surgery.
Plan how you will be getting to and from the surgery with your pet. While this may not be a major issue for cat parents, transporting a large or giant breed dog home from surgery may be challenging. Plan accordingly based on the type of surgery your pet is having and their expected level of mobility following the procedure. Ask your vet for advice if you aren't sure about the best way to get your pet home after their surgery.
Have a quiet place with a comfy bed ready for your pet's return home. If your pet will require crate rest be sure to have an appropriately sized crate ready for when your pet comes home after surgery.
How Should I Prepare On the Night Before the Procedure?
Your vet will provide you with detailed instructions specific to your pet and the surgical procedure that they will be having. In most cases, you will be asked not to allow your pet to eat or drink anything after midnight before their surgery. If your dog or cat takes medications you should speak to your vet about whether to withhold meds until after the procedure.
If your pet will be staying overnight at the vet's following surgery pack up any foods, medications or other items that the team looking after your animal will need in order to provide your pet with the best possible care.
In some cases, you may be asked to bring your pet to the veterinary hospital to stay overnight before their surgery.
What Should I Do to Prepare My Pet On the Morning of the Surgery?
Make sure that your pet does not eat or drink anything on the morning before their surgery. Eating and/or drinking could cause your pet to aspirate while under anesthesia, which is potentially life-threatening.
Your vet will provide you with a time to drop off your pet. Remember that surgery day at your animal hospital is bound to be busy so try to be on time and remain calm and relaxed while you drop off your pet.
Your vet may wish to do further testing before surgery to make sure that your pet does not face any increased anesthetic risks.
Check in with the staff at reception and make sure that they have the correct number to reach you at so that they can provide you with updates while your pet is in their care.
What to Expect After Surgery
The majority of veterinary surgical procedures require the use of general anesthetic. General anesthetic knocks your pet out and prevents them from feeling any pain during the procedure, but it can take a while for the effects of general anesthetic to wear off. The lingering effects of general anesthetic may leave your dog feeling a little sleepy, or shaky on their feet. These side effects are normal and with a little rest should disappear very quickly.
Follow Your Vet's Post-Op Instructions
No matter which type of surgery your pet is scheduled for, your specialist, vet or veterinary surgeon will be sure to provide you with clear and specific instructions on how to care for your pet following the operation. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions carefully, there may be very specific and important instructions relating to the type of surgery your pet has had.
There are a few basic tips that can help you to keep your pet safe and comfortable while they recover and get back to normal.
Feeding Your Pet After Surgery
General anesthetic could cause your pet to feel a little queasy, and lose their appetite. After surgery try offering your pet a light meal (1/4 or 1/2 of regular meal). You can expect your pet to regain their appetite within about 24 hours following surgery, at which time they should gradually return to eating their regular diet.
That said, if your dog's appetite doesn't return within 48 hours contact your vet or veterinary surgeon. Loss of appetite can also indicate pain or infection.
Managing Your Pet's Pain After Surgery
After your pet's operation, a veterinary professional will take the time to explain the medications prescribed to manage your pet's post-surgery pain. They will explain the dosage required, how often to give the medications to your pet, and how to administer the medications. It is essential for your pet's health that you adhere to your vet's instructions in order to effectively prevent any unnecessary pain while your dog recovers, without causing any side effects. If you are unsure about any of the instructions ask your vet to clarify.
Antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication to relieve post-op discomfort are the 2 most commonly prescribed medications for pets after surgery. If your pet is anxious or high-strung your vet may also prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help keep them calm while they are healing.
Restricting Your Pet's Movement
Regardless of why your pet is having surgery, it is likely that your vet will recommend limiting your pet's activities and movement for a period of time following the operation. Sudden stretching and jumping movements can interfere with the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.
Most surgeries fortunately will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ to aid in recovery, and most pets cope well with being kept indoors for a few days (with only essential trips outside for potty breaks). Often, a more difficult task is preventing your dog or cat from jumping up on furniture that they love to sleep on, or climbing stairs. Preventing these behaviors for a few days may require confining your dog or cat to a safe and comfortable room when you are unable to supervise them directly.
Caring for Your Pet's Incision Site
It can be challenging to prevent your pet from biting, chewing or scratching at their bandages or incision site. A plastic cone-shaped e-collar (available in hard and softer versions) is an effective way to prevent your dog or cat from reaching the wound. Dogs can often adjust to wearing a cone collar within a couple of hours, but if your dog is struggling to get used to wearing a cone, there are other options available. Speak to your vet about effective and less cumbersome options such as donut-style collars, or post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet shirts).
Your Pet's Stitches
Stitches or staples will typically be removed by your vet around 10 - 14 days after surgery. Depending on the surgery, vets may use stitches placed inside of your pet's wound which dissolve as the incision heals. Your vet will let you know which type of stitches were used to close your pet's incision.
Regardless of which type of stitches your veterinary surgeon uses, you will still need to prevent your pet from licking the wound in order to prevent infection and allow the wound to heal.
Your Pet's Bandages
Keeping bandages dry at all times is another key element of helping your pet's incision heal quickly. Whenever your pet goes outside make sure that the bandages are covered with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from damp or wet 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 Pet's Follow-Up Appointment
Your pet's follow-up appointment gives your vet the opportunity to monitor your pet's progress and check for any signs of infection before it becomes more serious.
It is also essential that your pet's bandages aren't left on for too long following the procedure. Not changing the bandages at the right time could lead to pressure sores or even affect the blood supply to the area. The professionals at your pet's veterinary hospital have been trained in dressing wounds correctly. When it comes to keeping your pet's healing process on-track, it's a good idea to let the professionals handle bandage changes.
Reassurance for Loving Pet Parents
Pet parents often feel guilty about restricting their pet's movements for a seemingly long amount of time. By following your vet's post-surgery instructions you are doing your very best to help your pet recover quickly, and get back to their normal active lifestyle as soon as possible! If you have any concerns reach out and contact your vet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.