After you bring your dog or cat home from spay, neuter, or other type of surgery, you need give your furry friend a little extra TLC. Often the veterinarian will give you post-surgical advice, but in the excitement of bringing Fluffy or Fido home, it’s easy to forget what they told you.
When you bring your dog or cat home, she may be a bit sleepy or groggy from the anesthetic. Some types of anesthetic may make your pet drool or seem more uncoordinated than usual. Anesthetic also can cause nausea, so the evening after surgery, you should give the pet access to water, but avoid feeding.
As caretaker, your job is to keep your pet as comfortable and quiet as possible so she can heal. If you have kids or pets, keep them from bothering the patient for at least 24 hours. For three to five days, it’s best to keep the patient indoors because you want to keep your dog or cat away from excessive hot, cold, or wet weather. In other words, right after surgery, you really shouldn’t just throw the dog outside in the yard or let the cat out to roam the neighborhood.
While your pet is healing, be sure she avoids strenuous exercise or play. You should check the incision area twice a day and look for any bleeding, excessive swelling, redness, odor, or drainage. Some minor swelling and redness may occur, but contact your vet if you see a wide gap or tissue protruding from the incision.
It’s also important to keep your pet from licking or chewing at the incision, no matter how much she may want to fuss at it. This type of excessive attention can result in torn stitches, slow healing, or infection. (If the pet is successful in ripping out the stitches, you may need to bring her in for another surgery!) Some critters absolutely won’t stop licking, so you may have to either buy or borrow an "Elizabethan collar" or E-collar.
A number of types of E-collars are available, but the traditional type is essentially a large plastic cone that fits over your pet’s head. Pretty much every animal that has ever worn one hates it. The annoyed patient may bang into walls, furniture, doors, the floor, and you. She may give you dirty looks and appear completely morose. Don’t feel guilty! It’s important that you don’t take off the E-collar, unless you can keep an eagle eye on your pet. You really don’t want to have go back to the vet for an infection or incision repair.
Depending on the surgery, your pet may or may not need to have stitches removed. If there are stitches, they generally need to remain in place for a week to ten days. After a week, the incision should be sealed. If there is no discharge, pain or redness, your pet is probably just about healed.
Assuming you’ve done your monitoring job well and you get the okay from your veterinarian, your post-surgical caretaker duties are over and you and your pet can go back to your normal routine.