Whether your beloved four-legged friend is having a hip replacement, being neutered or spayed, or having surgery for any other reason, it’s important that you prepare your home for your pet’s post-operative recovery. If you do it properly, your pet will have a safe, healthy environment in which to recover – and you can make aftercare a lot easier on yourself, too.
For many pet parents, it’s not a question of whether they should prepare the home for their pet’s recovery – it’s a question of how to do it in the best possible way. If your pet is having any type of surgery, you can help him or her recover by paying special attention to:
- Steps and ledges
- Eating areas
- Resting places
Steps and Ledges
Going up the stairs is tough for a pet who’s recovering from surgery, and it can put him or her at significant risk. Your pet may be under the influence of anesthesia when you come home, or the movements associated with going up and down stairs could reopen wounds and delay healing.
It’s best to use barriers near staircases and ledges. If you have a pet or baby gate, use that – but you can improvise, depending on how clever (and how big) your pet is, with boxes or crates.
Slippery floors are a definite hazard to pets recovering from surgery. Even if your floors aren’t inherently slippery but your pet slides around or scrambles when he becomes excited, put down rugs or non-slip mats. The less your pet has to deal with involuntary movements – like scrambling to stay on his feet after a slip – the better off he will be.
You can find inexpensive rugs at discount stores and place them near your pet’s resting place. The best types of rugs feature non-slip backing that prevent them from sliding around the floor, which can cause your pet to injure himself further.
Bending down to eat can be incredibly uncomfortable for your pet after surgery, so if your vet agrees, invest in raised food and water dishes. They’re available in a wide range of sizes and can help encourage your pet to eat more (as long as your vet says it’s okay).
You may have to make other adjustments if your pet can’t get around very easily, such as bringing food and water to her. Make those non-slip rugs and mats pull double-duty and bring them with you at feeding time; they’ll catch the mess and keep your pet’s area clean.
Your pet probably already has a favorite place to lounge and nap, but if it’s on the sofa or the bed, remember that she will have a tough time getting up and down. Most veterinarians recommend that you confine your pet to one room so she doesn’t overexert herself, but if her favorite resting spot is in a room with high surfaces she usually gets on, you may have to make a few adjustments. Depending on the type of surgery, ask your veterinarian if a small animal heating mat could also aid in your pet’s recovery. Heating pads provide a gently warm lying area that, at full power, is 30-35° above air temperature. Remember to consult your veterinarian about proper surface temperatures of your heating pad and install a rheostat or power control to regulate the temperature of the heat pad.
What You Need to Know About Pet Surgery After-Care
Your veterinarian will give you after-care information and answer your questions before releasing your pet. You should also remember that your pet will probably be at least a little bit groggy after surgery. It’s important to keep him calm and prevent him from becoming too excited. If you have a carrier, use it; if not, keep your little buddy on a leash until he’s safe and sound in his recovery room with the door closed.
Tips for Post-Operative Care:
- Keep them comfortable: Make sure your pet’s resting area is clean, warm and in a quiet space. Check the area for drafts to ensure they stay relaxed. Consult your veterinarian about the use of a heat mat to aid in the recovery process.
- Avoid interactions with other pets: If you own more than one pet, keep your recovering pet in an isolated environment to protect from interactions that may disrupt the healing process.
- Use a leash: Make sure to keep a leash on when he needs to relieve himself, even in a fenced backyard. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to cats who use a litter box – but if you do have a cat, move the litter box near his bed so he can access it easily.)
- Start with small meals: Give your pet small meals until she readjusts to being home and starts feeling better. Ask your vet for extra advice about feedings if you’re not sure how much is too much – the last thing you want to do is give your favorite girl a stomach ache.
- Follow vet instructions: Whether they’re related to diet, medication or bandage changes, follow your vet’s instructions religiously.
- Minimize activity: In many cases, stitches come out about ten days after surgery but watch for problems like redness, soreness, swelling, and discoloration. If anything doesn’t look normal, call your vet’s emergency number.
- Use caution with stitches: Your vet might send you home with a lampshade collar, but for some pets, wearing it is pure torture. See if your vet will give you the green light to outfit your pet in a pair of animal-specific pajamas, a t-shirt or a pair of boxer shorts (you can put your pet’s tail through the front opening) if your pet is licking or trying to chew his stitches.
- Reduce boredom: Use a stuffed treat feeder or a puzzle game when your pet starts to feel better but still shouldn’t be moving around.
- Provide plenty of snuggles and love: Like humans, pets need reassurance and comfort when they’re not feeling well – and while you’re at it, make sure you’re getting enough rest, too. You won’t be much good to your pet if you’re run down!
- Happy pets heal faster: Do what you can to keep your pet entertained and feeling loved until she’s back on her feet.
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