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?
Yes! Today's modern anesthetic drugs and advanced monitoring techniques have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Seaforth Animal Hospital, we perform a physical exam on your pet before administering anesthesia, 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.
Preanesthetic blood testing is an important step to minimize anesthesia risk. We strongly recommend that every pet has blood testing before anesthesia to ensure that the liver and kidneys are functioning well so that they can metabolize the anesthesia drugs. Blood testing can also reveal a problem with the blood cells that could delay clotting or wound healing after surgery. 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 may still be a candidate for their scheduled procedure but the veterinarian will need to choose a special IV fluid and anesthetic drug plan based on their individual needs. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer in-house blood testing before elective surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, ECG, or x-rays might also be recommended.
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 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 some 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 routinely send home a special collar for you to use during those times when you are unable to directly supervise your pet. You can return the collar later, as long as it's in good shape! You will also need to limit your pet's activity level while the incision is healing. No baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery. If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. There is no charge for suture removal. In fact, there is no charge for post-op check-ups during the 2 weeks after your pet's surgery. If you have any concerns at all about how your pet is doing, we'd like to have a look to either address potential problems as soon as possible or hopefully just to set your mind at ease!
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.
For routine surgeries, we administer a pain and sedative injection prior to anesthesia. Most pets also receive an anti-inflammatory pain injection after surgery that is expected to last for 24 hours. During their stay in the hospital after surgery, additional pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication. Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.
Cats that have been declawed have special pain control needs. We use local freezing before surgery (even though they are anesthetized) so that they wake up with comfortably numb paws. In addition to injectable anti-inflammatory pain control they also receive an injection of a narcotic pain drug that lasts for 3 days. Even with these precautions, most cats also need additional pain medication at home for a few days.
For some animals we may also recommend an oral anti-inflammatory pain drug for you to give at home for 2-5 days after surgery to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling.
Pets are individuals, just like people are and there's no one-size fits all approach to pain control. If you are concerned that your pet seems uncomfortable after surgery, we want you to call so we can provide individualized pain control 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 xrays, 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 approximately 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 10 minutes to go over your pet's home care instructions.