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What You Need to Know Before 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 medications, and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Best Friends Animal Health Center, we do a thorough physical exam and blood screenings on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that other illness won't be a problem. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.
Pre-anesthetic 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. If an abnormality is found, surgery can be postponed until the problem is treated or anesthetic plan changed to decrease risk.
All patients under anesthesia will have an IV catheter placed in a vein. This allows us to give sedatives, anesthetic agents as well as IV fluids before, during and after surgery. Good hydration keeps our patients warmer, makes anesthesia safer, and your pet's recovery from anesthesia smooth and rapid.
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 your pet until the morning of surgery.
Our wonderful staff is the other key component to anesthesia safety. Your pet will have a dedicated anesthetist that will continuously monitor all vitals. This includes, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen and CO2 levels. Medications and fluids will be adjusted as needed for each pet during the procedure for an uneventful anesthesia and recovery.
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 bone surgery, infected wounds and some 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. We do send home collars with all of our patients to prevent licking and infection. 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. 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. Refer to your report card for your pet's pain management plan.
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-relief injection 15 minutes prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication is given by injection for most dogs. Cat are typically given an oral medication after awake and more to be given at home. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medications, or may be kept overnight for more effective pain management.
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 to 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork, answer any questions and be sure we have the best contact information for you on your pet's surgery day. We will call after your pet's surgery is complete and they have recovered from anesthesia. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10-15 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.