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J.C. Hardin, DVM
As in humans, complications can occur during or after any anesthesia and surgery event. It is the owner's responsibility to be sure their pet does not chew or scratch at the surgery site during the healing process. Purchase an Elizabethan collar (appropriately sized) and/or use Bitter Orange gel around the incision site to deter licking and chewing. In addition, monitor your pet closely to be sure he or she is not bothering the surgery site. A second surgery at the owner's expense will be needed if a pet chews or scratches out a penrose drain, or chews or scratches open an incision site. Life threatening evisceration can occur if an abdominal incision is opened prior to healing. You must return immediately or take your pet to the emergency room (865-1418) if your pet opens up an incision site or pulls out a drain. Watch for swelling or discharge at the surgery site and have your pet rechecked without delay if a problem is seen. Pets may be drowsy or vomit after anesthesia and surgery. Keep pets away from children and other pets until healing is complete. Despite pain control, pets will experience some discomfort and may act aggressively as a result. Take care when handling any pet after surgery to prevent personal injury. Use a muzzle temporarily during handling if in doubt about how your pet will react to being handled. It is very important that you keep your pet indoors after surgery until complete healing has occurred. Surgery site contamination and maggot infestation may occur if the patient is not kept indoors. For dogs, generally short leash walks outdoors for 'bathroom business' are okay as long as the incision site and bandages (if any) do not get wet or dirty. Never give Tylenol or ibuprofen to pets in an attempt to help control their pain. These are not safe for pets. Only give pain medications as prescribed or advised by your veterinarian. If antibiotics were dispensed, be sure not to miss any doses. Generally, do not apply any creams or ointments to incisions unless advised to do so by your doctor. Rarely, blood clots can form and migrate after surgery. This can result in sudden debilitation or death, similar to 'strokes' in humans. Seromas (fluid pockets) sometimes develop under the skin. These may drip a pinkish or reddish fluid through the incision line. Drainage one or several times may be needed before these resolve. Coughing may occur after surgery due to the use of an endotracheal tube during anesthesia. Patients prone to collapsing trachea may experience clinical episodes (respiratory distress) after being intubated. Ideally, do not allow pressure on the throat (from a leash, etc.) for one week in any patient that has been intubated. In most cases, drains should be removed about four days after surgery and sutures or staples removed no fewer than ten days after surgery. Disregard this if your doctor has provided different written instructions that are specific for your pet. Please have drain/suture/staple removals performed at a veterinary office rather than trying to do these yourself. It is a good idea to purchase a flexible tipped, digital thermometer to use for your pet(s). Lubricate the tip with petroleum or KY -type jelly prior to rectal insertion. If your pet's temperature is below 99 or over 103 degrees, have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Please have your pet rechecked without delay if you have any concerns about symptoms he or she is displaying.