Just like us, plenty of pets need an operation at one point or another in their lives. So how do you prepare your pooch and help things go as smoothly as possible for everyone concerned? We thought it’d be useful to look into pre- and post-op procedures to keep your beloved pet as happy as possible at a difficult time.
Be there for your pooch
Hopefully you won’t have to face an emergency. A regular, everyday op like spaying means you can plan ahead, taking time off work to care for him or her afterwards. It’s important to be there for your dog since studies have shown, just like for humans, that stress can hinder recovery and reduce resistance to infection. In an emergency, you’ll just need to drop everything and cope the best you can.
Check your dog’s vaccination record
Are your dog’s vaccinations up to date? If not, it’s often wise to get them done before the op. If in doubt, your vet will advise you about what’s best.
Steer clear of food before the operation
Again just like humans, it’s dangerous if pets vomit while under anaesthetic. Your vet will ask you not to give them food after about eight the evening before the operation, but give them as much water as they want before leaving home in the morning.
Preparing for the surgery itself
Once you’ve taken your dog to the vet for their operation, everything is in the vet’s hands. But it helps owners’ peace of mind to know what’s going on! First the vet will prepare your dog for his or her anaesthetic. They might shave off a patch of fur from the leg to create a clean, clear injection site and somewhere to attach monitoring instruments or drips. Then they’re put under the anaesthetic.
Surgery timescales and advice from your vet
Your vet will probably let you know a timescale, so you know when it’s OK to telephone them for progress updates, or when they’ll phone you. Routine operations tend to be quite quick, especially spaying male dogs, and your pooch should be ready to come home within a few hours of waking up.
If your dog takes longer than average to come around, your vet might keep them in a bit longer for observation, just to be on the safe side. Once they’re fully conscious and obviously feeling OK, you’ll be able to take them home.
Your vet or veterinary nurse will let you know when it’s safe for your dog to eat and drink, and whether they’ll need any medicine or special treatment. They’ll also give you a date when the stitches – if there are any – can be removed, which they usually do in the surgery.
Caring for your pet at home
If you’ve ever had an operation yourself, you’ll know how it feels post-op. So you’ll be able to empathise with your pooch. They’ll probably feel pretty wobbly for a while. So keep them nice and warm on the way home, in a cosy bed or wrapped in a soft blanket.
Leave them in peace and quiet and keep them warm. Don’t take them for walks just yet, it’s best to wait 24 hours. Obviously they can potter outdoors for a wee or poop, but they should come straight back in. Because sudden movements can damage stitches, it’s best to keep your dog on a lead during walks until the stitches come out. After-care wise, your vet might recommend pain killers or antibiotics, depending on the type of operation.
Some dogs feel particularly groggy after an op. They might fall into an extra-deep sleep, which can be worrying but is normal enough unless it carries on. If you’re concerned, ring the vet and see what they say. Your pooch might be a bit unsteady on their feet too, which is also normal.
If they seem hungry, take it easy. This is no time to wolf down large amounts of food! Give them a small meal. You can warm it up and feed them by hand if they look like they’d enjoy special treatment or are still a bit wobbly. They might throw up, in which case it’s best to stick to water-only until they regain their appetite properly. Being sick can lead to a sore throat and can irritate a dog’s windpipe, which can cause a cough for a few days. If it persists, ask your vet for advice.
If, 24 hours after they’ve come home, your dog still isn’t right, for example unsteady on their feet or generally dull-seeming, call your vet. The same goes if there’s any infection in or around the wound or the stitches, or if they experience convulsions, ongoing vomiting, swelling, discharge or bleeding.
Can I stop my dog pulling out stitches?
Yes. It’s perfectly natural to want to lick or bite your stitches – if you’ve ever had stitches yourself you’ll know the feeling! But it isn’t a good idea. Rather than use one of those horrid Elizabethan collars, our jackets are perfect for post-op pooches and much more sensible than bandages, which are not recommended because they can leave the wound damp and airless, at serious risk of infection.
Do you have any good tips for post-op pooches? We’d love to share them. Why not hook up with us on Twitter @JamJacksPetcare, or leave a comment below?