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 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 Central Cowichan 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.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. We offer 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.
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.
What are IV Fluids and do I need them?
Intravenous Fluids are an added precaution for your pet during a surgical procedure. They help maintain blood pressure, help support the kidneys and other organs, help keep your pet hydrated, help flush the anesthetic out of your pet faster which will speed up the time they take to wake up post surgery, and if a complication were to occur during surgery and the veterinarian needed to administer emergency drugs they are able to do so faster as there is already an IV catheter in place. For elective surgeries (such as a spay or neuter) on young, healthy animals we offer IV Fluids as an additional option for your pet. For certain surgical procedures and certain pets we make the IV Fluids mandatory for the safety of your pet.
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 12 to 14 days after surgery. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time and no bathing or swimming is allowed until the stitches have been removed.
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.
Because cats and dogs may not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, we do not recommend that these be given to your pets at home. After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication. For dogs and cats, we may prescribe 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.
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 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.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need about 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on other options that may be available. 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 day 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.