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Surgery & Recovery Hub

At Animal Surgical & Orthopedic Center, we are here for you and your pet and understand you might have questions about what to expect before and after their surgery. These FAQs may help you better prepare for your pet’s home care and recovery.

Recovery period:

In most cases, your pet will be hospitalized for one night after surgery. Some patients may require a longer stay based on the type of surgery performed and your pet’s post-op condition.

The recovery period at home will depend greatly on the type of procedure performed. When your pet is discharged from the hospital, one of our veterinary technicians will go through detailed discharge instructions that are specific to your pet.

In general, all surgical patients require some level of confinement and at least two weeks of rest at home before resuming any activity beyond short potty walks. Orthopedic cases may require six weeks to four months before returning to full activity.

Preparing for your pet’s confinement at home:

The more prepared you are before bringing your pet home after surgery, the less stress and worry there will be. We’ve compiled comprehensive resources to help guide you through caring for your pet post-surgery.

Preparing For Your Dog’s Post-Op Confinement

Preparing Your Home for Post-Op Care

Preparing For Your Cat’s Post-Op Care At Home

Pain Management
Medications Your Pet May Be Sent Home With:

Rimadyl (Carprofen/Novox/Vetprofen/Truprofen), Galliprant, Metacam (Meloxicam), Deramaxx, and Previcox are all NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories) that are often prescribed at discharge. These are all effective medications for pain control and are usually given once or twice per day with a meal (Galliprant is the exception and can be given with or without a meal). Only one type of NSAID should be given at a time to reduce the chances of side effects. Stop giving this medication and call us if any vomiting, diarrhea/loose stool, or loss of appetite occurs.

Gabapentin is effective for pain control and works well in combination with NSAIDs and other pain medications. Sedation is a common side effect. If you feel that your pet is overly sedated, you should reduce the dose or frequency. Call or e-mail us to discuss ways to maintain effective pain control.

Trazodone is a sedative that can help reduce anxiety and keep your pet calm. It will not help with pain control. Do not give to your pet if they’re already sedated from other medications (like Gabapentin) or currently taking other sedatives (Acepromazine) unless advised by us or your own veterinarian.

Symptoms of Pain Post-Surgery:
  • Excessive panting

  • Leg or body trembling

  • Acute awareness or licking at surgery site

  • Restlessness

  • Whining or grunting

  • Increased heart rate at rest

  • Reluctance to let you touch the surgical area

If your pet has had surgery on a hindlimb, it is often more comfortable for them to lie on their surgical leg

Instructions for Fentanyl Patch

Please read this article for instructions for Fentanyl Transdermal Patches.

Basic Needs
An E-Collar:

The most common postoperative complication is an infection due to a pet licking at the incision. An infection can prolong the healing time after surgery, by up to 6 months or more, and has the potential to ruin the surgical repair.

For the best chance at complete recovery post-surgery, your pet should always wear the e-collar, especially when you are not directly watching them. For incisions that are not covered (with a splint or bandage), you may remove the e-collar after two weeks when the skin is healed, as long as your pet is not licking at the area.

Applying an Ice Pack:

Icing the area in question will help numb it and reduce inflammation. See this video for the proper way to apply an ice pack to your pet, or read this article for instructions.

If Your Pet Won’t Eat:

There are a variety of possible reasons for your dog or cat not eating. Medications, pain, or stress can alter your pet’s appetite for food or water. Please call us if you have concerns or if there is an unexpected change in your pet’s eating or drinking habits after surgery.

If Your Pet Hasn’t Defecated:

Some pain medications and changes in eating habits may interrupt normal bowel movements. You may add canned pumpkin, at 1 TBS per 20lbs of bodyweight (NOTE: Not pumpkin pie mix!), or cooked sweet potato to your pet’s regular diet until they have a bowel movement.

Most pets will resume normal BMs 2-4 days post-surgery. For cats, adding 1/8 TSP of OTC MiraLAX per feeding can help with constipation.

Bearing Weight on Surgical Leg:

The sooner your pet can start bearing weight on the leg, the better. Not using the leg will cause more muscle atrophy, so encouraging gentle toe touching within the first few days is recommended. Please refer to your discharge instructions for your pet’s exercise/walk schedule. For most elective orthopedic surgeries, toe touching and weight-bearing on the surgical leg should happen by the two-week recheck.

Ending Your Pet’s Confinement:

Your veterinary surgeon has written the ideal activity timeline for your pet in your discharge instructions.

However, most pets will require two weeks of strict confinement, followed by confinement with gradually increased controlled leashed walks. If your pet needs to go up or down more than a few stairs, you may use a towel as a sling to assist.

It is crucial that your pet not engage in ANY:

  • Running

  • Jumping (especially on/off furniture)

  • Zoomies

  • Roughhousing

…until your pet has been cleared for off-leash activities. This typically occurs around 12 weeks post-surgery

If Your Post-Op Dog is Bored:

Put a little excitement back into his or her life while they recover by reading this article for a few ideas.

Passive Range-of-Motion (PROM) Exercises:

PROM may be initiated immediately after surgery or when your pet will tolerate it.  Do not perform these exercises if your pet is painful or reactive to you manipulating the limb; this should be a gentle and pain-free exercise.  PROM consist of flexing and extending the knee joint while your pet is lying on her side. Flex the knee until they show some resistance, then hold that position for 5-10 seconds. Then extend the knee until she shows some resistance and hold for 5-10 seconds.  Do these exercises 2-3 times daily for 5 minutes at each session.  You may stop doing the exercises when your pet has near normal use of the affected limb when walking or otherwise directed.
Click here for a video on PROM.

2 Week Recheck FAQs
Your surgeon will assess e-mailed pictures and videos sent to frontdesk@animalsurgical.com
  • Please send at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled appointment

  • ensures enough time to troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise before the appointment, but still be representative of the current state of the incision and lameness.

  • Picture of incision

  • incision is clearly visible in the picture you send  

  • Video of gait

  • patient should be leashed, to avoid any mishaps that may occur off leash

  • amount of weight bearing of the operated leg should be clearly visible

What is usually discussed at the 2-week recheck?
  • Skin incision

  • healing evaluation based on e-mailed picture(s) - patients may be graduated from their Elizabethan collars

  • Toe-touching or better on operated leg

  • Activity restrictions and walking schedule

  • lengthening bathroom breaks into actual leash walks by 5-10 minute increments per week may be allowed. (Refer to post-operative Discharge Instructions)

  • in-home confinement is to remain unchanged

  • STILL NO STAIRS, COUCHES, or OFF LEASH ACTIVITY until after 8-week recheck.  Continued use of a towel-sling or Help ‘Em Up Harness is recommended for any required stairs.

  • Post-op medications to be discussed with surgeon

Couches, stairs, elevated beds, jumping, etc.

Despite the fact that your pet may be willing and even capable of jumping up onto the couch, and/or doing the stairs, these activities should still be avoided until the final recheck and radiographs at 8 weeks post-op.  Continued use of a towel-sling or Help ‘Em Up Harness is recommended for any required stairs.

Bathing and grooming
  • If incision is healed, it should be waterproof and fine for bathing/grooming

  • If some aspects of the healing appear to be delayed or complicated, the surgeon may recommend delaying bathing/grooming

  • Hazards to manage with bathing/grooming

  • risk of jumping off a grooming table

  • struggling in a wet and slippery tub

  • slipping while struggling on wet tile

  • ‘the zoomies’ that some dogs get after a bath

  • Bathing and grooming should continue to be restricted if the client is not confident that these hazards can be avoided.

Bathing and grooming
  • Non-weight bearing lameness expected to gradually progress to at least a toe-touching lameness (or better) by the 2-week videos – every dog is slightly different on the exact timing of this transition, but anytime within that first two weeks is acceptable.

  • Weight bearing during walking, but still holding the leg off the ground when standing at the food dish is still within acceptable limits at this recheck.

  • Walking protocol (See Discharge Instructions)

  • There may be intermittent set-backs in lameness, if going too far on any particular walk aggravates soreness, if they slip in the mud, accidentally escape their confinement or have similar such acute events

  • Remaining supply of pain medications may be used for acute exacerbations

  • Acute set-backs that respond quickly to a few days’ rest combined with pain medications (i.e. reverting back to immediate post-operative management) is likely of little concern

  • Any exacerbation that does NOT respond within a few days should be reported to our nursing staff (206-545-4322 or nurses@animalsurgical.com) to determine the potential need forfurther evaluation.

The plan moving forward to the final 8 week recheck

In summary, there should no longer be the need for use of the Elizabethan collar, the surgeon may make pain and sedation medications optional, in-home confinement should remain unchanged, but the gradually increasing walking protocol may be initiated.  At 8 weeks post-op (6 weeks from the 2-week recheck), recheck radiographs are recommended, which may be scheduled either here at ASOC, or with your regular veterinarian’s office.  If your regular veterinarian takes them, please ensure your veterinarian’s office e-mails the radiographs to frontdesk@animalsurgical.com with an update on how things are going.  This will trigger your surgeon to call you for the final 8 week recheck discussion.

Care For Your Pet Never Stops

Care for your pet post-illness, rehabilitation, or surgery is ongoing, just as it is for humans. The team at Animal Surgical & Orthopedic Center is available for support throughout your pet’s recovery. If your questions haven’t been answered above don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


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Weekends & Holidays, 9am-3pm

Book a Follow Up

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to book your follow-up visits. For most cases, we like to follow up with you 2 weeks after surgery for a virtual recheck, then again for an in-clinic visit 6-8 weeks post-surgery. Details on when you should come back to see us are on your discharge instructions.