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 past. Here at the Stop 11 Animal Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthesia. We want to ensure that your pet does not have a fever or other illness which might pose a problem. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet. The handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.
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 dysfunction 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 different levels of pre-anesthetic blood testing based upon your pet's age, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in. For older pets, our doctors prefer the more comprehensive screen, because it gives them the most information to ensure the safety of your pet. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.
We also are offering two "optional" blood tests for most patients.
First, the Coagulation panel is a test that measures blood clotting ability. It is rare for animals to have problems with blood clotting, however there are exceptions. Greyhounds and some other "sight hounds" may have a "hyper coagulation" condition which initially causes blood to clot too fast, then use up the clotting agents potentially leading to a serious illness caused DIC. Rottweilers and Doberman's Pinchers may have von Willebrand disease, or less often, true hemophilia. von Willebrand disease is a condition that causes a bleeding disorder like hemophilia, but can vary from day to day and week to week. Finally, outdoor cats, and potentially dogs, may be exposed to rodent poisons or to rodents that have been poisoned with anticoagulant poisons, and therefore, unable to clot normally.
Second: proBNP test. The proBNP is a relatively new test for us that measures an enzyme released by heart muscle under stress. It is reported to be a sensitive test for heart disease, especially cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a common cause of anesthetic death in cats, dobermans, and rottweilers, although it can show up in any dog or cat. proBNP must be run through our reference lab, so it takes a few days for us to get results from this test.
To further improve the safety of our anesthesia, it is important that all pets scheduled for anesthesia come in on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting and aspiration during and after anesthesia. You should withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. We recommend picking up the water 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
Will my pet have stitches?
For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures under 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. 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. Dr. Webb believes in tattooing female dogs and cats undergoing ovariohysterectomy ("spay") procedures. This is done for two reasons: 1) it provides an extra identifying mark for your pet should your pet run off and become lost, 2) if your pet does run off and you do not locate her, the tattoo will prevent an unnecessary second surgery. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for us to schedule recently adopted stray pets for surgery only to find out during the surgery that the procedure has already been done. This is more common now with the newer closure techniques which result in minimal if any visible scaring.
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 dogs, we recommend an oral anti-inflammatory the first few days after surgery 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, and will be listed on your pet's estimate.
Because cats are not as tolerant of our standard pain medications, 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. After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.
All surgery patients, dogs and cats, receive a combination of narcotic and NSAID pain medications by injection prior to anesthesia. Other pain control methods are also used at the time of surgery as indicated by the procedure being done, most commonly: intra-oral local anesthesia for dental extractions, local anesthesia ring blocks of the feet for cat declaw and dog dewclaw surgeries, and regional blocks for most orthopedic surgeries.
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 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.