What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming Surgery
Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery, and we hope this information is helpful. It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your pet's upcoming surgery.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic techniques and monitoring have made surgery much safer than in the past. We thoroughly examine your pet before administering anesthetics to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem. We recommend pre-anesthetic blood tests to check liver and kidney function and screen for diabetes. The results give the surgical team more information about the pet, and may alter the treatment plan. For instance, if the dog is middle-aged, has high normal kidney values and is facing a procedure longer than 20 minutes, we will probably recommend intravenous fluid therapy during the procedure. This helps flush the anesthetic waste from kidney tissue, maintains blood pressure and facilitates pain management. Occasionally surgery will be deferred if the labwork indicates serious complications could occur.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.
Will my pet have stitches?
For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later. Some surgeries, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. Most dogs and cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for. If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time and no baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.
Will my pet be in pain?
Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals. Pets may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do; they don't always whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it! Cats manifest pain by hiding; dogs may pant more than usual. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor surgeries.
For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflamatory the day of surgery and for several days after to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and can be given even the morning of surgery. The cost of the medication will depend on the size of your dog.
Because cats tolerate pain medication differently than dogs, we are a bit more limited in what we can give them. Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. After surgery, pain medication is always given, but what kind and duration is determined on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.
Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats. Local blocks are commonly used in dental work, giving the pet up to 10 hours of pain relief after extraction. Providing appropriate pain relief is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.
While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry (not available in combination with some surgeries), ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip. If you would like an estimate for any extra services, please call ahead of time. This is especially important if the person dropping the pet off for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet's care.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need to 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to review your pet's home care needs with one of the staff.
We will call you the night before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm the time you will be dropping your pet off and to answer any questions you might have. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.