When my dog Harper had open-heart surgery in May, she was feeling pretty good just a week later, but we were under orders from the surgeon to keep her quiet for the next 90 days. That wasn’t easy. Baby gates, steps to the furniture and closed doors became the rule in our home.
We carried Harper up and down the stairs multiple times a day and lifted her onto the bed at night so we didn’t have to worry that she would try to jump up on her own while we were sleeping. She looked disappointed every time we left the house to go on a walk and didn’t take her along. And nothing could stop her from twirling and dancing at mealtime.
Ensuring that a pet rests for weeks or sometimes months after surgery or medical treatment, such as medication injections for heartworm disease, can be a trial for dog and cat owners. Not only is it impossible to explain to a pet why she can’t run and jump the way she does normally, it’s also a challenge to prevent her from overcoming barriers. Nonetheless, it’s a must to ensure a safe and effective recovery.
Reining in a pet’s activity level calls for creativity and strict supervision. Here’s how to survive, whether your dog or cat must be confined for three days or three months.
Baby gates and exercise pens are your friends. Whether his Jack Russell terriers are recovering from knee surgery, eye injuries or bite wounds, Patrick Burns keeps them indoors, confined to a crate surrounded by an exercise pen. The dogs can relieve themselves in the ex-pen and then they are put right back in the crate.
For cats, a double show cage is a good choice, says Lorraine Shelton, who breeds Selkirk Rex and Norwegian Forest cats. She likes the double SturdiShelter Pop-Up, which is secure, easy to clean and has good visibility. It’s just the right size for a cat or a small dog.
▪ Tether your pet. Keeping him on leash and always at my side was the best way to keep my former foster dog Kibo quiet after his injections for heartworm disease. The drug causes the worms to die and disintegrate, so dogs must remain inactive during the three-month treatment period to ensure that no potentially fatal blockage occurs in the pulmonary vessels.
▪ Close doors. Harper usually spends her day napping beneath my desk. It was easy to forget she has definite ideas about when bedtime should be. We would go look for her, only to find that she had already jumped on the bed on her own. We had to start keeping the bedroom door closed all the time.
▪ Use pet steps to furniture. We placed steps at one end of the sofa and blocked the rest of it with an ex-pen so that Harper could only use the steps to get on it. That worked until she noticed she could jump from the side at the other end. We put an end to that by blocking it with the plastic lid of a storage container.
▪ Ban boredom. Work on touch games such as learning to touch your hand or a target stick with his nose, or teach skills such as “watch me” that don’t require any activity. Feed meals inside the crate. To keep your pet’s brain busy while he’s confined, put food in an enrichment toy so he has to do a little thinking to get at it.
▪ Be patient! Before you know it, your dog or cat will be ready for action again.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Kim Campbell Thornton, affiliated with Vetstreet.com.