Pet Surgery Recovery
After surgery or serious illness, nutrition plays a major role in your dog recovering. The right diet will help your dog feel better faster while giving muscles and tissues the support they need to return to a healthy state. It’s normal for your dog to eat very little during the first few days of recovery, but if his appetite doesn’t return, contact your veterinarian.
Protein is necessary for building and repairing muscle and tissue. After surgery or illness, your dog needs extra protein to help with the repair process and to enhance his immune system. While fat gives a dog’s body energy for healing, fatty meats can cause stomach upset; so offer lean meats that contain only small amounts of fat. Recommended protein sources include chicken, turkey, eggs, lean ground beef and cottage cheese. All meat should be cooked, preferably by boiling, and diced into small pieces to make it easy to digest.
Complex carbohydrates give your dog’s body the energy it needs to make repairs, whether muscles are knitting back together after internal surgery or stomach lining is thickening after a bout with parvovirus. Good sources of carbohydrates that are gentle on your dog’s digestive system are cooked rice, pasta and potato. White rice is generally preferred over brown rice because it is easier for your dog to digest. Any type of pasta is suitable; potatoes may be white, yellow or sweet, but they should be boiled and not fried, and not raw.
Add a teaspoon of yogurt to each meal as a source of both protein and probiotics, which improve digestion. Check with your veterinarian before adding yogurt to meals for your recovering dog, however, since dairy products can give some dogs diarrhea and may not be worth the risk if your dog has been suffering from vomiting or loose bowels.
At the start of a bland diet geared for recovery from illness or surgery, the ratio of protein to carbohydrates should be 1 to 1. In other words, serve equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates. After about the first week, if your dog is getting better and has not had any problems with diarrhea or vomiting, gradually start increasing the amount of carbohydrates each day until the meals consist of approximately two parts carbohydrates to one part protein.
Soon after the surgery, the body is looking for the building blocks needed to repair the damage and make new tissue. All this building activity is managed through complex biochemical processes which take up a lot of energy so it makes good sense that the body will need more than the ‘normal’ nutrition to make this happen.
Research shows that the body heals faster after surgery if provided with extra nutrition. The most important nutrients needed for tissue repair and rebuilding are Protein and Fat.
Feeding Your Dog After Surgery
With this in mind, a maintenance diet is not the best choice at this time. Look for a food which has both a higher fat and protein content and if in doubt about a commercially prepared pet food – make your own.
An excellent source of easily digestible protein and fat of course is the humble egg. Depending on your dog’s weight you can easily supplement the diet by adding an egg or two on a daily basis for a couple of weeks post surgery.
Adding some Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids can also be beneficial to help support the immune system, fight infection, reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair.
A recovery diet is distinctive from the normal canine diet for a wide variety of reasons, and it serves various different purposes. First of all it needs to be palatable to the dog, who may have a suppressed appetite or need extra encouragement to eat after a bout of sickness, and so recovery diets are designed to attract your dog to their food and get them eating again.
On top of this, the food must also be mild and bland enough that it will not upset the digestive system or potentially exacerbate the original condition that the dog was treated for, which means ruling out some of the most fragrant and appealing foods that dogs often beg for!
The diet must also support the body in its recovery from the illness or condition as well, which means ensuring that the food itself contains all of the essential nutrients and vitamins required to support health and boost healing, plus the right balance of protein, carbohydrates etc. Finally, the diet must contain enough calories to support the dog and boost their recovery, without providing too many calories for dogs that are subdued or unable to move around too much as a result of their illness or treatment.
Dogs who are fighting their way through a critical illness, have had extensive surgery, or have sustained a major injury need calories and nutrients to recover optimally. When nutritional needs are not met, dogs enter into a negative energy state and begin to lose lean body mass in the form of protein from muscle tissue. This is because sick
animals cannot make the adaptive responses necessary to utilize fat for energy like healthy animals do. This negative energy balance can also result in digestive tract dysfunction, organ dysfunction, poor immunity, poor wound healing, and possibly death.