What should I bring for my pet’s surgery?
If your pet is on a special diet or on any medications, please bring the medications.
Are there any special at-home care instructions for my dog or cat before undergoing surgery?
Please do not feed your pet after 10:00 p.m. the evening before a scheduled procedure. There is no restriction on drinking water that evening, but the water bowl should be removed first thing the morning (6:00 a.m.) on the day of the procedure.
In preparation for your pet’s surgical procedure, your pet will receive:
- Pre-anesthetic exam
- Pre-surgical bloodwork may be recommended to determine if your dog or cat is healthy for anesthesia
- Pre-medication to easy anxiety and to smooth induction of anesthesia
- Placement of an intravenous catheter to deliver medications and fluids that support blood pressure and organ function during anesthesia
We closely monitor your pet during the procedure and the recovery process using advanced monitoring equipment. Parameters often monitored include oxygen concentration in the blood stream (pulse oximetry), electrocardiogram (EKG), core body temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure and carbon dioxide level.
When we place your dog or cat safely under general anesthesia, a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea (windpipe) to administer oxygen mixed with the anesthetic gas. As with people, an intravenous catheter is placed into your pet’s leg to infuse with fluids during the procedure. Once the procedure is completed and the anesthetic is turned off, oxygen is continued to be delivered to your pet until your pet wakes up and the tube is removed.
When my pet is having surgery, when should I expect an update on my pet?
You will receive a call from one of our veterinary assistants when your pet is in recovery from the procedure. If there are any abnormalities on pre-anesthetic exam or blood work, you will receive a call prior to the procedure. Remember that no news is good news, and you will be contacted immediately should the need arise. One of our veterinarians will be available at discharge to discuss the procedure and discharge instructions with you in detail, as well as answer any questions.
When will my pet be able to go home?
Patients will be discharged as soon as possible, when we feel they are stable enough after waking from anesthesia.
Your pet will be discharged from us with an E-collar. We rely on you to keep the E-collar on your pet. While they may not enjoy it initially, they will enjoy even less having to see us for a recheck visit to repair an incision that has been chewed open or treat an infection at the surgery site. They will need to wear the collar on for an even longer period if this happens! Most pets become accustomed to the collar within one or two days and they can eat, sleep, and drink with it on. We are counting on you: please keep the E-collar on your pet.
Anesthesia and your pet
Is anesthesia safe for my pet?
We utilize the safest, multi-modal approach that is individually created for each dog or cat. It includes injectable medications for sedation and pain management as well as gas anesthetic agents. The combination of pre-anesthetic assessment of your pet (including blood work), use of modern anesthetic agents, and the latest anesthetic monitoring equipment means that anesthesia is generally considered to be very low risk for your pet.
My pet is older, is anesthesia safe?
Anesthesia in otherwise healthy, older pets is considered safe. It is important to have recommended pre-operative testing performed prior to anesthesia to check major organ function and allow us to tailor the anesthesia to any pre-existing medical conditions.
My pet has kidney and heart disease, is anesthesia safe?
Prior to anesthesia, patients with kidney disease should be fully evaluated with blood tests, urinalysis, and possible ultrasound. Cardiology patients should also be evaluated including blood tests, chest x-rays, and echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Our veterinarians will determine based on each individual situation if it is safe for your pet to undergo anesthesia.
What is a multi-modal approach to anesthesia?
A multi-modal approach refers to the layered administration of small amounts of different medications to achieve the desired levels of anesthesia and pain management. We administer lower doses of each individual anesthetic which generally equates to fewer side effects, complete pain relief and faster post-operative recovery.
We believe in performing surgery with advanced pain management techniques because we want to maximize the comfort of your pet during and after his or her procedure. Comfort control improves your dog or cat’s recovery and speeds the healing process. We administer pain medication before beginning the procedure, during and post-operatively as needed by your pet.
How do I know if my pet is in pain?
It can sometimes be difficult to tell. If you are not sure but suspect your dog or cat may be hurting, or is just not acting right, call us to have us examine your pet. Some signs of pain are more obvious, such as limping, but some signs are more subtle and can include not eating, a change in behavior or normal habits, being more tired and having less energy. Of course, these symptoms can also be caused by many problems, so early observation and action is important.
Additional Common Surgical Questions:
Decreased appetite can occur after surgery. There are several things you can try:
- Offer favorite foods
- Warm the food slightly above room temperature to increase the odor and taste
- Some pets like low fat cooked chicken, turkey, or ground beef with rice. As a bland diet, this may help entice your pet’s appetite following surgery.
- If your pet’s appetite is not normal the day after surgery, or if your pet is not drinking water, vomiting, or seems lethargic, please call us for further instruction.
Bandage, cast, or splint is wet, soiled or off
If the bandage becomes soiled, damp, chewed, or chewed off, please do not re-bandage at home. Duct tape and other items can trap moisture within the cast or bandage causing inflammation of the skin and tissues. In some cases, bandages inappropriately applied at home can even cut off the circulation to a limb! Call us immediately if you have concerns about your pet’s bandage. Please also call us if you notice swelling of the exposed toes on the bandaged limb, which can be seen by spreading apart of the toenails. Confine your pet to a single room or similar small area until you can call us. We will advise you to whether the bandage needs to be replaced. After a cast or splint is first removed, it may take 1-2 weeks for your pet to become accustomed to using the leg without the splint.
Constipation, bowel movements
Difficulty having bowel movements can be expected after illness, anesthesia, or surgery. It may take a few days for the gastrointestinal system to return to normal function. Fortunately, it is not vital for your pet to pass a stool on a regular daily basis. Please call if your pet has not passed a stool within 48 hours of discharge or appears to be straining to defecate.
Although vocalizing can indicate discomfort, it can also be associated with other feelings following surgery. Some pets will also vocalize or whine as the last remaining sedative or anesthetic medications are removed from their systems, or in response to the prescribed pain medication. If crying or whining is mild and intermittent, you may simply monitor the situation. If vocalization persists, please call us for advice. In some cases, a sedative may be prescribed, or pain medication may be adjusted.
Diarrhea may be seen after surgery. This can be caused by a change in diet but is more commonly caused by the stress of surgery. Certain medications prescribed to your pet may also cause diarrhea. If the diarrhea is bloody, lasts longer than 12-24 hours or if your pet becomes lethargic or vomits, please contact us immediately. You can purchase a nutritionally complete bland food from us available in cans or kibble or we can guide you in preparing a home cooked bland diet. We do NOT recommend using any over-the-counter medication to treat the diarrhea. Please call us if there are any questions or problems.
Injury to surgical site
If for any reason you suspect that your pet has re-injured the surgical site, confine your pet, and call us immediately for advice.
If you have given your pet all the pain medication prescribed and you feel your pet still has discomfort, please call and we will discuss refilling the pain medication with you.
Signs of Pain
Some pets will still show signs of pain at home, such as restlessness or an inability to sleep, poor appetite, lameness, or tenderness at the site of surgery. Please confine your pet to limit their activity. Then call us immediately so we can dispense or prescribe additional medication or therapies as necessary to keep your pet comfortable.
This is commonly seen after surgery. It may indicate soreness but may also be due to anxiety or in reaction to the prescribed pain medication. Please call and we can help determine whether additional pain medication is advised or if the dose needs to be adjusted. We will be happy to recheck your pet for your peace of mind.
Seroma (fluid pocket)
In any healing surgical area, fluid produced during the healing process may accumulate and form a seroma (fluid pocket). Fortunately, this is not painful and does not impair the healing process. Eventually, the body will reabsorb the fluid so if the seroma is small, we typically will leave it alone. If it is large, we may remove the fluid with a needle and syringe or even place a drain. If you notice a seroma developing, please call. We may wish to recheck the area to ensure there is no infection.
This is a common response to physiologic stress after surgery, injury, or any other health abnormality. The amount of shaking or trembling may be dramatic, but it does not always imply severe pain, cold, or distress. It may involve the entire body, or just the area of surgery. If there are signs of pain such as restlessness, lack of appetite, or crying out, or you are concerned about what your pet is exhibiting, please call.
Some pets may urinate less after surgery or may seem to be unable to control urination. This is usually temporary and may be a side effect of medication, anesthesia drugs, or difficulty assuming “the position” to urinate. Please call if your pet has not produced urine for more than 12 hours. Many pets initially drink less after returning home, you may see less urination at first.
An episode or two of vomiting is occasionally seen after surgery or anesthesia. If the vomiting continues, blood is noted in the vomitus, or if your pet is not holding down any food or water, please call us.