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 anesthetics and anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Pine Tree Veterinary 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.
While anesthesia always carries risks, we do everything in our power to limit these risks. Pets undergoing anesthesia at Pine Tree Veterinary Hospital are monitored closely by two well-trained veterinary professionals at all times, either two veterinary technicians or one technician and the veterinarian. During the procedure, their vital signs are continually monitored including heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure, oxygenation, and carbon dioxide production. This helps us to identify and correct issues promptly.
Prior to anesthesia, an intravenous catheter is placed in all pets undergoing a major procedure. This allows the pet to receive IV fluids as well as quick administration of medications, if needed.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Every pet should have 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 may be able to handle some medications, but not others. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer two levels of in-house blood testing before surgery depending on the pet's age, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in. 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 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. Dogs and cats will lick excessively or chew at the incision, but damage to the surgery site can be prevented by having the pet wear a traditional Elizabethan or inflatable collar. 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 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 lacerations.
For dogs and cats, 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.
We often administer pain medication prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication is often sent home. Any animal that appears to be in pain will receive additional pain medication.
Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.
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 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. While under anesthesia, we routinely clean the pet's ears and trim their nails at no charge. It is recommended that all pets being spayed or neutered receive a small tattoo near the incision so that it will always be obvious they are fixed. If you would not like these services, please let us know at check-in.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, you will need 10-15 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. You will have the opportunity to meet with the surgeon and ask any questions you might have. When you pick your pet up after surgery, you should plan to spend about 10 minutes going 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 contact us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.