If Our Pets Could Talk

By Jackie Kellum


If your pet has had surgery or some type of procedure, request specific instructions from your veterinarian about how to care for your pet, as each pet and surgery is different. When you are talking with the vet, ask questions and if he or she does not give you any written instructions, make notes to help you remember.

If you are not told at the time your pet is taken home after surgery, ask about: (A) any change to diet/fluids, whether temporarily or going forward; (B) any medication(s), its name, purpose, dose, frequency, and duration; (C) if any activity restrictions, what kind and for how long; (D) what to look for at the surgical site and how often to check; what does “normal healing” look like and what are signs of problems, as well as what to do if you think there is a problem; (E) if sutures are present, are they absorbable and if not, when to return for their removal; and (F) how  to prevent your pet from licking or chewing at the incision if it should occur. Actually, all of these except F apply to a human who has had surgery and is getting surgical aftercare instructions from their surgeon at time of discharge.

These are general guidelines/suggestions. However, you should follow your vet’s specific instructions after your pet has had surgery. Each pet reacts to anesthesia differently. Most pets will be drowsy for several hours, sometimes a full day, so they should be kept in a quiet, non-stimulating environment where they cannot fall and hurt themselves. If they have pet-mates, it would be advisable to keep them apart until the surgery pet is fully awake and functioning normally. If their non-alert state remains for an extended or excessive amount of time, talk with your vet.

If your pet is fully awake or showing interest in eating, offer only a small amount of food initially. Sometimes the medications they have received may cause nausea and vomiting. Have fresh water available, but have the pet drink small amounts at a time, rather than guzzle a large amount at once. If the pet has multiple episodes of vomiting, diarrhea, or his appetite has not returned to his normal within a day or so, talk with your vet.

How much and how long you need to confine your pet will be determined by your vet. Confinement might mean being in a crate, in a room by itself, etc. For dog confinement, this may include not letting your dog run free in the yard to do his business, but having him on a leash for this. This is also a good way to know if your dog is having his normal urination and defecation. Often pets will need to urinate more often than usual after a surgical procedure, especially if they were given IV fluids at the clinic. For cat confinement, it may be necessary to remain in a room by itself, away from his cat-mates, for a period of time, to avoid running, jumping, playing, chasing, etc.

You will need to check the status of the surgical incision at some stated schedule. Look at the incision while in the vet’s office so in the event something is different during recovery, you can recognize the change/difference. These are some signs that should be brought to your vet’s immediate attention: excessive redness, oozing and swelling, hard to the touch, heat, lumpiness, unusual odor, pain, bright blood, missing sutures/staples, gaping wound, or self-inflicted damage.

The main suggestion is: Follow you vet’s advice, let your pet rest, and allow healing to occur.  


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