Small Animal Nursing Care


Nursing care for your pet is a very important part in recovering after a surgery or any kind of illness. With appropriate nursing care it helps the success rate of coming back to their everyday lifestyle. Caring for your pet can be just as much work as it would be as if you were taking care of a person. It is a good idea to be prepared at home and to take the time to go over everything with your veterinarian or technician of what you will need.

With taking care of your pet after a major surgery or some kind of illness, you may have to do things for them that you never had to before. You may need to provide a confined area for them where they can make their recovery. You will also learn to observe your pets food intake, bowel movements/fecal score, activity level, even administering medications that they may need.

Nursing care for your pet all starts with the basics; starting from the physical exam on your cat or dog all the way to you being part of the nursing care, as well as administering fluids to even medications. Here are a few brief explanations on what we do here at the clinic and what you can also do at home.

Physical Exam

With the start of nursing care it comes from when the veterinarian does a physical exam on your pet. With the physical exam here are a few brief things that the veterinarian will look over on your pet; they will take a look at the skin and coat, look at the eyes/ears/nares, gastrointestinal such as the mouth, teeth/gums check to see the color of the gums, the capillary refill time (CRT). They will have a feel of the abdomen, check their respiratory rate, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, reproductive/urinary tract, lymphatic system and the neurological system. The reasoning of a physical exam is to make sure everything that we can see on the outside is working well and that if there is something that is wrong we can start to diagnose the issue and resolve it.

Administering Drugs

During nursing care for your pet the administration of drugs may be one of the things that you will have to do in order for your pet to get better. The most common routes are oral, intravenous and topical. Whenever administering drugs it is always important to verify correct drug, dosage, time and route. With giving drugs it is also important that directions must always be followed carefully.

Fluid Therapy

It is always important to make sure our patients/your pets are well hydrated. Fluid therapy is one of the most common procedures that are performed in veterinary medicine. The body is made up of approximately 60% of water. Fluid is gained through oral intake or metabolism in the body, it also can be lost through respiration, excretion, sweating and through milk production. These are all normal ways that a cat or dog gains or losses their fluids. There are a few different routes that your pet can receive fluids; orally, subcutaneous, and intravenously.


While taking care of your pet there could always be the possibility of bandage changing or looking after your pet’s bandaged leg. There are three layers to a bandage; primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary layer is the one next to the wound, secondary layer is next which is there to absorb exudates and provide padding. Tertiary layer is the last layer (outer layer) which is primarily used for support. There are many different kinds of bandages that can be applied such as; for the head and neck (ex. Post-ocular surgery, ear surgery), thorax (ex. Secure chest drains, spinal surgery), abdomen (ex. Secure a gastrostomy tube, or extensive wounds), limbs (ex. fractures, wound protection, keep IV fluids in), paws (ex. Dewclaw removal in dogs), tail (ex. Tumor removal, partial tail amputation).

After care of bandages, slings or casts are all the same when it comes down to it. You want to keep a close eye on it- noting any smell of odor, discharge, skin irritation, warmth, color change of the fur, swelling of the toes. Make sure to keep your pet from chewing or licking the bandage. A way of doing this is you could put an Elizabethan collar on them, or spray the bandage with a foul tasting spray. Also, make sure when they go outdoors to cover it up with a plastic bag to protect it from dirt and moisture, removing the bag when returning indoors.

Animal nursing care is a job that consists of a lot of behind the scenes work, from everyone in the clinic as a team. The veterinarians, technicians, assistants and receptionists together create an environment that helps provide the best health care possible for your pet(s). They work to diagnose, treat, and follow up to ensure that your pet is on the road to, and maintaining, overall wellness.

By Christy Yakimetz, AHT