Dogs in recovery

Canines recovering from surgery offer humans valuable lessons about proper ways to heal. For example, we shouldn’t lick sutures. Not ours or theirs.

In the first 48 hours following his surgery to remove a fatty pad, Brisby, Nature’s Perfect Schnoodle, exhibited that remarkable stoicism common among dogs.

GIANT 1: “Do you think he’s comfortable? He looks comfortable.”

GIANT 2: “He should be, Dave. He’s nesting on our down duvet and a pile of your mother’s Irish linen.”

BRISBY: “Sorry to be a bother. I’m just gonna lie here quietly and pee myself a little. You’ll let me know if I’m dead, right?”

GIANT 2: “Maybe we should cover him with something lightweight?”

GIANT 1: “Like a handmade designer silk scarf! How late is Walgreens open?”

GIANT 2: “That’s ridiculous, Dave. Just go cut the lining out of my Armani jacket.”

BRISBY: “Could I please have another handful of goof balls and a glass of that cheap, red wine?”

At 11 years old, Brisby is our dog that breaks the most. And as with older dogs, it is increasingly difficult to find replacement parts for him. Brisby has had several benign fatty pads, or lipomas, which is Latin for “Costly”. However, one grew quickly and was located in a bad area – behind the old, abandoned warehouse down by the docks.

Removal was recommended by our veterinarian who has treated Brisby since he was a puppy. That is, since the dog was a puppy, not the doctor. Our vet is human, as near as medical science has been able to determine.

Although Brisby’s surgery was scheduled for 1 p.m., our vet had us bring him in at eight in the morning. Brisby spent the hours filling out complicated HIPAA forms and grumbling about his roommate, a gloomy Rottweiler with sleep apnea who complained constantly that his kids never visit.

Brisby’s surgery, on the hip of his rear driver’s side leg, went smoothly, our vet said. Limping on three legs, Brisby greeted us happily in the clinic’s lobby, then headed for the exit, glancing over his shoulder before confiding to his co-dog, Budleigh, “That guy’s nuts! Let’s get the hell outta here.”

Post-operative care for dogs differs for each pet. However, usually animals are discharged with an informative list of instructions, a recovery cone, and a satchel of drugs that would get them arrested at any airport. Probably by a trained sniffer dog.

Know what to expect as your pet recovers.

Your dog will be sleepy and lethargic for 12 to 24 hours after surgery. Then for another 10 to 15 years after that.

The latter has nothing to do with recovery. Dogs just really like to sleep. However, to promote proper healing of tissue it’s best to restrict your dog’s activity in the immediate days after surgery. To enforce rest, some dogs require confinement. Others are satisfied binge watching Netflix or, in rare cases, HBO. Avoid documentaries, especially about drug arrests at airports.

Dispensing post-op medications that the sniffer dog missed.

Pain meds and sedatives commonly are prescribed for dogs post operatively to help them rest. But be careful not to exceed recommended dosages. You don’t want a dog with a monkey on his back, entertaining as that might be. (See YouTube.)

If considering home remedies, discuss first with your veterinarian to determine their efficacy. Meditation, for example, might appear to balance your dog’s chakras, but honestly, she’s just asleep.

Caring for the surgical incision without throwing up.

While a “hands off” approach to the healing incision is best, keep it under close scrutiny so it doesn’t go all Walking Dead on you.

<strong>Hoping to better relate to their healing dogs, Giants ask, “Can you hear me now?”</strong>
Hoping to better relate to their healing dogs, Giants ask, “Can you hear me now?”
Left unsupervised, dogs will bite, scratch, and especially lick the incision. Licking, of course, is what dogs believe they were hired to do. In fact, dogs are nothing more than long tongues surrounded by a large, furry delivery system that also poops.

Preventing dogs from licking, and thereby infecting, the healing wound is the job of the humorously named “Cone of Shame.” Yet that and similar devices do more than protect cartoon dogs for later movie sequels. They also prevent your dog from seeing where he’s peeing, which adds another level of humor although not as funny as the dog-riding monkey.

Avoid other dogs. Especially if you own other dogs.

Sooner than later, your dog will want to get back to his important job of licking things. But he might not be ready, so limit his work. For example, encourage him to telecommute from home depending on the length of his tongue.

Unfortunately, another dog in the home can add disruptive urgency to the patient’s slow, steady recovery.

BUDLEIGH: “Brisby, let’s play tug-tug chase bite!”

BRISBY: “Who said that? Who’s there?”

BUDLEIGH: “It’s me! I’m behind your cone.”

BRISBY: “Budleigh! Where have you been all week?”

BUDLEIGH: “Behind your cone.”

BRISBY: “Oh! Sorry if I peed on you.”

BUDLEIGH: “We’re good. So, you want to run upstairs and under the bed and steal a sock and chew it until we throw up strings, then hunt outside and kill things smaller than us, then have a cookie?”

BRISBY: “Sure! Uh…do I have to get up?”

BUDLEIGH: “Brisby, all you do lately is sleep!”

BRISBY: “Meditate!”

BUDLEIGH: “Meditate. But I want to have fun!”

BRISBY: “Well, take two of these and a bowl of cheap, red wine. Then you can see my scar!”



14 thoughts on “Dogs in recovery

    1. Sadder still, Suzette, are dogs in cones trying to fit under beds where they usually sleep. Maybe it’s their limited depth perception or an unclear understanding of geometry. But it’s why so few dogs succeed as architects. dj

    1. Are you complimenting the column or describing me at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Either way, thanks, algteacher! dj

  1. So glad Brisby is recovering! And so glad your first 2018 post is as hilarious as ever. By the way, I’ve had several cones of shames—of the pistachio gelato variety—which have greatly contributed to the two big fatty pads I sit on.

    1. There are methods to dramatically reduce those big fatty pads, Lee, but none that involve pistachio gelato. So why bother? Thanks for reading when you could be eating gelato. dj

  2. Taking my fur-baby next month to be neutered and have dew-claws removed. The neuter is necessary, but I’ve agonized about the dew claws to the point where my friends are avoiding me. I’m already dreaming up the ways I will baby him when he comes home from his surgery and worrying about all the things that could go wrong. Thanks for helping me gain a little perspective!

    1. Oh Cara, fur-baby’s gonna be fine! But I sympathize. Like many terriers, Budleigh hates having his nails trimmed the way an organized crime figure hates riding with an unknown chauffeur. Once when our veterinarian tech took Budleigh in back, I swear I could hear him whimpering. Turned out that was a Spaniel mix in the hall demanding treats from the receptionist. Budleigh exited later, chipper, cocky, and demanding some of those treats he’d heard so much about.

      Fur-baby will have a great recovery. But your peanut butter jar will never be the same. dj

  3. Such an enjoyable read, especially while my Jake is healing from his leg surgery. His Giant, not being as good as your dog’s, was suckered into believing that the Cone of Shame was preventing Jake from his med school graduation. Cone removed, under direct supervision, Jake proved he could remove sutures quickly but not so effectively. A two week stay in the cone is now a 4 week! Love your column/blog!

    1. Thank you, Debra. Our best to Jake for a speedy recovery. Please give him a nice, long scratch for us. Ideally not near the sutures.

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