Anesthesia can be scary, and vet clinics vary widely in how they monitor patients. This week, Dr. Andy Roark shares 5 important questions you need to ask your vet before your dog or cat goes under anesthesia.
While the idea of your pet being under anesthesia can be stressful, rest assured that the care and well-being of your pet is the first thing on your veterinarian’s mind. In this video, Dr. Jusmeen Sarkar explains the ins and outs of anesthesia and your pets.
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 Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital, 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 of your pet. The anesthetics that we use today are much safer than the agents that were used even 10 years ago. We use many of the same anesthetics on your pet that you may receive if you have surgery!
Pre-operative bloodwork is important to tell us if 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. In most cases, our nurses will draw blood and perform the testing the morning of surgery.
Preparing for 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. We will remind you to give no food after 7PM the night before. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery. If you have an exotic pet, such as a bird, guinea pig or rabbit, the doctor will likely not want them to fast. The nurses will give you instructions on how to prepare your exotic pet for 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 also need to watch for. If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 7 to10 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 procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations. Besides anesthetics, your pet will receive injectable pain medication before, during and after the surgery as needed. For dogs, we will dispense an oral anti-inflamatory to be given for at least 4 days after surgery to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset. Because cats do not tolerate many of the oral anti-inflammatory pain medications, they are given an injection before surgery, that will last for approximately 48 hours. Your cat may also be sent home with oral medicines for pain.
It is not true that providing pain medication to your pet will cause him to become too active too fast. 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 10 to 15 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and be sure that we have a number to reach you when your pet is waking up from surgery. The surgical nurses will go over all the procedures to be done. 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 like to have your pet at our hospital at 7:30 AM for surgery drop-off. The pick-up time that evening will vary, and we will schedule you a pick up time so we can go over all your at-home instructions. Pick up times are usually after 4:00 PM.
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.