Orthopedic Postop Instructions

Discharge Instructions for Orthopedic Surgery

This is a list of some commonly asked questions after your pet has orthopedic surgery. The list is not exhaustive so if you have questions please call our office at 435-485-WOOF (435-485-9663).


Applying a cold compress to the incision may be beneficial for the first 5-7 days after surgery. The compress should be applied for 5-15 minutes, 2-4 times daily. You can use an ice pack from a pharmacy or make your own with crushed ice in a zip lock bag. Please use a thin cloth such as a tea towel placed between the cold compress and the incision. The cold compress should be placed gently over the incision.


Your dog should be on a leash at all times when outside, including the backyard, and he/she should not have free access to a dog door until told that he/she is healed. You should also use a short leash that keeps your pet by your side (do not walk on a retractable leash). 

Weeks 1-2: For the first two weeks after surgery, a 5-10 minute walk on a leash is acceptable. 

Weeks 3-4: If your pet is doing well, He/she can increase the duration of the controlled leash walk to 10-15 minutes on a leash.

Weeks 5-6: You may increase the duration of controlled leash walks to 15-20 minutes.


The incision should stay clean and dry. You do not need to apply anything to the incision. There may be some swelling, bruising, and redness. These signs should all improve over the first week. Discharge from an incision can be normal for 24-48 hours after a surgery. If there is a discharge after 24-48 hours you should contact our office.

Licking is NEVER OK. Licking is bad for the incision and will prevent healing, or worse, cause the incision to open up and expose the surgery site to infection. You should use an E-collar when your pet is unattended or at all times. 


Your pet may return to its normal diet. Some dogs may not want to eat as much as normal. As long as the appetite is improving over a couple of days you should not be concerned. In addition, they may not defecate for up to 3-4 days after surgery. If they are not having a bowel movement within a few days, a small amount of canned pumpkin on the food should be enough fiber to help them go to the bathroom.


Please do not bathe your pet until the doctor says that it is okay. Prior to being released back to normal activity, there is an increased risk of surgical setbacks or complications when the pet is seen by a groomer or is placed in a bathtub. You can use a waterless or dry shampoo if your pet needs a bath.


NSAIDs – These anti-inflammatory medications are the primary pain control we use postoperatively. Your pet will typically be on these for about 1-2 weeks. They may become a little more lame when the medication is stopped. The lameness should improve over 24-48 hours. Some commonly prescribed NSAIDs are carprofen (Rimadyl, Truprofen, Novox, Rovera), meloxicam, and Deramaxx.

Antibiotics – Your dog received injectable antibiotics during the anesthesia. In some cases, no further antibiotics are needed. In other cases, the doctor may choose to put your pet on antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics has been shown to lead to increased drug resistance. 

Sedation – Some dogs that are difficult to exercise restrict may benefit from sedation. We use trazodone to help with this. It will not completely sedate your pet. It generally decreases their energy mildly. If you do not think the dose is working or is starting to have less of an effect you can contact our office about increasing the dose. 


Some animals may benefit from physical therapy postoperatively. We will provide information on possible resources if you feel your pet needs more assistance in recovery.