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Aftercare for Orthopedic Surgery Patients

Aftercare for Orthopedic Surgery Patients

Is your pet about to have orthopedic surgery? Planning ahead for their recovery period can save you and your four-legged friend a lot of stress and make for a smoother recovery. Today, our Suffolk County vets share tips on how to care for your pet after veterinary orthopedic surgery.

Veterinary orthopedic surgery is a term that covers any veterinary surgery that addresses issues with your pet's bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and other tissue associated with your animal's skeletal system. 

It may take weeks for your pet to recover from orthopedic surgery, and this period can be stressful for both animal and owner. To help you and your four-legged companion get through the recovery period with as little stress as possible, our Suffolk County will share some tips in this post. 

Follow Your Vet's Instructions

After your pet is out of the operating room following orthopedic surgery, the veterinary surgeon or veterinarian will take time to give clear instructions on how to take care of your pet at home. Pay careful attention to these post-operative care instructions, take notes, and ask about any questions or concerns you may have. You'll typically receive written instructions to refer to while your pet moves through the stages of recovery.

If there is anything you are unsure about or don't understand, make sure to ask for clarification. Alternatively, if you realize you have forgotten some aspect of your pet's post-operative care, simply call your vet's office and ask for the information you need. Remember that your vet also wants the very best for your pet and will be happy to help you understand instructions or address concerns. 

Manage After-Effects of Anesthesia 

Just before surgery, your pet will be put under general anesthesia. This may cause them to lose their appetite or feel nauseated as they recover from its immediate effects. Most vets will recommend feeding your pet a light meal (such as chicken and rice for dogs, or chicken or fish for cats) to help digestion. 

Within about 24 hours, your pet should recover from the effects of general anesthesia. 

Restrict Your Pet's Movement & Keeping Them Comfortable 

After your animal's surgery, the veterinary orthopedic surgeon will likely advise you to restrict your pet's movements for a defined period of time. At first, your cat or dog may not be feeling very energetic or want to move around much. 

That said, as they start to feel better they may have more of an urge to move around their environment. This is where confinement becomes important. As your canine or kitty companion recovers from orthopedic surgery, it's critical to prevent them from jumping, running, climbing stairs or engaging in other strenuous activities until their surgery site has healed. 

One of the best ways to restrict your pet's activity to one area by confining them to either a playpen (if they are smaller) or to a comfortable small room in your house (if they are medium-sized or larger) without anything they can jump on or injure themselves with. Depending on the specific surgery your pet has undergone and their personality, your veterinarian may recommend strict "crate rest" for at least part of your dog's recovery period. 

Make sure to make your pet's temporary confined space as comfortable for them as possible, with lots of space to spread out and relax and their favorite cushions, toys and blankets to keep them company. 

Manage Your Pet's Pain After Orthopedic Surgery

Your cat or dog's veterinary nurse or orthopedic surgeon will take time to explain the medications they've prescribed for your pet to manage post-surgery pain. You'll likely receive written instructions detailing times and dosages for the administration of any meds to help you stay on track on a daily basis. It's a good idea to note whenever your pet will need medications since it can be easy to forget and miss a dose, or accidentally double up. 

Make sure to follow your veterinarian's instructions as closely as possible to ensure efficacy of medication and to reduce the chances of adverse side effects. 

Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to help your pet recover from the rigors of orthopedic surgery, and to reduce the chances of infection. If your pet is typically anxious or high-strung, you may also receive a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication or mild sedative to help your four-legged companion remain relaxed and calm while they recover. 

Care for Your Pet's Incision Site

You may find it challenging to prevent your cat or dog from scratching, biting or chewing at their bandages or incision site. Fitting your pet with a plastic cone-shaped collar (available in hard or softer versions) can help to prevent your pet from being able to lick or bite at the wound. 

It will take the average pet a couple of hours to adjust to wearing a traditional Elizabethan cone collar. However, if your animal is struggling to adapt to wearing one, there are other options available that may be just as effective but less cumbersome, such as post-surgery jumpsuits (medical pet shirts) or donut-style collars.

If your dog is unable to relax while wearing a cone collar, discuss alternative options with your veterinarian. 

We also remind pet parents to keep bandages dry at all times. If your dog goes outside, cover the bandages with a plastic bag or cling wrap to protect them from wet or damp grass. Remove the plastic covering as soon as your pooch returns to their indoor sanctuary, since leaving wet plastic over a bandage may cause sweat to accumulate under the bandage and lead to an infection. 

Keep Your Pet Entertained While They Recover 

Your cat or dog will likely take a number of weeks to recover from orthopedic surgery. In that time, they're bound to have moments of boredom. 

Since dogs are playful creatures and cats are fairly independent, neither may understand they are recovering from a serious operation and may become frustrated with the fact that their level of activity is being reduced.

The incision site may also be itchy or they may be suffering from a general lack of stimulation following surgery. That's why it's essential to ensure your pet is kept busy in other ways. 

Try a rotating selection of squeaky playthings, mice or dog-friendly chew toys. Offer only one or two items at a time, and switch to a different toy on a regular basis to prevent boredom. 

Simply making time to sit quietly with your cat or dog, slowly stroking their fur and chatting calmly with them may help them can help them feel relaxed and loved. 

Typical Recovery Times Following Orthopedic Surgery

How long your pet will need to recover from orthopedic surgery will depend on numerous factors, including:

  • The specific type of surgery 
  • Your pet's age
  • Your pet's general health status at the time of operation 
  • Rehabilitation needs 

Many veterinary orthopedic surgeries will largely heal within about 2 to 3 months following the procedure. However, it can take dogs up to 6 months to fully recover from some operations. 

Your veterinarian can tell you when your pet should start physical therapy to support their healing and regaining muscle function after their surgery. 

Orthopedic Pet Surgery Near Suffolk County 

At Deer Park Animal Hospital, we understand that you may be feeling anxious about bringing your pet in for surgery and taking care of them at home while they recover. 

Our veterinarians perform orthopedic and other elective and non-elective surgeries for pets (or refer to a veterinary surgeon if required and work closely with them. 

We are here to address any questions and concerns you may have about pre-op preparation, the surgical process or post-op care. We will ensure that you fully understand why surgery is being recommended and the measures we take to prevent infection and cross-contamination during the operation. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming orthopedic surgery at Deer Park Animal Hospital? Please contact our Suffolk County veterinarians right away.

New Patients Welcome

Deer Park Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Suffolk County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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