Frequently Asked Questions during Surgery Recovery

Below you will find the most common questions that pet parents ask during the first 2 weeks of the recovery process.

IMPORTANT: If your pet has any combination of the following: DIARRHEA, VOMITING, LETHARGY and/or LACK OF APPETITE, then your pet will need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. During normal business hours this can be us at VSS, otherwise seek your regular veterinarian or an emergency clinic.

Our medical team is available to answer questions and address concerns
Monday – Thursday: 7 am – 5 pm
Friday: schedule varies

Anesthesia

We cannot determine how your pet will behave as the anesthesia continues to work out of their system in the first 12-24 hours after coming home.

Is it common for my pet to have decreased appetite after surgery?

Yes. Appetite is closely associated with pain and dysphoria. Please make sure you are giving all pain medication as prescribed. If decreased appetite continues after giving pain medications correctly, please contact our medical team.

Is it common for my pet to cry or whine after surgery?

Yes – If you are giving the pain medications as prescribed, then this is not due to pain.

Is it common for my pet to shiver after surgery?

Try using a heating pad (low setting) to keep your pet warm.

Medications

Your pet has been sent home with medications to control pain, inflammation and (in some cases) infection. It is ESPECIALLY important that ALL medications be given as directed until they are gone. All medications provided by us can be given with each other unless otherwise specifically instructed.

Are there any tips and tricks to give medications?

  • For dogs 🐶: you can use the following to hide medications: Small meatballs made of wet dog good, Peanut Butter, Pill pockets, Pill masker, Small mozzarella cheese balls, Cream cheese, Hot dogs, Banana slices, Blueberries, Strawberries, Kraft Singles Cheese
  • For cats 🐱: you can use a pill gun, hide medications in baby food with protein, Tuna or any other fish (the smellier, the better!)

My pet doesn’t seem to be in pain. Should I stop giving pain medications?

No! Your pet is not in pain because of the pain medications. It’s hard for you to gauge what you pet is really feeling. Our medical team sent the appropriate amount of pain medications based on the surgery your pet had. We recommend giving all medications as prescribed until finished to ensure your pet’s comfort.

I gave the wrong dose of medications. What should I do?

  • If you gave less than you were supposed to give, wait until your pet is due for medications again and give the full dose then.
  • If you gave more pain medication (usually Tramadol, Gabapentin, Buprenorphine), and your pet is not overly lethargic; wait until your pet is due for medications again and resume with the correct dose then.
  • If you gave too much anti-inflammatory (usually Rimadyl, Carprofen, Galliprant, Meloxicam, Meloxidyl, Onsior, Previcox, etc.), then please contact our clinic immediately to discuss next steps. If this happens after hours and your pet is having vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite or lethargy, then please seek immediate veterinary care.

Incision and E-collar

Any modification to our instructions for the cone can result in serious post-operative complications & additional costs. For ALL orthopedic procedures involving implants if the incision becomes infected the implants will ultimately have to be removed.

Can I use an inflatable cone?

No. These types of cones do not offer enough protection for the incision.

Can I use a different type of cone?

No. Do not use anything that has not been specifically approved by our medical team.

My pet keeps removing the e-collar. How can I keep it on?

Please make sure the cone is as tight as possible on the neck while still being able to breathe normally. Make sure at least 1-2 fingers fit in between your pet’s neck and the gauze. Alternatively you can pass a sturdy dog/cat collar through the loops of the cone. This will make it even harder for your pet to remove it.

My pet is very restless with the cone, what can I do?

Give your pet time to adjust. This is not a comfortable situation, but a necessary one. Usually 24-48 hours to adjust will suffice. Also, a dark, quiet space usually helps. Consider placing the crate away from sight of you, your family and other pets. If the issue continues after that, please contact us to see if sedatives can help.

Can I cut or modify the cone’s size?

No. Your pet has been sized for the appropriate cone on surgery day based on the specific needs of the surgery that was performed.

Can my pet eat and drink with the cone on?

Most pets can. If your pet is having difficulty with this, please assist your pet with eating/drinking while the cone is on.

My pet took the cone off and the incision looks irritated, what should I do?

Put the e-collar back in place. Take a clear picture of the incision and email it to the clinic along with details. If this happens after hours, then please wait until we come back to the clinic for review or seek help with your regular vet or an emergency clinic.

The incision looks pulled. What can I do?

  • Make sure the correct e-collar is on your pet and that the patient is not able to get to the incision.
  • If within business hours, please email to us a clear, close up, bright picture of the incision. If after hours please wait until we come back to the clinic the next business day for review.

The incision looks open, what should I do?

  • Make sure the right e-collar is on your pet and that the patient is not able to get to the incision.
  • If within business hours, please email to us a clear, close up, bright picture of the incision. If after hours Monday to Wednesday please wait until we come back to the clinic the next day for review.
  • If this happens after hours Thursday to Sunday or during a holiday please take your pet to the emergency clinic.

If you notice a serious opening and/or sutures/staples are missing, the patient needs to be seen ASAP. If this happens when our clinic is closed please go to your primary veterinarian or go to the emergency clinic.

Crate Confinement

If your pet requires crate confinement and activity restrictions, those have been explained during the discharge process. DO NOT MODIFY THESE RESTRICTIONS UNTIL NOTIFIED BY A TEAM MEMBER AT VSS. FAILURE TO COMPLY CAN RESULT IN COMPLICATIONS & ADDITIONAL COSTS.

How long does my pet need to be crated?

Patients that had knee surgery need STRICT crate confinement for about 6-8 weeks. FHO patients need to be crated for 2 weeks. All others: refer to the information provided to you–may be in introductory information or in the discharge paperwork. Our medical team will let you know when it’s safe for the patient to be out of the crate.

My pet has never been crated before. Is my pet going to be OK being crated for weeks?

Yes. Most pets usually adjust fairly easily and rapidly to crate confinement. (Most issues with crate confinement are the owner’s anxiety and not the pet!)

What can I do if my pet is restless in the crate and won’t settle down?

  • Make sure the crate is big enough for the patient to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably with the E-collar on.
  • If your pet does not settle down in the crate when you get home, you may begin the first dose of Gabapentin (dogs), Buprenorphine (cats) immediately.
  • If these issues continue your pet may need a sedative. If you cannot contact us please reach out to your primary veterinarian.

Is an exercise pen, a small room, or a baby gate a good replacement for the crate?

No. If the medical team instructed crate confinement for your pet, then that is the only acceptable option for activity restriction while the patient is in recovery.

Can my pet sleep or be on the couch with me?

No. Leave your pet in the crate until our medical team has indicated it’s safe to come out. Even simple handling of your pet is risky while the patient is still healing.

My pet is very calm, do I still need to use the crate?

Yes, absolutely. Your pet can suddenly take off running or jump on furniture, which can cause serious complications. Something as simple as walking around the home can be detrimental for your healing pet.

Bruising and Swelling

Is swelling or bruising common after surgery?

Yes. Swelling can appear adjacent to the surgical area. Bruising can appear a deep red or purple. Both bruising and swelling are NOT EMERGENT situations and they will resolve in time.

Is there anything I can do help with bruising and swelling?

  • Yes. You can ice the site for 10-20 minutes every 2 hours. If you are noticing both swelling AND bruising, alternate between warm/cold compress one after the other, multiple times per day until resolved.
  • If you are unable to do the ice/heat therapy for whatever reason, then know that the issue will still resolve with time.

Urination

My pet has not urinated since coming home, should I be concerned?

Your pet may not urinate within the first 24 hours after coming home. Keep in mind that if water intake is decreased, urine production will be decreased. In some cases, female dogs will hold urine for up to 48 hours. DO NOT try to force elimination by taking your pet outside multiple times. Normal urination schedule will return within the first 72 hours.

Constipation

My pet has not had a bowel movement since coming home, should I be concerned?

  • Your pet may not have a bowel movement within the first 5-7 days following surgery. This is not uncommon and is NOT EMERGENT. Things that can help with constipation:
  • Soften kibble with warm low sodium chicken broth or warm water.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin to the food, twice a day. DO NOT use pumpkin pie filling because it has too much sugar—just plain canned pumpkin.
  • Get over the counter stool softener. The name of the medication is Docusate Sodium. The dose for dogs is 1 capsule every 12 hours. The dose for cats is ½ a capsule every 12 hours (squeeze half of one capsule and mix with food).

Appetite

My pet just had surgery today and is not interested in food, is this common?

Yes. We would expect the appetite to increase over the next 24-72 hours.

It’s the morning after surgery and my pet is still not eating. What steps should I take?

  • DO NOT introduce any medications that are directed to be given with food.
  • ALL PAIN MEDICATIONS must be given as pain will result in a decreased appetite.
  • You can add warm chicken broth to your pet’s normal kibble diet.
    • For dogs 🐶: you can offer unseasoned boiled chicken and rice. This type of bland diet will help if your pet’s tummy is upset. Make sure you don’t use any oils or spices.
    • For cats 🐱: you can offer baby food with protein in it, such as lamb, turkey, etc.
  • Giving excessive treats or any other type of table food can lead to an increase in stomach upset and SHOULD BE AVOIDED.
  • You can give Pepcid (Famotidine) once a day for 5 days.
    • If your pet is under 25 lbs the dose is 5mg once a day
    • If your pet is over 25 lbs the dose is 10mg once a day

Once appetite has returned to normal ALL medications can be resumed.

Vomiting

My pet is vomiting after surgery. Is this a concern? First, you need to determine whether this is a one-time event. Did your pet eat or drink too much or too fast and vomit as a result?

  • If yes, then you can feed and provide water in a more controlled manner.
  • If no:
    • Discontinue ALL medications with the exception of Gabapentin (for dogs) and Buprenex/Buprenorphine (for cats).
    • Withhold ALL food and water for 6-8 hours.
  • If vomiting resolves, then slowly re-introduce a bland diet:
    • For dogs, you can offer unseasoned boiled chicken and rice. This type of bland diet will help if your pet’s tummy is upset. Make sure you don’t use any oils or spices.
    • For cats, you can offer baby food with protein in it, such as lamb, turkey, etc.
      • You can give Pepcid (Famotidine) once a day for 2-5 days

      • If your pet is under 25 lbs the dose is 5mg once a day
      • If your pet is over 25 lbs the dose is 10mg once a day
  • If no more vomiting for a full 24 hours, you can reintroduce all medications and continue with bland diet for 7-14 days.
  • If vomiting continues, then notify the clinic immediately. If after hours, contact your regular vet or an emergency clinic.

Diarrhea

My pet is having bloody stool, what can I do?

  • Discontinue ALL medications.
  • Contact our clinic immediately. If after hours, weekends or holidays please take your pet to the nearest emergency clinic as
    soon as possible.

My pet is having soft stool/diarrhea, what should I do?

    • Make sure there is no blood present.
    • Discontinue ALL anti-inflammatory and Antibiotic medications. CONTINUE with ALL pain medication.
    • Begin a bland diet:
      • For dogs, you can offer unseasoned boiled chicken and rice. This type of bland diet will help if your pet’s tummy is upset. Make sure you don’t use any oils or spices.
      • For cats, you can offer baby food with protein in it, such as lamb, turkey, etc.
    • Add 1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin to the food, twice a day. DO NOT use pumpkin pie filling because it has too much sugar—just plain canned pumpkin.
    • Resume the antibiotic WHEN stool returns to normal. Give 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt twice a day for 3-5 days.
  • DO NOT resume the anti-inflammatory medication UNLESS DIRECTED TO DO SO.
  • If soft stool/diarrhea persists for more than 48 hours please follow up with our medical team. If we are not available please contact your primary veterinarian or take your pet to the emergency clinic.

Issues with splint or bandages

The splint got wet, does it need to be changed?

Yes! Failure to correct this within 24 hours may result in serious consequences. If we are closed, your pet needs to go to the emergency clinic.

The splint or bandages appear damaged, what can I do?

If within business hours please email us a clear, bright picture as soon as possible. Monday to Wednesday after 5pm: please email a picture as well. We will contact you upon retrieving your message. Thursday after 5pm, Friday to Sunday and Holidays please go to the emergency clinic.

What should I do if the splint has slipped?

If within business hours please email us a clear, bright picture as soon as possible. Please include the toes. Monday to Wednesday after 5pm: please email a picture as well. We will contact you upon retrieving your message. Thursday after 5pm, Friday to Sunday and Holidays please go to the emergency clinic.

Can I leave the plastic protector provided during discharge on all the time?

No. The bandages need to breathe. Please only use the protector when the patient is going outside or whenever dampness may be present.

Canine Rehabilitation

(Only for dogs that had knee or hip surgery)

Is formal rehab in the clinic necessary?

Formal rehab is an extremely important component of the final outcome of your pet’s surgery. It helps strengthen muscles, improve coordination and balance, decrease pain, and maintain good range of motion. Many pets will still recovery fully without formal rehab, albeit more slowly.

When does at-home exercises start?

The day after surgery.

How many repetitions should I do?

10-20 repetitions, 3-4 times a day. Not all dogs will tolerate these activities, so do not continue at-home exercises if these activities cause undue stress on your pet.

Miscellaneous

Can my pet wear a brace after knee surgery?

No. This is not recommended at all. It limits range of motion and does not allow the incision to breathe. A brace will also increase muscle atrophy.

When can my pet have a bath?

Our medical team will let you know when it’s safe to do so.

My pet is not drinking water, what can I offer?

Low sodium chicken broth is an excellent alternative.

Are follow up care costs included in the original estimate?

These are only included for some knee or hip surgeries. For those that don’t include the recovery period, rechecks are $10 and follow up x-rays are $42.50. (Prices subject to change.)

If you modify any of the instructions provided on surgery day without the approval of our surgical team, we are not responsible for any complications.