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 the big surgery day.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Our doctors and technicians will thoroughly examine 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. Please feel free to ask us for further details in regards to your specific pet.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing, ahead of the surgical appointment, 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 when they receive IV fluids during surgery. 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, sometimes up to a week in advance, 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 may sometimes be permitted until the morning of surgery.
Will my pet have stitches?
For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These will dissolve and do not need later removal. Some surgeries, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches which must be removed in office, generally 10 to 14 days post-procedure. 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. As needed, we send home Elizabethan collars (e-collars or "lampshade" collars) to help prevent licking or chewing, which can subsequently lead to infection or other complications. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time, and no baths are allowed generally 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 may not whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. The scope of pain medications depends on the individual surgery performed. 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 might range from $20 to $50, but that may vary 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. 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.
We use narcotic patches for some surgeries in dogs as well. The cost will depend on the size of the dog. 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 may be 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. Note that these added procedures may not be appropriate with certain anesthetic events.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need to allow for 10 to 15 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions about 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.
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Baxter, a 10-year-old Golden Retriever, came to Stream Valley as a new patient with a large growth on the side of his chest. We were able to surgically remove the mass, which turned out to be roughly the size of a basketball. Samples sent to the lab for biopsy revealed that Baxter's tumor was a lipoma, or benign fatty mass. We placed a drain at the incision site to help prevent inflammation and infection, and after a few follow-up visits, Baxter's incision site was healing nicely. You can see from the photos how much he appreciated our Licensed Technician's nursing care; he was such a sweet boy after his surgery, and he wanted to cuddle as soon as he woke up from anesthesia. You were a brave patient for your surgery, Baxter!
Baxter's incision immediately post-surgery
Baxter awake and alert in recovery
Baxter loves his surgical and recovery team!