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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.

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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Monday - Thursday, 6pm-10pm
Friday, 6pm-8pm
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.