December 11, 2019 Responsible Pet Ownership

How to be Your Pet’s Best Nurse

A pug is wrapped up in a blanket on a bed

How to be Your Pet’s Best Nurse

Anyone who has a pet is likely to be pressed into service as their nurse. Whether it’s recovery from your puppy or kitten’s neutering surgery, administration of antibiotics to treat an infection or management of a bandage applied to protect a fracture or other traumatic injury, most pet owners become healthcare providers at some time during their pet’s life. This blogpost will give some suggestions to help you to excel at being your pet’s Florence Nightingale!

Managing a Surgical Incision

Managing a surgical incision is one of the more common nursing skills pet owners must acquire. For most, this is a high stress activity due to concern for your injured pet and worry over what happens if a suture comes undone. The concern over an undone suture is understandable, but often unfounded. Most incisions are multilayered. If a suture comes out, your pet’s insides will not spill out onto the floor thanks to the underlying suture layers. However, the multilayered closure does not give your pet permission to lick at the incision because of a risk of causing an incisional infection.  Either a cone (heavens no) or a surgical recovery suit (too cute) are needed to protect the incision. Be sure to follow the post-op instructions from your veterinarian to the T. If you have questions about the appearance of the incision, consider sending a photo to your veterinarian’s office for evaluation.

Restricting Activity

In addition to managing the incision, you’ll need to limit your pet’s activity to facilitate recovery. If you don’t have a small room such as a bathroom that can serve as a recovery suite, consider a pen or crate. Your dog should have room for a water bowl, bed and enough room left over to turn around and change positions. A cat should have enough room for a litterbox, bed, water bowl and space to stretch their legs. Pens need to be tall enough to prevent your pet from jumping out. For a young, energetic patient, you may need to ask your veterinarian for a medication to pharmacologically facilitate confinement.

Monitoring Breathing

During an illness, you pet’s breathing pattern may not be normal. Medications, fever or pain may increase panting. Heart failure and pneumonia will increase respiratory rate. As part of your nursing duties, count your pet’s respirations. One inhale plus one exhale equals one breath. A series of studies by European veterinarians determined more than 30 breaths per minute in a resting dog or cat should be cause for concern and possibly a trip to the animal ER.

Keeping Your Own Medical Records

If your pet is recovering from a serious illness, chances are the medication list is long. The diligent nurse keeps accurate records to ensure medication compliance. Create a chart to help you and the rest of the family keep on schedule. Here is a quick example of the type of chart I recommend to my clients.