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.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Friendship Animal 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. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet. The handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery 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. Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer different levels of pre-anesthetic blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in for the pre-anesthetic evaluation. Our doctors prefer the more comprehensive screen, because it gives them the most information to ensure the safety of your pet. 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 gastric reflux or 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 the procedure.
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 do require skin stitches. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for heat, redness, 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 7 to 14 days after surgery. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time and baths are not recommended for the first 3-7 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 usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor procedures.
We use a balanced pain management protocol that is tailored to each patient based on the amount of pain anticipated, and the health considerations of the pet. Preventing pain is more effective than stopping pain once it starts, so preemptive pain control is started prior to surgery, then a balanced protocol is used during and after surgery in order to maximize the effect of the pain medications and minimize their side effects. Patients may go home with pain medications to be given by mouth or applied to the gums after they are discharged.
All patients receive regular pain evaluation, and the pain management protocol is adjusted accordingly for each patient, based on repeated evaluations. It may include medications given by mouth, by injection, administered in IV fluids, through a patch on the skin, or some combination of the above.
What other decisions do I need to make?
While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or placing a microchip for permanent identification. During the pre-anesthetic evaluation, we will provide you with an estimate that is as accurate as possible, and that includes any of the ancillary services that may be appropriate for your pet.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need to 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and verify decisions on any ancillary services that we have discussed at the pre-anesthetic evaluation. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs.
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.
We will also call you the day after your pet has been discharged back into your care. Always call with any questions or concerns that you might have.