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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 anesthetics and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Larue County Animal Clinic, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or 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. Although we do not require it on some animals, we feel that 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. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer in-house blood testing on the day of surgery or we can get a more comprehensive screen from a commercial lab if we draw a fasting blood sample 1-2 days before surgery. We will go over that with you when you make your appointment or when you bring your pet in. Dr. Berry prefers the more comprehensive screen, because it gives him 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.
Animals also will handle the anesthetic better if they receive intravenous fluids during surgery. The fluids help keep the organs profused better and help keep the blood pressure up during anesthetic procedures. Having an intravenous catheter in place also gives us quick access to a vein if there is a problem during anesthesia.
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 anesthetics do you use?
To some extent it depends on the procedure and the patient. For most of the surgical procedures, we will give the patient something for pain and sedation prior to the procedure and then we will give an intravenous drug and then intubate and place the patient on gas anesthesia and oxygen (this is very similar to what a human anesthetist would do to anesthetize a patient). This way we have more control over the level of anesthesia and we can be sure the oxygen level remains high during the procedure to support good organ health.
What about monitoring during the procedure?
There are several things that we do during surgery to monitor vital signs. We routinely monitor EKG, heart rate, respiration rate, core body temperature, and blood pressure with monitors during surgery. In addition to the monitoring with instruments, we also have a technician or assistant keeping a close eye on the monitors and the patient during the procedure.
What about post operative infections?
Every precaution is taken to keep the surgery field and the surgeon and the surgical assistant sterile during the procedure. We use sterile instruments, wear sterile gowns (except for very minor procedures), and sterile gloves during the procedure. If there is ever a concern about an infection after surgery, we always discuss that with the owner and will place the patient on antibiotics for a few days as a precaution.
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 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 usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. The type of pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.
For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflamatory 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 varies depending on the size of the 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. We administer a pain injection 10 minutes prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication is given 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. 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 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.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need 5 to 10 minutes of your 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 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.