Prior to Your Petís Surgery

Veterinary Surgery: Home Care Instructions

You can do several things prior to your petís scheduled surgery date that will make the process less stressful and more successful for you and your pet:

  • Make arrangements for appropriate supervision following surgery. Most post-operative patients require medication administration two to three times daily, as well as daily monitoring for symptoms of improvement or development of post-operative complications. Taking time off of work is always helpful but is not typically required to care for most animals following surgery.
  • Create a space for recovery. Most dogs and cats need a space to recover and heal from their surgical procedures. Additionally, most surgical patients have instructions for reduced activity for a period of time following their surgical procedure. To facilitate good post-operative monitoring, care, and healing, make sure you have an appropriate place to provide a clean, dry environment where your petís activity will be limited. For some patients, this may be ďcrate arrestĒ in an isolated indoor space and for others it may require ďhouse arrest,Ē allowing freedom of movement throughout the home environment. Your surgeon will let you know which is more likely to be needed.
  • Infection control. Make sure your pet is clear of all infections a week before his or her scheduled surgery date. Prior to performing a surgical procedure, it is helpful to inspect the ears, teeth, and skin for signs of inflamed tissue, swelling, or foul odor. Bathing your pet can be helpful in removing surface debris and even decrease bacterial growth when using medicated antiseptic shampoo. A common regimen includes bathing your dog or cat with a veterinary chlorhexidine containing shampoo in combination with laundering his or her bedding 1 week, then again 1 day, prior to their expected surgery date. When using a medicated shampoo, it is important to allow for appropriate soaking time (most shampoos require 10 minutes contact time) before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Fasting. Donít forget to fast your pet 12 hours before surgery. We generally recommend feeding the usual evening meal, followed by removing food 12 hours before being admitted for surgery. A small amount of water the morning of the procedure is usually fine, but do not allow your pet to drink an entire bowl. Check with the doctor regarding giving morning medications.

Admitting Your Pet to the Hospital

  • Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination on time. Most patients are admitted early in the morning, allowing nurses to perform pre-operative tasks required for surgery and to give each animal some time to acclimate and settle in to the new surroundings.
  • Bring your petís medications with you. This is the best method to avoid communication errors regarding your petís medication, dosing, amounts remaining, and so on. Additionally, it may save you money as many oral medications can be used during your petís hospital stay.
  • Please leave special toys and blankets at home. Most toys are not appropriate for patients following surgery and most blankets quickly become soiled during anesthetic recovery. Such items must be removed from your petís housing and are often lost in the mix with other similar items that exist within a veterinary hospital.

Visiting and Communication During Your Petís Stay

  • Leaving adequate contact information is important when admitting to the hospital; the veterinarian will attempt to reach you following all procedures to discuss findings and expectations for recovery. Make sure your contact information is current and up to date. Even listing multiple phone numbers and times when you can be reached are helpful to the veterinarian attempting to contact you. Feel free to call if you have not heard from the doctor by the end of your petís surgery day.
  • Visiting is not recommended the day of a major operation. The best recovery from anesthesia and surgery is slow and gradual. Visits from family members the day of a procedure will often excite your pet and disrupt his or her recovery.
  • Visits each day following surgery are encouraged for most patients. It is important for you to maintain contact with your pet and observing his or her recovery in the hospital provides a basis of comparison when continuing post-operative monitoring at home.

Plans for Bringing Your Pet Home

  • Plan ahead and make sure you have adequate time to go over discharge instructions with the nurse or doctor. If your discharge has not been scheduled, it is best to call ahead to make sure your arrival time does not coincide with a busy period at the hospital.
  • We recommend going over the discharge instructions without your pet present so you can give these your full attention.
  • Most discharge instructions are provided in written form. Take the time to read these carefully as this is the best time to ask questions and clarify any uncertainties about post-operative home care.
  • Pay special attention to medication instructions as they often may be different than prior to surgery.
  • Also, pay special attention to recommendations about symptoms that may be associated with complications, and do not hesitate to call for additional information when you have concerns about your pet following discharge from the hospital.
  • Make sure to schedule recheck examination appointments as soon as possible following discharge. Many appointments can be scheduled at the time of discharge, which ensures you will get an appointment that suits the needs of your pet and your schedule.

Following Veterinary Surgery

  • Recovery from surgery is a gradual process and ranges from taking days to weeks to months, depending upon the surgery performed.
  • Pay special attention to recommendations regarding activity restriction. The vast majority of post-operative complications are associated with our pets wanting to do "too much too soon." Contrary to ourselves, our pets have extraordinary spirit and desire to feel better and act on this feeling as soon as they sense improvement in their condition.
  • Monitor for signs of improvement. Make sure you have a clear picture of what to expect regarding your petís recovery, and do not hesitate to call if things are not progressing as expected. The only silly question is the question that is not asked. Feel free to call the doctors and nurses if you have concerns. It is their job to be available and make sure you and your pet have appropriate care following surgery.
  • Incisions: Following recommendations for protecting an incision with either an Elizabethan collar, a bandage, or close supervision is very important. When evaluating an incision, pay attention to the amount of swelling, redness, bruising, fluid seeping through the incision, fluid under the incision, pain, or heat. Observe for changes in staples or sutures used to secure the incision and monitor the incision edges for shifting or separation. A normal incision may swell, become red or inflamed, or even bruise for the first 2Ė3 days following surgery. After the third day, most incisions should show signs of improvement. Progressive redness, swelling, and fluid seeping through an incision 4Ė7 days following surgery is the most common presentation of an incisional infection. Early and prompt treatment can be invaluable in mitigating the consequences of an infection.
  • Bandage care: Bandages are a great asset to help with managing post-operative wounds when well cared for and monitored closely. However, when poorly monitored and unattended, a bandage can cause significant complications. Bandages should be evaluated each day to inspect for the presence of moisture, fluid seepage, odor, pain, or slipping and shifting of the bandage from its original position. It is very important to follow activity restrictions and protect the bandage from moisture when going outside. Do not hesitate to call if you have concerns about a bandage. Make sure all recheck exams are attended on schedule. Never skip a bandage change appointment without consulting your veterinarian. Minor complications with bandages are common and can be easily addressed with regular monitoring and changing by the veterinarian. Major complications, although uncommon, can be difficult to address and in rare cases may threaten the success of a surgery or the limb. When it comes to bandages, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

These are just few things to keep in mind when preparing for your pets surgery and aftercare. When in doubt, always call for advice at (707) 579-3900. PetCare is open 24/7 and is staffed with doctors and nurses who are available to assist you and your pet.