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 monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Animal Medical Associates, 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 and age of your pet. We place IV catheters into all of our patients undergoing general anesthesia in order to administer fluids and provide an extra level of safety. All anesthetized animals are monitored using machines that continuously check the heart rate, respiratory rate and depth, blood pressure, and oxygen levels -- as well, of course, our qualified nursing staff!
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. We also strongly recommend testing the clotting ability (how well your pet is able to clot after an incision) before surgery. 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 will perform a blood screening evaluation on all animals over the age of 1 prior to anesthesia, and recommend screening all animals, even pediatric patients. We will also recommend a separate test to check for your pet's clotting time. Although this is optional, it is highly recommended. You can let us know at the time of check in if you would like this test performed.
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 - dinner is ok, but please do not feed any breakfast.. 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 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 will send home an elizabethan collar (cone) if we are concerned that your pet may lick; please feel free to request one if you are concerned. 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 10-14 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, but we always strive to provide enough pain medication to ensure that your pet remains as comfortable as possible after surgery. Please do not give your pet any over the counter human medications such as aspirin, tylenol, or ibuprofen! Not only can these be toxic to your pet, they may affect the metabolism of our anesthetics as well as bleeding tendencies.
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.
Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. We administer a combination of pain medications 10 minutes prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication will also be sent home for follow up care. Your kitty deserves to be comfortable after a surgery!
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 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 to 5 to 10 minutes of 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 20 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs. We would like to explain all of the details with you and give you plenty of time to ask questions.
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.