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How to Care for Your Cat After Orthopedic Surgery

There are a few things you can do at home to help your cat get back to normal as soon as possible after surgery. Our Knightdale veterinarians offer tips and advice on how to help your cat recover from surgery.

Follow Post-Op Instructions

Leading up to and following your cat's surgery, you're likely feeling some anxiety. That said, understanding how to care for your feline friend after they come home is critical to helping your pet return to their regular routine as quickly as possible. 

After your cat's surgery, you'll receive clear and detailed instructions from your vet about how to care for your kitty as they recover at home. It's imperative that you carefully follow these instructions.

If you have any questions about any of the steps, contact your veterinarian for clarification. Don't be afraid to call and ask questions if you return home and realize you've misunderstood something about your cat's aftercare.

Recovery Times for Pets After Surgery

Orthopedic surgeries (which involve ligaments, bones, and other skeletal structures) take much longer to heal than other types of surgeries. Approximately 80% of your cat's recovery will take place between 8 and 12 weeks after surgery. Orthopedic surgery, on the other hand, typically takes 6 months or longer to fully recover.

Today, our Knightdale vets will share a few tips to help keep your cat comfortable and content as they recover at home. 

Recuperating from Effects of General Anesthetic 

A general anesthetic is used during surgical procedures to render your cat unconscious and to keep them from feeling any pain during the procedure. However, it can take some time for the effects of anesthesia to wear off after the procedure is complete. 

Temporary shakiness on their feet or sleepiness is a common side effect of general anesthetics. These side effects are normal and should go away after some time. In cats recovering from anesthesia, a temporary loss of appetite is also a common side effect.

Diet & Feeding Your Cat After Surgery

Because of the effects of a general anesthetic, your cat will likely feel slightly nauseated and will lose some of its appetite after a surgical procedure. When feeding them after surgery, try for something small and light, such as chicken or fish. You can also give them their regular food, but ensure that you only provide them with a quarter of their usual portion. 

It's normal for your cat to stop eating after surgery, so keep an eye on them. Approximately 24 hours after surgery, your cat's appetite should return. After that, your pet can gradually resume eating their regular food. Contact your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon if your pet's appetite hasn't returned after 48 hours. Appetite loss can indicate an infection or pain.

Pet Pain Management

Before you and your cat return home after their surgery, a veterinary professional will explain to you what pain relievers or other medications they have prescribed for your pet so you can manage your cat's post-operative pain or discomfort. 

They will explain the dosage, how often the medication should be given, and how to safely administer the medication. To avoid unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects, make sure to carefully follow these instructions. Ask follow-up questions if you have any doubts about the instructions.

Vets will often prescribe antibiotics and pain medications after surgery in order to prevent infections and relieve discomfort. If your cat has anxiety or is somewhat high-strung, our vets may also prescribe them a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help them stay calm throughout the healing process.

Never provide your cat with human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many drugs that help us feel better are toxic to our four-legged friends.

Keeping Your Cat Comfortable At Home

It's critical to provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place to rest while he or she is recovering from surgery, away from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Providing your kitty with a comfortable and soft bed, as well as plenty of space to spread out, will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.

How to Keep Your Cat From Jumping After Surgery

Following surgery, your veterinarian will most likely advise you to restrict your pet's movement for a period of time (usually a week). Sudden jumping or stretching can sabotage the healing process and even cause the incision to reopen, especially after fracture repairs or other types of orthopedic surgeries that require rest.

For the duration of your cat's recovery period, you can place them in a smaller area of the house and remove furniture that they may want to jump onto. 

Thankfully, few procedures require a significant crate or cage rest to help your cat recover, and most outdoor cats will be able to cope well with staying indoors for a few days as they recover.

Helping Your Cat Cope With Crate Rest

While most surgeries won't require crate rest for your cat, if they underwent orthopedic surgery, part of our recovery will involve a strict limit on their movements. 

If your vet prescribes your cat with crate rest after their surgery, there are some measures you can take to make sure they are as comfortable as possible spending long periods of time confined. 

Make sure your pet's crate is big enough for him or her to stand up and turn around in. If your cat wears a plastic cone or an e-collar to prevent licking, you may need to upgrade to a larger crate. Don't forget to leave enough space for your cat's water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and unpleasant place to spend time, as well as cause wet and soiled bandages.

Cage rest can be difficult for cats and boredom may set in. Ask your vet whether limited periods outside the cage for gentle play and interaction are possible. 

For cats that must be on extended cage rest, feeding enrichment can help relieve boredom. 

Stitches & Bandages

Stitches that have been placed on the inside of your pet's incision will dissolve as the incision heals.

If your cat has stitches or staples on the outside of their incision, your vet will need to remove them around 2 weeks after the procedure. Your vet will let you know what kind of stitches were used to close your pet's incision and about any follow-up care they will require. 

Ensuring bandages are dry at all times is another critical step to helping your pet’s surgical site heal quickly.

If your pet goes outside, cover the bandages with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. Remove the plastic covering when your pet returns inside, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, resulting in infection.

The Incision Site

Stopping your cat from scratching, chewing, or messing around with the site of your surgical incision can be difficult for cat parents. To keep your pet from licking their wound, use a cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions).

Many cats adapt to the collar quickly, but if your pet is struggling to adjust, other options are available. Ask your veterinarian about less cumbersome products such as post-op medical pet shirts or donut-style collars.

Attend Your Cat's Follow-Up Appointment 

At your follow-up appointment, your vet will check in on your cat's recovery, look for signs of infection, and changes your cat's bandages. 

Our veterinary team at Smithfield Road Veterinary Hospital, PLLC has been trained to dress surgical sites and wounds correctly. Bringing your cat to our veterinary hospital for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen — and for us to help ensure your cat's healing is on track. We will also address any questions or concerns you may have. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat scheduled to undergo surgery at Smithfield Road Veterinary Hospital, PLLCContact our Knightdale veterinary team to learn more about how you can prepare for your kitty's aftercare.

New Patients Are Welcome

Smithfield Road Veterinary Hospital, PLLC is currently accepting new patients! Our experienced and kind vets are passionate about the health of Knightdale pets. Contact us today to book your furry friend's first appointment.

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