Helping Pets Mend Post-Surgery – Tips From Our Surgical Team

Tips From Our Surgical Team

We all become nervous when hearing that our pet needs surgery – the ancient term “going under the knife” hardly helps calm our fears. But veterinary medicine today is keeping pace with standards set for human care. Major surgical procedures, even in our aging pets, have become more common, less invasive, and much safer for our pets. In addition to all the major procedures we perform at PSVC, our local surgical specialists can perform everything from arthroscopic surgery, to hip replacements, spinal surgery, cataractic lens replacements, skin grafting, and microvascular surgery. Here are some tips to help prepare your pet for surgery and speed his recovery.

One of the best things you can do to ensure a speedy recovery is to keep him in good health and tip top condition long before he requires surgery.. This means feeding him a nutritionally sound diet, providing regular exercise, and making sure he is always at an optimal weight. Overweight pets are not only more prone to problems in the first place (think orthopedic, respiratory, and diabetes, etc.) but they have a harder time recovering post-op as well.

The Day Of:

Before your pet’s anesthetic protocol, or on a previous visit, our doctor will assess your pet’s overall total health during the pre-surgical exam, often suggesting blood work and urinalysis, and sometimes x-rays, ultrasound studies and an electrocardiogram to insure there are no hidden organ abnormalities. The anesthetic plan will factor in your pet’s age, general health, any slight blood work abnormalities, and the length and type of procedure involved. Your pet will receive pre-medication sedatives to calm him, so you can rest assured your pet will be relaxed as he is being anesthetized. While under anesthesia, our surgical team of licensed technicians and the surgeon are very busy monitoring your pet with the help of advanced electronic monitoring equipment. We control body temperature with heated surgery tables and warming blankets. We continuously assess his heart electrocardiogram, respiratory rate, pulse-ox (blood oxygen levels), and blood pressure. During recovery, the patients are monitored while on warming beds. Pain meds are started even before, or during, their surgery to make sure his recovery is smooth and free of pain.

Hospital Discharge:

At discharge, a member of the surgical team will join you in an exam room to go over all discharge instructions, discuss the administration of pain medications and other medications, and answer any questions that you may have about the post-operative period. If your pet has a plastic or cloth protective collar, this must be kept in place at all times to prevent licking or traumatizing the incision. Feeding and exercise instructions are also reviewed

Back Home:

We are very concerned about controlling post-operative pain in your pet, so often two types of pain meds will be prescribed. The first few days, please administer these on schedule, as pets can, and usually will, try to put on a “happy face” for you, but in reality may be uncomfortable. They may react a little “touchy” or even display mild aggression if you get near the surgery area, which is normal. This will pass quickly, though. It is always a good idea to do a little pampering when first arriving home, but don’t be surprised if your pet bounces back very quickly. It is best to keep other pets away at first to minimize the temptation to over-do it. While traditional rest and medications will help healing you can also try a holistic approach to helping your pet mend. Music therapy has been shown to lower the heart rate and blood pressure, decrease anxiety and increase the release of endorphins of pets recovering from surgery. Soothing music and dim lighting really can help.

Follow Up:

Depending on the procedure performed, we may recommend some rehabilitation in the home following surgery. Sometimes there are bandages to be changed, or sutures to be removed by our technicians. It is important to keep all follow up appointments.

We look forward to discussing all aspects of surgery at PSVC with you. Contact our surgical team at any time with questions or comments about our care of your pet.

There have been no official updates this past month concerning the suspected connection between feeding grain free foods and dilated cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) newly seen in dog breeds not normally susceptible. For now, Veterinary Cardiologists are still recommending that UNLESS your pet is on a grain free food for a Veterinarian diagnosed medical condition, add some grain containing dog food in place of part of the grain free food. Or you could temporarily switch to dog foods with grain that don’t contain legumes and other non-traditional carbohydrate sources like tapioca and potato. Ongoing research by Veterinary Nutritionists and the FDA should hopefully pinpoint the definitive cause of this new problem soon. I will keep you posted.


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Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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