A bland diet includes foods that will be easy on your pet’s digestive system. During illness or recovery, your vet might recommend avoiding rich, fatty foods in favor of a bland diet to avoid digestive system upset. Cans of prescription gastrointestinal (GI) formula can be purchased at your vet for your convenience. A bland diet can also include plain boiled chicken or ground turkey (no fat, bones, or spices) with white rice (white rice is easier to digest than other varieties). Other options may include plain yogurt (beware of artificial sweeteners!), cottage cheese, tofu, and chicken or turkey flavored baby food. Plain, low sodium chicken broth (beware of added garlic or onions!) can also be a tasty, hydrating, and easy to digest option. When switching your pet back to their regular food, mix your pet’s food with the bland diet for several days to help them adjust.
If your pet has mucous in the lungs, your vet may ask you to coupage your pet at home to help loosen the mucus so that they can cough it out.
Coupage is percussion of the thorax to aid in the release and removal of secretions. Watch the video below to learn how to perform coupage on your dog.
If your pet has sutures or a drain they will eventually need to be removed by a veterinarian. We, at The Animal Emergency Center, recommend that you have these removed at your regular veterinarian so that they are involved and informed for follow-up care. On average, a drain should be removed within 3-5 days (when the draining is mostly or completely stopped) and sutures should be removed in 10-14 days. After a procedure at AEC, we will forward your pet’s records to the regular veterinarian listed in your file, and we recommend touching base with your vet’s office ASAP to schedule these follow-ups.
Remember also to keep drains and sutures safe and clean. Drains should not be covered with a bandage in order to allow for fluid to drain freely without obstruction. You can put a loose t-shirt on your pet to prevent the drain from dripping and making too much of a mess, as long as fluid is still able to drain out. A warm compress (damp washcloth) can be applied to the drain site 3 times a day if your pet will allow it. Be sure to keep this drain, as well as the sutures clean, and monitor for swelling, discharge, excessive bleeding, or a foul odor. Contact your veterinarian or AEC at 541-385-9110 if these symptoms occur. If the site needs to be cleaned, gently use a towel with warm water and unscented soap, but do not apply ointments or hydrogen peroxide.
If your pet is prescribed oral medication, they may not be as willing to take it as you had hoped. Hiding the pill in a tasty treat such as chicken, peanut butter, lunch meat, cheese, yogurt, or a pill pocket will ideally be enticing enough to make them ignore the medication inside. Some pills may need to be kept whole rather than crushed, so ask your vet what options are available for the medications prescribed. If they won’t take their medication on their own you may have to pill them by hand. Whether using your fingers or a pill popper this can be a frustrating and daunting task. Below is a tutorial to guide you through it.
Your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics to help your pet fight off an infection. Be sure to give these with food, as they may cause nausea. It is very important to complete an antibiotic regimen, and not just to stop when your pet seems better. Be sure to give your pet every pill as prescribed until the bottle is empty in order to prevent antibiotic resistance.
If your pet has an injury, they may be required to wear an Elizabethan collar otherwise known as a cone. There are several options for these collars and you may need to try out some options to find the best fit for your pet and their injury. Soft e-collars may be more comfortable but if pets are too persistent about irritating their injury, a hard e-collar might be necessary. Depending on where the injury is located, an inflatable e-collar could be your best option. A t-shirt or baby onesie (with a hole for the tail cut out) can also be helpful for protecting wounds on the back, chest, or abdomen. Socks can be helpful for protecting bandages on the feet. If these options seem overwhelming, ask your vet or a technician for advice on which type of cone might suit your pet’s needs best.
If your vet is concerned about your pet’s heart rate, they may ask you to monitor it regularly at home. Most people don’t have a stethoscope lying around at home but there are other ways to record a pulse. To determine your pet’s heart rate, put your hand to their chest and count how many pulses you feel in 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get the number of beats per minute. If you cannot feel a heart rate in the chest, you can take a femoral pulse by placing two fingers on the inside of your pet’s thigh, near where the legs join’s the body. A normal heart rate for dogs is 60-140 beats per minute, and for cats is 160-240 beats per minute. Click here for more tips on taking a pet’s heart rate.
If your vet is concerned about your pet’s temperature, they may ask you to monitor it regularly at home. For this, you will need a rectal thermometer with a flexible tip (we recommend a quick-reading one!)and an appropriate lubricant (petroleum jelly or medical lubricant). If your pet is not likely to cooperate, you may need a second person to help you hold them still. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). Some people and some pets maintain a baseline temperature a little above or below the average, but if your pet’s temperature rises above 104 degrees F or falls below 99 degrees F, contact a veterinarian. For more details about taking your pet’s temperature click here.
Making sure that an injured or sick pet takes it easy during their recovery can be a real challenge but is absolutely essential. Confining them to a single room or kennel may be the best option for some pets. During recovery periods, keep your cats indoors and limit your dog’s outside activity to leash walks only (even in the backyard) so they don’t overexert themselves. Reduce visitors and stressful situations while they recover.
Granted, your pet doesn’t always appreciate the need to relax and may need additional enrichment to keep their minds stimulated. Puzzle feeders are a handy and fun way to give your pets something to do, with the added bonus of reducing weight gain during sedentary recovery times. You can also leave a television or radio on low if your pet will be alone for extended periods. Click here for more ideas for post-surgery games and activities.
If your pet was sedated for a procedure they may still be feeling the effects of the sedatives drugs for the 24 hours following. They may not be ready to eat or drink right away after sedation so there’s no reason to worry if they are not eager for dinner. Sedation and anesthesia also decrease’s the motility of the digestive tract, and therefore your pet may not have a bowel movement for the next 24-48 hours (or longer if they had GI surgery). Allow your pet to take it easy while they recover and to sleep it off and be sure to keep them safe from stairs, decks, high furniture, pools, and anything else they may be able to fall off of or hurt themselves with while drowsy. If you have concerns about how your pet is acting after a procedure, call your regular vet or The Animal Emergency Center at 541-385-9110 for advice.
Whether diagnosing or monitoring a seizure disorder, it is extremely helpful to keep a log of these events. When your pet has a seizure, record as much information as you can, particularly the date and time, what the pet was doing at the time of the seizure, how long the seizure lasts, how long it takes for your pet to recover, and a description of the symptoms (ie. paddling legs, vomiting, urinating, collapse). It is also worth recording signs of a potential seizure that may have occurred while you were not home such as tousled blankets, vomit or urine, or items knocked over. Seizures can be very upsetting to witness, but it is extremely helpful in the diagnosis and management of seizure disorders to have as much information as possible and identify patterns.
You may notice on your take-home instructions that your vet has given you a range in the appropriate dosing of a pain med and has told you to give it “as needed”. What did they mean by this? If the medication is causing too much drowsiness you can give it on the low end prescribed and/or less often. If your pet seems particularly painful, you can give the medication on the high end and/or more often. As your pet heals, you may be able to wean your pet off of the medication, if they are no longer painful. How do you judge if your pet is painful?
Here are some common signs of pain in dogs:
- Decreased social interaction
- Anxious expression
- Submissive behavior
- Refusal to move
- Guarding behavior
- Aggression; biting
- Decreased appetite
- Self-mutilation (chewing)
- Changes in posture
Here are some common signs of pain in cats:
- Reduced activity
- Loss of appetite
- Quiet/loss of curiosity
- Changes in urinary/defecation habits
- Hissing or spitting
- Lack of agility/jumping
- Excessive licking/grooming
- Stiff posture/gait
- Guarding behavior
- Stops grooming/matted fur
- Tail flicking
- Weight loss
Of course, never exceed to prescribed dose or mix prescription drugs with other medications that have not been prescribed by the veterinarian.
Keep in mind that some animals are very good at hiding their pain. If you are unsure if your pet’s pain is well-managed call AEC or your regular vet with your concerns.