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The Horror, The Horror...What I Wish I'd Known Before My Dog's Surgery

Part 8 in the Dog Blog Series

By Linda Vandercook • July 25, 2018

It's as if it never happened, which is kind of how I prefer to think about it too.

After seeing our dog's lump steadily grow in size over the past few years, but knowing that it was not cancerous, we decided to have the lump removed anyway. We knew that it would eventually restrict his range of motion and/or he'd be too old to have the surgery. While we thought we were prepared for the post-operative care—taking time off work, asking the vet about the surgery and what to expect—we were, in fact, not prepared. Here are the things we should have done, asked, bought, practiced, and generally known beforehand:

  • Pick out and get to know your emergency vet in person and put the location in your phone or car's naigation
  • Post your regular vet's number and hours on your fridge
  • Train your dog on using a ramp to get in and out of your car
  • Practice putting a shirt on your dog that covers his incision snuggly but comfortably
  • Train your dog to wear booties so he can't scratch his staples
  • Get a great-fitting cone and an inflatable cone, so you can alternate based on the situation
  • Wash him, 'cause you can't wash him for weeks after the surgery and a scared dog gets extra smelly
  • Stock up on tasty treats to stuff his medication into
  • Save up extra cash so you don't have to stress about added vet bills
  • Ask lots of questions, not just from your vet, but from actual people who have had similar surgeries done to set your day-by-day expectations
    • "When I pick him up—what will he be feeling?"
    • "That first night, how will he fare?"
    • "What are signs of pain?"
    • "What are signs of bad reaction to the medication?"
    • "What is day 2 like, what is day 3 like..."
    • "When did you first feel that your dog was going to be OK?"
  • Last but not least, keep in mind that your reaction greatly affects your dog's reaction and recovery. I was scared, and I think I scared PL too.

For us, even arriving back home after the surgery was tough. PL was scared, still a bit drugged up, and we struggled getting him into the house. That first night, he was not comfortable, and he did not react well to the pain medication. We ended up calling around for an emergency vet in the early morning hours (after no one had been able to sleep all night, worrying) to take him to since no vets in our area does house calls and we had to call over a couple of friends with a gurney to transport our dog to the emergency vet. PL is not big, but 75 lbs of scared dog with a big incision on his side is not something you handle with anything but utmost care.

Now, three weeks after the surgery, the staples are gone and so is the pesky cone. PL, in true dog fashion, has forgotten all about it. He is happy, eager to play fetch in our backyard. It's as if it never happened, which is kind of how I prefer to think about it too.

In deference to the opening quote and for advice on how to care for your pooch, here are some great books to pick up:

In case you missed it, check out the previous installments of The Dog Blog series from Linda:

About the Author: Linda Vandercook is the Operations Program Manager at ThriftBooks. A software developer by trade, she joined Thrift Books in 2010. While supporting her husband's career in the military, she is also an avid animal advocate, volunteering at local shelters, and trying hard not to adopt every rabbit, cat, squirrel, dog, or other miscellaneous critter that shows up in her backyard.

Read more by Linda Vandercook

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