Typical Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery
Soft tissue procedures, such as abdominal surgeries and spaying or neutering, are found to recover more quickly in pets than operations involving ligaments, bones, and joints. Many soft tissue surgeries heal about 80% of the time in 2 to 3 weeks and take about 6 weeks to fully recover.
For surgeries involving ligaments and bones, recovery may take much longer - 80% recovery will usually occur about 8 to 12 weeks in, though may take as long as 6 months for complete recovery, such as when a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) has been repaired.
Here are a few vital tips to help you keep your pet content and comfortable as they recover at home:
Your Pet's Diet After Surgery
After your vet administers the general anesthetic, your pet may feel somewhat nauseated and lose its appetite. When feeding your pet after surgery, try offering a half-size portion of a light meal such as rice and chicken, which may be easier to digest than regular store-bought pet food.
After surgery, your pet's appetite should return in about 24 hours. They can then gradually resume eating their normal diet. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned after 48 hours. Appetite loss can indicate an infection or pain.
Pain Management After Surgery
Before you and your pet head home after surgery, a veterinary professional explain any medications or pain relievers they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage post-surgery pain or discomfort.
They will explain the dose needed, how often you should provide the medication, and how to safely administer the meds. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. If you are unsure about any instructions, ask follow-up questions.
Following surgery, pain medications and/or antibiotics are frequently prescribed for pets to help relieve discomfort and prevent infections. If your pet has anxiety or is on the high-strung end of the spectrum, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help them relax while they heal.
Never provide your pet with human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.
Keeping Your Pet Comfortable At Home
It's critical to provide your pet with a quiet, comfortable place to rest after surgery, away from the chaos of the house, other pets, and children. Setting up a soft, comfortable bed for them and giving them plenty of room to spread out can help to avoid putting undue pressure on any sensitive or bandaged areas of their body.
Restricting Your Pet’s Movement
After your pet’s surgery, your vet will likely recommend limiting your pet’s movement and physical activity for a specified period. Sudden jumping or stretching can disrupt the healing process and may even cause the incision to reopen.
Fortunately, most procedures will not require significant confinement such as complete ‘crate-rest’ (cage-rest) to help your pet recover, and most pets will cope well staying indoors for a few days, taking only the odd essential trip outside for bathroom breaks.
You might have a hard time keeping your dog from climbing the stairs or jumping up on the furniture they like to sleep on. When you are unable to directly supervise your dog for a few days, you may need to keep them in a safe, comfortable room of the house.
Helping Your Pet With Cage-Rest
While most surgeries do not necessitate cage rest, if your pet has undergone orthopedic surgery, part of his or her recovery will include limiting your pet's movements. If your veterinarian recommends cage rest for your pet following surgery, there are steps you can take to help them adjust to the strict confinement and become more comfortable spending long periods in a crate.
Confirm that the crate is large enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your dog has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure he or she has plenty of room for their water and food dishes, without risking spills that may cause bandages or bedding to become wet and soiled.
Caring for Your Pet’s Stitches
You may notice stitches have been placed on the inside of your pet’s wound rather than the outside. Stitches on the inside will dissolve as the incision heals.
If your vet used staples or stitches on the outside, they will typically need to be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. Your veterinarian will inform you of the type of stitches used to close your pet's incision, as well as any necessary follow-up care.
Monitor the Incision Site
It may be difficult to keep your pet from scratching, chewing, biting, or otherwise causing damage to their incision site or bandages. To keep your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions).
Many pets adapt to the collar relatively quickly, but if your pet is struggling to adjust, other choices are available. Ask your vet about less cumbersome, more effective products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.
Keep Your Pet’s Bandages Dry
Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s surgical site heal quickly.
If your pet goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your pet returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, resulting in infection.
Attend Your Pet’s Follow-Up Appointment
The follow-up appointment allows your vet a chance to monitor your pet’s recovery progress and look for any signs of infection before it develops into a serious condition.
It's also important to change your pet's bandages regularly, as leaving them on for too long can cause pressure sores or cut off blood flow. Bringing your pet in for a follow-up appointment allows this process to take place, as well as allows us to assist in keeping your pet's recovery on track.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets