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Post operative cat care

Operations are a trauma for the body, especially in older or less healthy patients no matter how bright or bouncy the animal may look on the outside! After an operation involving sedation or general anaesthetic, the following should be observed:

Diet

  • Following a procedure done under sedation or general anaesthetic, a bland cat meat should be fed for the next three meals.

  • Tinned supermeat in chicken and fish flavours will be higher in protein which promotes faster wound healing. It is easily digestible as gut motility (i.e. the passage of food moving through the digestive system) slows down throughout the pre-operation starvation and anaesthetic process.

  • Avoid the tinned jelly and gravy products as these will be too rich and may cause diarrhoea.

Buster collars

A Buster collar or Elizabethan collar is a protective veterinary device shaped like a cone; its purpose is to prevent your cat from biting, licking or scratching at its wounds or injuries whilst they are healing.

  • Always apply a buster collar if there is the possibility of, or signs that your cat is interfering with the wound or causing self­­-trauma.

  • The collar should be short enough to let your cat eat and drink and most pets adjust to them quite well, if your cat won't eat or drink with the collar in place the collar can be temporarily removed for meals.

  • A buster collar is there for a purpose, just a few minutes of self-trauma to a freshly healing wound can cause several more days of recovery time after an operation. If your cat has tried to relieve irritation once by licking or chewing, then they are likely to do so again if the collar comes off.

Incision wound

  • Observe for excessive swelling or ooze/discharge from the wound.

  • Keep the wound clean.

  • Reaction to the suture material can cause a small amount of swelling and give the wound the appearance of being puckered. This should resolve in a day or so.

  • Being able to lick or chew at the wound will aggravate the healing and cause further swelling, inflammation and the possibility of infection (see buster collars).

Stitches or sutures

  • cat post op careObserve for licking or chewing at external stitches.

  • Most of the sutures placed are underneath the skin layer and the material used is dissolvable.

  • Non-dissolvable external suture material will be removed by your vet about 10 days after the operation.

  • Having stitches in can sometimes be irritating for cats and their natural reaction is to try to scratch or chew them out (see buster collars).

Access to outdoors and exercise

  • Keep your cat indoors after an anaesthetic as coordination and the ability to control the body temperature might be reduced. Speak to your vet about when it’s safe for your cat to go outside again.

  • In cases of fracture repairs or surgery performed on or around a joint it is vital that exercise is restricted. This usually means strict cage rest - your vet will advise you on this.

  • Walking and jumping around in the days following surgical procedures may put excessive pressure on a recently closed wound, potentially delaying healing time or even wound breakdown. If the restricted exercise time period is cut short, this can also cause problems as partly healed tissue can then break down, re-opening the wound.

Bandages

  • Keep clean and dry at all times.

  • Temporary bandages placed after an operation, should be removed after 48 hours at your veterinary practice.

  • Larger immobilising leg bandages used in the cases of fractures (known as Robert Jones bandage) are placed so that your cat can still walk. However, this should be checked regularly, especially if on a front leg and being used in a litter tray! Even if just the end tip of the bandage becomes wet, the whole thing will have to be changed, a long process which is expensive; and uncomfortable and frustrating for your cat.

Coughing

  • Any animal undergoing a full general anaesthetic will have an endo-tracheal tube passed down their throat. Placement and removal may cause irritation to the trachea leading to a slight cough for a day or so after the procedure.

  • Observe for minor coughing in the first few days after an operation or investigative procedure.

  • Any minor coughs or phlegm production should still be reported to your veterinary surgery.

Mouth (post-dental)

  • Observe for soreness of gums, signs of discomfort, difficulty eating, and lack of appetite or excessive drooling.

  • It is to be expected that initially, extraction sites will be red and inflamed but this should resolve within five to seven days. During this time, ensure that your cat is not having difficulty eating his usual diet; in some cases, soft mashed food should be offered if your cat is too uncomfortable to eat dry biscuits.

Castrations

  • You will probably see some redness, swelling and bruising around the scrotum and incision wound(s) after the operation. The scrotum will not shrink as soon as the testicles are removed, it will take time to reduce in size.

  • Observe for excessive, dark purple bruising or hardened swelling.

  • In a routine cat castration, it is standard procedure to allow the incision wounds to heal by themselves.

If you have any concerns regarding post-operative care, contact your vet immediately.

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