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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 anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in "the old days." Here at Country Court 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.
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. Animals that have minor problems 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.
We offer two levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, as well as several options for sending the blood out to a local lab for more complete panels, which we can discuss with you in an appointment or on the phone beforehand. Older pets are required to have bloodwork sent out ahead of time, so that we may discover and address any problems before the day of the procedure. 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. 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 you suspect your pet is licking the incision we can dispense a special collar to prevent it. 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 don't always whine or cry, but if they are not eating well, are reluctant to move, or are protective of the area, it may be because they are hurting. 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 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) the day of 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 will depend on the size of your dog.
Because cats do not tolerate as many kinds of pain medications as dogs do, 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. Our pre-surgical medications include pain control, and additional pain control is usually given before they awaken. After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.
We use Fentanyl patches for some surgeries as well, most notably in cat declaws and cystotomies (bladder stone surgery). This type of pain relief provides a steady level of medication throughout the recovery period, rather than having a pill or shot that wears off before the next dose. Because the patch is applied directly to the skin, we will need to shave a small area, usually on the side of the chest. Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats. Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is the 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 scaling tartar from the teeth, 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 time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the microchip 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 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.