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How to care for your pet after surgery.

The thought of taking your pet into the vet clinic for surgery can be a bit overwhelming. However after the relief of hearing that everything went well and your pet is ready to go home again we enter a whole new chapter of the healing process.

After surgery is known as the Post-Operative Phase. It is during this time that wounds heal and the body recovers from the anaesthesia.

When you pick up your pet you should be given a written list of discharge instructions and take home medications if needed. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the medication instructions before leaving the clinic, this allows the team to clarify any concerns you have prior to leaving and starting medications.

For the first night your pet may be unsettled and restless. They have had a long day at the clinic and most likely haven’t had a good rest. The anaesthesia drugs take around 24 hours to leave the body so can still be having an effect. Try not to be too worried about your pet being a little restless- speak soothingly and encourage them to lie down and rest. Sometimes having a crate or ‘safe space’ such as a bed that’s just theirs or for cats a box or place to hide that no one goes to can be very comforting after a stressful day.

Pets may not want to drink, eat or go to the toilet for the first evening. These functions should normally return by the morning or late afternoon. If you are getting near the 24 hour mark this is the point at which it’s recommended to call your veterinarian and seek advice, which may be that a return visit is needed. Not urinating in 24 hours can be a sign of a medical emergency.

Pets are often fed by the nursing team after surgery so may not want to eat when they get home. It’s still a good idea to offer some food, often a smaller amount than they would normally eat and soft food is often easier to digest. Depending on the surgery your veterinarian will make a recommendation on feeding requirements for the next few days. E.g. dental procedures may need soft food for 5-7 days after surgery whilst the gums heal.

Pets often come home with stitches in their wounds. It’s really important to restrict exercise especially in the first week as the wound is being held together by the stitches only whilst the skin and tissues underneath bind back together. If the stitches come out then there is nothing holding the wound together and serious complications can arise e.g. infection.

Chewing or licking at the surgical site is something to actively monitor. It’s really important to stop your pet from licking at the site as this can cause infection and inflammation. Chewing the stitches out is a big concern and may result in needing a second surgery to fix.

Giving the medication at the right time and day is essential for wound healing. If there are lots of pills and it’s a bit too much to remember, try writing a tick chart to stick on the fridge and you can just look at the time and day and know which medications you need to give. Another trick is to set an alarm on your phone ten minutes before the next dose is due. Life is busy and it can be easy to miss a dose of medication. If this happens contact your veterinary team for advice on when to give the next dose.

Surgical sites are shaved to help with sterility of the procedure. Don’t worry this will grow back! It can take around one month for the hair to fully regrow but the added benefit is that hair hides any surgical scars that remain. Some breeds of cats such as the ragdolls can have the hair grow back a slightly darker colour, this is normal and sadly unavoidable.

Your veterinarian will usually recommend a post op check up around 3 days after surgery. This is a great opportunity to check the surgical site and talk through any concerns you may have. Even if you think everything is going well its still worth going for the check up as the vet may notice subtle signs of things not being right e.g. a raised temperature indicating the start of an infection.

As always if you have any concerns and your wanting to talk to a vet straight away, at Vetonline Consult we are just one click away!

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