Both of my little ones have had to recover from surgery. Baby Sadie had surgery for Gastroschisis during her first week of life and our puppy Wally was neutered this past week. I want to pass on a few things I learned that helped them cope while they were under the weather.
Since Sadie was premature, she was very easily overstimulated after surgery. It didn’t help that in the NICU there were a lot of monitors beeping all the time and nurses who would come in and out of the room. To help her sleep through the monitors and other hospital noises, I would keep the room as dark as possible, play soft music, hold her hand, and later on, hold her in my arms. I also practiced kangaroo care, where you hold the baby skin-to-skin, as often as possible. This helped us become very close and Sadie was always her most stable during this time. To help her get through nurse check-ins, I would make sure the nurse didn’t turn on the bright lights right away, I’d hold Sadie’s hand, talk softly to her, and if the nurse would let me, I would help perform the tasks necessary to check her vitals.
We also had someone from our family (whether it was me, my husband, or one of our parents who were in town) with Sadie at all times. Literally 24/7. I know not every family is fortunate enough to do this (whether it’s due to jobs, distance from the hospital, or the inability to have family come for long stretches of time) but I really believe it helped Sadie have the best care and develop strong bonds with her family. As a caveat, since I slept at the hospital every night and my husband was working in an office during the day, we rarely saw each other. This was very tough so it was important for us to plan time together both inside and outside the hospital. Typically, we’d eat dinner at home (while one of the grandparents stayed with Sadie) and then we would return to the hospital together for Sadie’s night-time routine. Having a baby in the hospital is already tough so making time to talk through everything with your spouse (or significant other) is crucial so you can support each other through that hardship.
Before Wally got neutered, one of our neighbors was nice enough to give us the plastic cone her male dog used after he was neutered. Once Wally had the procedure and came home, I saw firsthand why it is called the “cone of shame.”
Poor Wally ran into every wall, table, door, person – you name it. He could never get comfortable and couldn’t figure out how to pick up his toys. He was a little drama king. His dislike of the cone was so exaggerated even Sadie would giggle at him as he bumped around the apartment. Then, on his second day with the cone, he was running in the dog park, tripped, and the cone cracked. Our family went out later that day so Wally was left in his crate. When we returned home, we found he had chewed all the way up the crack and freed himself from the cone.
Wally still needed to heal and he loves to lick down there (lovely, right?) so we needed a new solution. I went to the pet store and at first I wanted to get a pillow collar but a sales rep told me that wouldn’t prevent him from reaching his stitches. They tried selling me a plastic cone but I just couldn’t subject Wally to that again. Then, I saw the ProCone. It is still a cone that attaches to the collar but the material is soft and durable, not plastic. It is a little expensive, but it is worth it! Wally is so much more comfortable and he can see and sleep better. Plus, most importantly, he still can’t reach his wound. I recommend getting the ProCone (or borrowing it from a friend) to help your puppy recover from a neuter or spay surgery and not feel miserable.