Caring for Your Dog or Cat After Surgery

There is no “typical procedure” for caring for your pets after surgery. Some will need to stay overnight in the hospital for monitoring, while others can be discharged on the same day of their surgery.

The needed aftercare depends on your pet's age, health, and what type of surgery that was performed. Your veterinarian will give you specifics for your dog or cat. However, there are typical recommendations that can help your pet recover sooner.

5 Recommendations That Will Help Your Dog or Cat Heal Quicker

It is normal for your pet to be sleepy and lethargic for a day or two after returning home. In fact, resting will help your pet recover quicker, so don’t be concerned if they just nap for the first day or so afterwards. Rest is essential!

You do need to keep an eye on them, and here’s what you can expect:

1- Restrict Activity

Surgery is invasive. The more your dog or cat stays still, the easier it will be for them to heal and the tissues to repair properly. Moving around can make it tougher for the tissues to heal, which increases the risk of infection.

Broadly speaking, restrictive activity means no running, jumping, or roughhousing. You will discuss the specifics for your pet with your veterinarian. A typical spaying/neutering can mean a few days of restriction, while major surgery like repairing broken bones can mean activity restriction for six weeks or more.

When you return home, let your pet recover in a comfortable, safe space. If you have other pets, you may need to restrict their activity around your recovering patient.  You know your pet, so use your judgement and/or call your veterianrian if you have any questions.

2- Watch for Unusual BehaviorPhoto of cat wearing an Elizabethan cone collar

Anesthesia and surgery affect every animal differently, which is why it is essential to keep an eye on them for odd behavior as they recover. The first 24-48 hours are especially critical. If you notice any type of unsteady gait, trouble breathing, vomiting, or lack of appetite, please call your veterinarian immediately.

3- Prevent Licking

No one loves the cone collars, but they do prevent dogs and cats from licking surgical areas. Licking can introduce bacteria into suture sites and cause an infection. It can be difficult to prevent your pet from getting to the site without the collar. Therefore, it is essential that you use one if the veterinarian recommends it during recovery.

4- Medications

You may be sent home with antibiotics and/or pain medications. Please follow your veterinarian’s instructions and  never offer your dog or cat human medication as they could be toxic.

5- Supervise Bathroom Activities

Part of restricting your pet’s behavior is monitoring outdoor activities. Keep your dog on a leash and keep those outside potty trips short. Quick visits into the backyard should be sufficient in the early days.

Photo of a dog lying in the grass while on a leash

As you can see, post-surgical pet recovery is all about resting and following your veterinarian’s instructions. During their stay, we have monitored them until we feel they’re ready to go home. We require them to be aware of their surroundings and we check for those "normal" behaviors like chewing, swallowing, and walking before they are discharged from the hospital. We consider you part of their post-operative recovery process, but we are here if you have any questions about your pet’s recovery!


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