Dog post surgery recovery

How to keep your pet safe & mobile after orthopedic surgery:

In most cases if your pet needs orthopedic surgery, there will be an extended post-op recovery period afterwards. Keeping your pet safe in the short term and mobile in the long term is an important aspect of any recovery plan.

In this blog, we cover the ideal steps all pet-owners should strive to adhere to following orthopedic surgery in order to aid recovery, preserve mobility, and have the best possible outcome.

Your surgeon & technician will have specific guidance for your situation

First and most importantly, every pet and home environment are different, so be sure your surgeon and primary veterinarian understand yours. Differences in home environment, lifestyle, and your pet’s disposition will have an impact on your at-home recovery plan. When your pet is discharged after surgery, your veterinary technician will go over all instructions that are specific to you and your pet.

Preparing your home

One of the most important steps to safe recovery after surgery happens before the surgery is performed: Preparing your home for your pet ahead of time.

This will vary based on your home and situation, but generally, pets will need to be confined in a small area of your home with no opportunities for them to hurt themselves.

Options could include:

  • A large wire dog crate (for both dogs and cats)
  • A small room like a bathroom, laundry room, or very small bedroom
  • An area in your home restricted with baby gates
  • A fenced-off area or x-pen

Any of these choices can help restrict your pet’s activity. It’s important to remove any furniture that your dog or cat might attempt to jump on to when they’re in this restricted area. If that isn’t possible, create a ‘visual barrier’ by placing tall boxes or laundry baskets on top of the furniture, which discourages jumping.

If you’re using a fenced-off area, pen, or gate, be sure they’re high enough that your pet won’t attempt an escape. This can be particularly challenging with cats and is only recommended for older or sedentary cats.

There should be no access to stairs, steps, or low tables, chairs, or couches for your pet to jump up on. Engaging in these activities can lead to re-injury and slow the healing process.

Depending on your home, you may also want to put down rugs, yoga mats, or non-slip mats on any slippery floors in your home. This includes tile (especially if you’re restricting your pet to a laundry room or bathroom), hardwood floors, or laminate floors. Slips and falls can lead to re-injury, so if you can’t cover the area in non-slip materials, restrict your pet’s access to those rooms.

How long will recovery take?

The post-op recovery period is key to keeping your pet safe in the short term and mobile long term, so don’t give in, even if your pet seems ready to run and play! They often don’t know better, and restricting activity is the best way to prevent re-injury.

This period of restricted activity means NO activity beyond short walks for your pet to relieve themselves. That means no running, jumping, playing, or long walks for the entire restricted period.

Most surgeries require your pet to spend the night in the hospital to ensure their safety. Some pets and more challenging cases may require a longer stay, depending on the type of surgery and your pet’s condition.

Almost all surgeries require a minimum two-week recovery and confinement period, and the recovery period afterward varies based on the surgery.

For simple, less invasive surgeries, the recovery period can be much shorter, as little as 2-4 weeks.

More intensive surgeries require longer periods of restricted activity and confinement. This period can last up to 10 weeks, or longer, depending on the surgery.

Tools to aid recovery and keep your pet safe

There are several tools out there that help aid your pet in their recovery journey. These can also help with older, less mobile pets, so the investment may be well worth it.

Harnesses & slings:

If you have unavoidable stairs in your home, use a “Help ’Em Up” harness, sling, or even a towel underneath their belly to help your pet up and down the steps. These products are available in our clinic or on a variety of online stores.

Soft Collars

Our clinic provides a simple hard plastic cone to be used when your pet is unsupervised to prevent licking and irritating the incision. Your local pet store may sell alternative options, such as a softer pillow collar that can still prevent irritating the incision site while maintaining greater comfort.

Ice packs

Have a few flexible ice packs on hand during your pet’s recovery period. Icing the area can help reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the area, reduce pain and tenderness, and improve healing. Always use a towel between the ice pack and your pet’s skin. Read more about how to use an ice pack here.

Healthy treat-filled toys

One of the biggest challenges with a restricted activity period is boredom. Toys like a frozen, stuffed Kong with healthy treats can keep your pet entertained during long recovery hours.

Basic obedience training

After your dog’s first checkup (generally around 2 weeks post-op), help keep your pet’s mind active by refreshing basic training like “sit”, “lie down”, “heel”, etc. These keep your pet’s mind active and are low-impact activities that keep them engaged.

Avoid overfeeding during this period of restricted activity! It can be easy to go overboard on the treats if they’re not monitored carefully and balanced with regular meals. Excess treats can pack on extra pounds, particularly when your pet isn’t burning off the calories. Even a few additional pounds can increase the strain on joints and slow the recovery process.

Maintaining long-term mobility

Maintaining mobility is an important part of the recovery process. After your pet’s confinement period, they may need some time to work back to previous activity levels.

Start by slowly re-introducing activities that are more challenging over time. For example, don’t start with long runs or hikes but instead work up to them gradually. If your dog participates in agility training or other vigorous activities, start slow and re-introduce one step at a time.

Hydrotherapy RehabilitationDepending on the type of surgery, your veterinarian or surgeon may recommend post-op rehabilitation or physical therapy. This can be a great option for improving mobility in a safe environment. During rehab, you may also be given activities that can be used at home to improve their mobility and keep your pet active. Following these recommendations means you’re more likely to see a swift recovery to full activity for your pet.

Pain management can also be an important part of restoring and improving your pet’s activity levels. If you think your pet is in pain after the recovery period, talk to your veterinarian about possible pain medications or therapies that can help reduce pain.

Have more questions about at-home recovery for your dog? Read the FAQ on our website here, or call your veterinarian if you still have specific questions about your situation.

If you’d like to speak to one of our surgeons or staff about surgery for your pet, give us a call at (206) 545-4322, or fill out the form here.


Posted January 22, 2021 by Animal Surgical in Pet Health with No Comments and tagged as ,

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