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 anaesthetic safe?
Today's modern anaesthetic drugs have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at US Veterinary Center, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before their operation, to ensure that they don't have any underlying cardiovascular or metabolic problems . We also adjust the amount and type of anaesthetic used depending on this examination. Your animal is weighed prior to surgery.
Pre-anaesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risks of anaesthesia. Every pet should have blood and urine tests before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys are functioning normally. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without laboratory testing. If there is a problem, it is much better to identify it before anaesthesia and surgery. Animals with any dysfunctions will tolerate the anaesthetic better if they receive intravenous fluids before, during and after surgery. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood investigations, ultrasonography or x-rays may also be required before surgery.
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. The exception to this would be for rabbits and rodents - they need access to food and water up until the time of the 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 need to watch for. 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 usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Major surgeries require more pain relief than minor procedures, and may be hospitalised overnight.
For cats dogs, we may recommend oral anti-inflammatories for several days after surgery to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset.
Injectable pain medications are used prior to surgery in both dogs, cats and small mammmals. These drugs last 24 hours and at home medications begin the next morning.
We do not advise giving animals 'human' pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or paracetamol as these drugs have the potential to cause serious problems.
What other decisions do I need to make?
While your pet is under anaesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, nail trimming or implanting a microchip.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, you will need 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. Then the veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse will examine your pet. This is a good time to discuss any questions you have about the procedure. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 15 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 and to remind you to withhold food. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.