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5 (More) Tips for Post-Op Care

Posted October 25, 2013 in Dog Surgery A-Z

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Surgery and anesthesia are not exact sciences. Even the most common surgery can lead to unanticipated problems. Following your vet’s recommendations for pet care after surgery is important to improve our chances of a happy ending.  This should at least ensure that we avoid preventable complications.

As promised in our first installment, here are five more tips to ensure a successful outcome after your pet’s surgery.

6. Elimination
Make sure you are available to take your dog outside, especially if they need to be walked with a sling. If your cat is confined, you may need to purchase another litter box specifically for this one kitty.

7. Medications
After surgery, your pet will typically go home with pain medications and antibiotics. It is important to finish all medications.  They will keep your pet comfortable and help avoid infections. Pets, by nature, are good at hiding their pain.  So just because your pet does not seem painful, please think of how much pain you or a friend were in after a major abdominal, orthopedic or dental procedure. 

8. Food
Your vet may recommend a special food depending on your pet’s needs.  For example, there are diets designed to prevent bladder stones from coming back.  Others are designed to lose or maintain weight. Nutrition is very important for proper healing after surgery. Your pet should be eased slowly into that new food in order to improve acceptance and to decrease the risk of diarrhea.

Vets often recommend a 10 day transition. What does this mean?

Day 1: Feed 100% of the current food and 0% of the new food.
Day 2: Feed 90% of the current food and 10% of the new food.
Day 3: Feed 80% of the current food and 20% of the new food.

Continue this pattern so that after 10 days your pet only eats the new food.

Even if your pet is has an ideal weight, I often suggest decreasing the amount of food by 25% to prevent weight gain during confinement. Otherwise, eating the same amount of food while being confined, i.e. while needing fewer calories, will lead to weight gain.

9. Rehabilitation
Depending on the type of orthopedic surgery, your vet may recommend a physical therapy protocol.  In its simplest form, this involves putting a joint through a full

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at