Expediting Pet Recovery After Surgery

After surgery, pet recovery can be hastened by several simple precautions.

Prescription Pain Medications Hasten Healing

In most cases, your pet will return from surgery with pain medications. Pain management is one of the most important facets of cat and dog surgery recovery. Studies show that adequate pain relief leads to faster healing. In addition, pain can interfere with immune function, creating a greater risk of infection and slower wound healing times.

Usually, your veterinarian will prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Carprofen or Meloxicam, opiates such as Fentanyl or a synthetic opiate-like drug such as Tramadol.

When used correctly, these powerful drugs reduce pain and improve cat and dog recovery times.

For Safety, Limit Movement

Do not assume that your pet will self-limit movement. In many cases, your dog or cat will need to be crated or caged after surgery. While your pet may not try to jump or run, her compromised physical state may make her more susceptible to slips and falls. Keep cats indoors and leash walk dogs.

Reduce Stress in Recovering Pets

For any dog or cat, surgery and recovery can be a stressful time. Limited movement, routine changes and pain can create anxiety. Spend quiet time with your pet, but do not pressure her if she wants solitude. For everyone's safety, instruct small children to use caution around a recovering pet.

Recognize that everyday activities may be more difficult for a recovering pet. For cats, provide a litter box on each floor of the house, and replace high-sided boxes with easy access trays. Getting up and down stairs may be a challenge for your dog if she is recovering from leg surgery; a sling around the belly may help the climb. Ramps are available to facilitate car entry and exit.

Feed A High-Quality Recovery Diet

There are commercial and prescription diets available for recovering or convalescent pets. These foods are specially formulated for dogs and cats that may need extra nutrition in a concentrated, easy to digest form.

Palatable and easy to chew and swallow, recovery diets contain ingredients that help to maintain body weight and muscle mass. Several brands and formulations are available.

Reintroduce Activity Slowly

Once your veterinarian gives permission, reintroduce activity slowly. Depending upon the procedure performed or the extent of your pet's injuries, recovery can be slow.

Your veterinarian may recommend physical therapy and a well designed program can bring your pet back into shape more quickly.

Increase activity in increments. Walk your dog for 10 minutes one week, 15 minutes the next, building slowly to two 20-minute walks per day. In extreme weather-hot or cold-use caution. In hot weather, walk in the early morning or evening. In cold weather, short-haired dogs may need a sweater.

Exercising your cat is somewhat more difficult. There are cat toys available that may appeal to your cat's prey instinct. Some cats like to explore paper bags and boxes and others find crinkly newspaper to be momentarily interesting. If all else fails, lure your cat from one end of the room to the other with a tempting food treat.

Helping your dog or cat to recovery quickly and fully requires patience and compassion, but your efforts will be rewarded with a grateful and good-as-new pet.