Lissa Richardson, DVM, Diplomate ACVS, SAGE Concord

Your dog has just been diagnosed with a ligament tear and will need surgery and two months of “bed rest” to heal. How in the world do you do this to your best friend? Your rambunctious cat has just been diagnosed with a lump that needs to be removed surgically and will need two weeks of no jumping. How do you tell your cat that?

You will feel like you want to tell your pet what is going on and why there’s a sudden lock down. You are worried that they will feel like you are punishing them. You are worried that they might be traumatized by all of it. The SAGE doctors and staff can be very helpful here. Many of us have had to take a dose of our own medicine and have gone through this with our own pets.

Here are a few things to consider:

First, your pets have never had an explanation for anything that happens to them and they are not expecting it or needing it now. Animals live mostly in the moment and are not concerned with why things are happening. In fact, we find them inspiring as they navigate their path to healing without any “Why me?” baggage.

Second, dogs live in a hierarchical society. They are not used to a democracy. You, as the owner, are the alpha dog and what you say goes. Be cheerful but adamant about the new change in routine. You know that what you are doing is in your pet’s best interest in the long run. If you are apologetic and worry, they can pick up on this emotion and wonder what they did that was wrong. Be optimistic, knowing that the restriction will be temporary. Your dog will pick up on this emotion.

Cats are a different story. They are masters at manipulating their human companions. The old joke is that dogs have owners while cats have staff. Do your best to make them comfortable, but don’t fall under their hypnotic stares and let them outside while they are healing. Be strong. Give them catnip. Many cats seem to take to the “room service” when they are confined to a small area. Some will truly meow and meow if they are confined.

There is also a time and place for low-dose sedation. About two weeks after surgery, many animals are feeling much better and want to start to run and jump. If they need prolonged confinement, then judicious sedation can help a lot. The medications that we use here at SAGE are non-addicting and can help to turn down the cabin fever a notch or two.