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How to help your pet's healing time after surgery

Tips to Speed Your Pet’s Healing Time After Surgery

Pet owners frequently ask us how long it will take their pet to recover after surgery. The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all timeline. The time it takes a dog or cat to heal depends on many factors, including their age, health, and fitness level, and the type of procedure performed.

It’s crucial to understand that just because you can see that your pet’s incision has closed and the swelling has gone down, they are still not fully healed. The process of healing is a relatively predictable pattern of events that occurs faster in some tissues and longer in others. Depending on the type of surgery, full recovery will take between six weeks and four months. A full, safe recovery requires careful post-op care, followed by a gradual rehabilitation.

Your veterinarian or board-certified veterinary surgeon will give you a range of time that they expect your pet will take to heal. It is crucial that you follow the individualized post-operative instructions to give your dog or cat the best chance to heal quickly.

Here are some general guidelines that will help you help your pet:

  • Adhere to medication schedules. Stay on time for the full course of the prescribed medications. Pain medications are essential to minimize discomfort after surgery. Unmanaged pain will slow down the healing process. Your pet will likely be prescribed between one and three types of pain medication, depending on the type of surgery. If needed, your pet may also be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, so their body can focus on healing. In some cases, antibiotics will be prescribed to help prevent and fight infection. Unless specifically told otherwise by a veterinarian, the full course of antibiotics should be finished.
  • Use an E-collar (aka “Cone of Shame”). We know, your pet hates it, but allowing them to lick their incision even for just a few minutes increases the risk of infection or re-opening the wound. Typically, the E-collar is needed only for the first two weeks after surgery.
  • Restrict activity. Your pet needs to be confined to a small, carpeted area where they cannot jump on furniture, run around the house, or have access to stairs. If your dog is crate trained already, this is the ideal place for them to rest. You can also keep them tethered near you when you are home. Trips outside will be on-leash only until told otherwise by your veterinarian. You must be able to control your pet’s movement at every stage of recovery. The post-op instructions will outline how long this restricted activity period will last.
  • Practice proper wound management. Monitor the incision for indications of infection including excessive redness, swelling, heat, bleeding, inflammation, or draining. If you see any of these, contact your veterinarian. You will not need to clean or apply any ointment to the incision unless your doctor provides this instruction. Here at ASOC, we also generally recommend applying an ice pack to the incision a few times a day, just for a few minutes, during the first few days after surgery. Ice decreases inflammation and helps relieve soreness associated with surgery. We encourage you to access our instructional videos here, regarding the proper technique for icing.
  • Manage your pet’s emotional state. Pacing, panting, whining, digging, restlessness, and excessive barking or meowing are all signs that your pet may be anxious (or, possibly, in pain). Spend more time with your pet and tether them near the family when you’re home. When you’re not home, keep them in a quiet room perhaps with a television or quiet music. Check out our list of boredom busters to help with mental stimulation. If you have any concerns, please contact us or your veterinarian.
  • Start rehabilitation soon afterwards to help achieve the best outcome after orthopedic surgery. At ASOC, we provide our pet parents with basic techniques to perform at home for the first two weeks or so, and then recommend they start formal rehabilitation with our partner clinic, SOUND Veterinary Rehabilitation Center, to help build strength, stamina, and balance. Rehabilitation appointments book out quickly, so be sure to schedule your post-op rehabilitation appointments at the time you schedule surgery.

As mentioned above, full recovery varies depending on the surgery. For athletes and working dogs, returning to the competitive level they held before surgery can take up to 12 months. A slow and steady rehabilitation period will get your pet to full recovery faster than pushing them before they’re ready.

Always follow the post-operative instructions you receive and don’t hesitate to contact us if you think something doesn’t look right. If you have more questions about surgery healing time or you would like to schedule a consult, our team at Animal Surgical & Orthopedic Center welcomes your call at (206) 545-4322.


Posted November 29, 2019 by ASCS in Pet Health with No Comments and tagged as , , ,

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