Whether it’s your pet’s routine sterilisation surgery or a major orthopaedic surgery for a broken leg, post-operative care is extremely important. This is because a mild and barely noticeable infection can turn into a very serious infection in the space of just 48 hours, and in the case of orthopaedic surgery, a sudden impact or excessive exercise can cause the already weakened bone or ligament to break down again and require a repeat surgery.
At Sunset Vet we have put together this simple list of basic instructions to maximise the chances of your pet not being one of the unfortunate ones that suffers post-operative complications.
- Monitoring the wound
When you take your pet home be aware of the location of the surgical wound. Once home check the wound daily for 10 days and if there appears to be any bruising, swelling or discharge please call or email us, if emailing it helps to attach a photo of the wound so the vet can advise whether any intervention is needed or not. You may also WhatsApp photos to our reception hand phone number.
- Removing any stitches
Usually the stitches will be placed subcutaneously and will dissolve themselves, without any need for removal. However in some cases external non-absorbable sutures will be used, which need to be removed after 10 days when the skin has fully healed. These patients will require a quick vet check up 10 days post surgery, during which the stitches will be removed if the wound has healed in a satisfactory manner.
- Using a buster collar
It is important that your pet does not lick at any wound or stitches, as this is likely to cause an infection. Contrary to some myths, a dog licking a wound does not ‘clean it naturally’ and there are no beneficial ingredients in a dog/cat’s saliva. Quite the opposite as a dog/cat’s mouth is full of bacteria. Pets that are hyperactive or are obsessive groomers will often lick at their surgical wounds, and these pets require a plastic buster (Elizabethan) collar which should be worn until the surgical wound has fully healed (7-10 days post surgery). Buster Collars need to stay on 24/7, as just 10 minutes of licking/chewing can cause a wound to break down and require another operation to re-suture it. If in doubt, buy an appropriately sized buster collar at Sunset Vet so that you have it handy should you notice your pet licking or showing interest in his/her surgical wound. Then, keep a close eye on your pet at home and if you notice any licking or nibbling at the wound, apply the buster collar immediately. If you don’t end up using it it’s not a waste as you can keep it and reuse it another time – it’s likely your pet will need it at some point in its life.
- Allow your pet to rest
Some anaesthetic drugs take 24-48hrs to wear off so please allow your pet peace and quiet at home. For the first 48hrs after surgery cats should be kept indoors and dogs should not be taken for any walks at all, only brought to an outside area on a lead to pee/poop, then back inside for further rest. Then for the following week, dogs should have 5 minute walks on the lead and no running off the lead or playing with other dogs. Any pets that have had orthopaedic surgery will require longer term exercise restriction, which will be explained to you by a vet.
- Keep the surgical wound clean and dry
For 10 days do not let your pet outside if it is raining or has recently rained, as they might lay down in a puddle and cause a wound infection. Do not allow dogs to swim and do not take them to the beach as sand could get into the healing wound. If you have other pets, it can also be a problem if they show interest in the wound and lick at it – the effect is no different to the patient licking the wound itself and this can cause an infection. You may need to separate the pets until the wound has healed.
- Feeding your pet
It is normal for the appetite to be reduced after surgery. Food and water can be offered as normal unless there are specific instructions from the vet otherwise. For example pets that have had gastrointestinal surgery will usually have a particular feeding plan involving small portions of a highly digestible food.
If your pet has had surgery he/she may be prescribed medication to take home such as antibiotics or painkillers. The vet will explain the dosing during the discharge appointment or by phone. It is important you follow the instructions on the label and complete the course of medication even if your pet seems to be fully recovered already.
Likewise, the duration of any medication prescribed is based on an estimate by the vet on the minimum length of treatment required. In some cases the medication needs to be extended for longer than expected, due to minor complications, or the fact that your pet is a slow healer for whatever reason.
- Clipped hair
Your pet’s hair will have been clipped around the surgical site and also on the leg where an IV catheter was placed. The hair will grow back within 4-6 weeks but sometimes there is a red rash where the hair was clipped (‘clipper rash’), if a dog has very sensitive skin. This will fade quickly but if it is bothering your pet we can prescribe some extra medication to make your pet more comfortable.
If you have concerns about possible complications after surgery or if you would just like to chat to a vet for reassurance or a quick question, please do not hesitate to call your vet to discuss it. It is much better to solve any post-operative problems early, rather than wait for your check up appointment.
Sunset Vet offers veterinary services via their Kuta (24hr) and Ubud (8am-10pm) clinics. For further information or to make an appointment call them on 03619348915 (Kuta) or0361975296 (Ubud), or visit www.sunsetvetbali.com or www.facebook.com/sunsetvetbali or Instagram: sunset_vet_bali
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