Soft Tissue Surgery For Pets: What To Expect After Surgery

Soft tissue surgery is a common procedure performed on pets and can be necessary for various reasons – from removing tumors to repairing wounds. This article aims to provide you with essential information on soft tissue surgery for pets, discussing what happens during the procedure, how to care for your pet after surgery, and what potential complications may arise.

Soft tissue surgery encompasses a wide range of procedures that involve the skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Some common examples of soft tissue surgery for dogs include mass removals, hernia repairs, and wound repairs. In cats, similar procedures may be performed, along with declawing surgeries. Regardless of the reason for your pet's soft tissue surgery, it's crucial to understand what to expect after surgery to ensure a successful recovery.

The following sections will delve deeper into the process of soft tissue surgery, providing valuable insights into post-operative care, pain management, and potential risks. By understanding these aspects, you'll be better equipped to support your pet's recovery journey.

What Happens During Soft Tissue Surgery?

Before your pet undergoes soft tissue surgery, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and may recommend diagnostic tests such as blood work, X-rays, or ultrasounds to assess your pet's overall health and determine if they are a suitable candidate for surgery. This is an essential step in minimizing any risks associated with surgery.

Once your pet is deemed fit for surgery, they will be placed under general anesthesia. This ensures your pet remains unconscious and pain-free throughout the procedure. The surgical site will be prepared by clipping the fur and cleaning the skin with antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection. The surgery itself will vary depending on the specific procedure being performed.

During the surgery, your veterinarian will use specialized instruments and techniques to perform the necessary procedure. This may involve removing a mass, repairing a wound or hernia, or addressing any other soft tissue issue. Once the procedure is complete, the incision will be closed using sutures, staples, or skin glue, depending on the location and size of the incision.

Post-operative Care for Pets After Soft Tissue Surgery

Immediately after surgery

Once the surgery is complete, your pet will be closely monitored as they recover from anesthesia. This process may take several hours, and your pet may be groggy, disoriented, or unsteady on their feet during this time. It's essential to be patient and provide a calm, quiet environment for your pet as they wake up.

Your veterinarian will provide you with specific instructions for post-operative care, which may include:

  • Administering prescribed medications for pain relief and infection prevention

  • Restricting your pet's activity and movement to promote healing

  • Monitoring the surgical site for signs of infection or complications

  • Providing a comfortable and clean space for your pet to rest and recover

The first few days after surgery

During the first few days after surgery, it's crucial to carefully observe your pet's behavior and overall health. You may notice changes in their appetite, energy levels, and general demeanor. Some pets may be more withdrawn or irritable than usual, while others may exhibit signs of discomfort or pain. If you notice anything concerning or out of the ordinary, it's essential to consult your veterinarian.

Keep a close eye on the surgical site, ensuring it remains clean and free of debris. Resist the urge to bathe your pet during this time, as getting the incision wet can increase the risk of infection. Instead, gently clean the area with a damp cloth if necessary.

How to Manage Pain and Discomfort After Soft Tissue Surgery


Your veterinarian will likely prescribe medications to help manage your pet's pain and discomfort following soft tissue surgery. These may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, or other pain-relief medications. It's crucial to follow your veterinarian's instructions for administering these medications to ensure your pet's comfort and safety.

Alternative pain relief methods

In addition to medications, there are alternative methods to help alleviate your pet's pain and discomfort following surgery. These may include:

  • Soft, comfortable bedding: Providing a supportive and cushioned surface for your pet to rest on can help reduce pressure on the surgical site and promote healing

  • Warm or cold compresses: Applying warm or cold compresses to the surgical area (with your veterinarian's approval) can help alleviate swelling and pain

  • Gentle massage: Massaging the muscles surrounding the surgical site can help improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension

Helping Your Pet Recover

Depending on the severity and nature of your pet's soft tissue surgery, your veterinarian may recommend physical therapy and rehabilitation to help your pet regain their strength, mobility, and function. This may involve a variety of exercises and techniques designed to promote healing, prevent scar tissue formation, and improve your pet's overall wellbeing.

Your veterinarian or a certified veterinary rehabilitation therapist will provide you with a tailored rehabilitation plan, which may include:

  • Passive range of motion exercises: These involve gently moving your pet's joints through their full range of motion to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness

  • Balance and coordination exercises: These activities help improve your pet's proprioception (awareness of their body in space) and rebuild their strength and confidence

  • Hydrotherapy: Water-based exercises, such as swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill, can be an excellent low-impact way for your pet to regain muscle strength and joint flexibility

Possible Complications and Risks of Soft Tissue Surgery

While soft tissue surgery is generally considered safe, there are potential risks and complications that pet owners should be aware of. These may include:

  • Infection: This can occur if bacteria enter the surgical site, leading to redness, swelling, and discharge

  • Bleeding: Excessive bleeding can occur if a blood vessel is damaged during surgery or if your pet disturbs the surgical site

  • Dehiscence: This refers to the reopening of the surgical incision, which can occur if your pet excessively licks, chews, or scratches the area

  • Anesthetic complications: While rare, some pets may have an adverse reaction to anesthesia, leading to complications during or after surgery

If you notice any signs of complications or have concerns about your pet's recovery, contact your veterinarian immediately.


Soft tissue surgery can be a life-saving procedure for many pets, but proper post-operative care is essential for a successful recovery. By following your veterinarian's instructions, monitoring your pet's health, and providing a comfortable, supportive environment, you can help ensure a smooth healing process.

Remember that each pet's recovery journey is unique, and patience is key as your furry friend regains their strength and confidence after surgery. By staying informed and proactive, you'll be better equipped to support your pet through this challenging time, ensuring they return to their happy, healthy selves as soon as possible.

For more on soft tissue surgery for pets, visit Rock Ridge Animal Hospital at our office in Birmingham, AL. Call (205) 267-1300 to schedule an appointment for your pet today.