If your cat has undergone soft tissue surgery then you will need to follow a set of instructions to help your pet heal as quickly and safely as possible. Here, our St. Louis veterinary surgeons share some tips to help with caring for your cat as they recover from small animal soft tissue surgery.
Follow the Care Instructions Provided by Your Soft Tissue Veterinary Surgeon
When your feline friend has to go into soft tissue surgery, it can be very nerve-wracking. Luckily, with the following information, you can be prepared and ease your mind.
After your cat's soft tissue surgery, the veterinary surgeon will provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for your cat and their incision. If there are any steps you are unsure about, be sure to follow up with your soft tissue veterinary surgeon for clarification. If you need any clarification at any point after your cat's surgery, please don't hesitate to reach out to your vet.
You Will Need to Take Precautions to Prevent Your Cat From Jumping
For the first week after your cat's soft tissue surgery, you will need to keep them from being overactive or playing in order to prevent injury or complications. Any sudden movement can cause the wound to reopen and result in pain and the need for a secondary vet visit.
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. Here are some ways that you can help keep your cat calm and prevent injury:
- Remove Any Cat Trees
- Don't Let Your Cat Outside
- Keep Your Cat From Socializing
- Allow Your Cat to Recover in a Calm Home
- Use a Crate if Necessary
- Monitor Your Cat at All Times
What should you do if your cat won't eat after soft tissue surgery?
Your cat will likely have had general anesthesia with their surgery and so it will be entirely normal for them to feel nauseous and have a reduced appetite for a period of time afterward. Once you do begin to feed them after soft tissue surgery, try 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.
You can expect your cat's appetite to return within about 24 hours post-surgery. At that point, your pet can gradually start to eat their regular food again. If you find that your pet’s appetite hasn’t returned within 48 hours, contact your veterinarian or soft tissue veterinary surgeon in St. Louis. In these prolonged cases, loss of appetite can be a sign of infection or pain.
What are some ways that you can manage your pet's pain?
when it is time for your cat to go home, the veterinary surgeon will offer some information about what to expect during recovery and provide a list of instructions as well as prescriptions for pain medication.
The vet will provide you with all of the detail regarding dosages and how long they should be taking the medications. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary pain during recovery and to eliminate the risk of side effects. If there are any unclear instructions then you should've sure to ask for clarification.
Soft tissue veterinary surgeons will often prescribe antibiotics and pain medications after soft tissue surgery 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.
DO NOT under any circumstances give your cat any human medications. These may cause irreparable harm or even death.
How to keep your cat comfortable while they recover?
After small animal soft tissue surgery, it's key to provide your cat with a comfortable and quiet place to rest, well apart from the hustle and bustle of your home, including other pets and children. Setting up a comfortable and soft bed for your kitty and giving them lots of room to spread out will help prevent excessive pressure on any one part of their body.
Offering a Crate as a Safe Place to Rest
While most surgeries won't require crate rest for your cat if they underwent orthopedic soft tissue surgery, part of our recovery will involve a strict limit on their movements. If your soft tissue veterinary surgeon prescribes your cat with crate rest after their soft tissue surgery, there are some measures you can take to make sure they are as comfortable as possible spending long periods confined.
The crate should provide your feline friend with enough room to comfortably move around and change positions. You may need to purchase a larger crate if your cat has a plastic cone or e-collar to prevent licking. Don’t forget to make sure that your kitty has plenty of room for its water and food dishes. Spills can make your pet's crate a wet and uncomfortable place to spend time and cause bandages to become wet and soiled.
Cleaning & Changing Your Cat's 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 approximately 2 weeks after the procedure. Your soft tissue veterinary surgeon 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 an essential step in helping your cat's incision heal quickly.
If your kitty walks around or goes outside, ensure the bandages are covered with cling wrap or a plastic bag to prevent wet grass or dampness from getting between the bandage and their skin. When your pet returns inside, remove the plastic covering, as leaving it on may cause sweat to build up under the bandage, leading to infection.
Care For the Wound Left By Soft Tissue Surgery
Cat owners often find it challenging to stop their feline friend from scratching, chewing, or messing around with their surgical incision. A cone-shaped plastic Elizabethan collar (available in both soft and hard versions) is an effective option to prevent your pet from licking their wound.
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.
Signs of Complications after Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery
- Lethargy for more than a couple of days.
- Refusal to eat more than a couple of meals.
- Signs of pain for longer than a week (shaking, hiding, drooling).
- Acute redness, swelling or bruising at the incision site.
- Bleeding or pus from the incision site.
- Vomiting or diarrhea longer than 24 hours after the procedure.
- The incision site reopens.
- A bad smell coming from the incision site.
How long does recovery take after soft tissue surgery?
Our veterinary team finds that most often, any pet will recover from a soft tissue surgery like abdominal surgery or reproductive surgeries like c-sections or spays and neuters will be mostly healed within two or three weeks.
For orthopedic surgeries, those involving bones, ligaments, and other skeletal structures, recovery takes much longer. About 80% of your cat's recovery will occur about 8 to 12 weeks after soft tissue surgery, but many orthopedic surgeries take 6 months or more to complete and recover.
Here are a few tips from our soft tissue veterinary surgeons in St. Louis to help you keep your cat contented and comfortable as they recover at home:
How can you help your pet recover from anesthesia?
We use general anesthetics during our surgical procedures in order to render your pet unconscious and to prevent them from feeling any pain during the operation. However, it can take some time for the effects to wear off after the procedure is completed.
Effects of general anesthetic may include temporary sleepiness or shakiness on their feet. These after-effects are quite normal and should fade with rest. A temporary lack of appetite is also quite common in cats who are recovering from the effects of general anesthesia.
Is it important to bring your cat to the follow-up appointment?
Your cat's follow-up appointment gives your vet an opportunity to monitor your kitty's recovery, check for signs of infection, and properly change your cat's bandages.
The veterinary team in St. Louis has been trained to correctly dress wounds. Bringing your pet in for their follow-up appointment allows this process to happen - and for us to help keep your pet’s healing on track.
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.