Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery, and we hope this information will help. It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your pet's upcoming surgery.
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. At our hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Blood testing before surgery is recommended to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing. If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications. We administer IV fluids to patients during most of our anesthetic procedures. This is a critical part to keep patients well hydrated throughout the procedure and provides us with an emergency access port if the need should arise.
If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well. 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 12 hours before surgery.
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 usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. We include pain management with every surgical procedure for both the comfort of the patient, and to speed the recovery process. This may involve a postoperative injection which will ensure the patient is comfortable upon walking as well as a restful night's sleep at home.
When deemed necessary by the doctor, medication for the next few days is also included. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations. For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflammatory the day after surgery and 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 range depending on the size of your dog. Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are 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 given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.
For some 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.
While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip. If you would like an estimate for these 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.