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What You Need to Know Before Surgery
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Harbor Veterinary Hospital, we perform a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing may be recommended by your veterinarian. For young, apparently healthy dogs and cats we usually only require a simple red blood cell count (PCV) and blood protein count (TP) before surgery. Older animals or ill/stressed animals receive more extensive lab testing to ensure that the liver enzymes and kidney function are normal. Some apparently healthy animals have serious organ system problems or blood clotting disorders that cannot be detected without blood testing. You may request extensive preanesthetic screening on even your young and healthy animal if you prefer. If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications. IV fluid therapy can be tailored to the individual animal. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
There are several options for blood testing before surgery. During your pet's pre-anesthetic exam and consultation you can discuss these with the veterinarian. Although we can always pursue comprehensive blood screening our clients may opt for a less costly workup during the consultation. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be recommended or required before surgery as well.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. For adult, healthy animals you should withhold food for 10 hours before surgery. Water can be available to the pet until the morning of surgery. Do not encourage the pet to drink in the morning. For very young or frail animals these instructions may be modified.
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 spaying, abdominal exploratories and 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. It is important that the animal not lick or chew at the incision. An E collar or some kind of body suit or T shirt may be needed to protect the incision. 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 procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.
For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflammatory (NSAID) the day of surgery and several days after to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. We use veterinary prescription medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and can be given even the morning of surgery. Please do not give any over the counter medications at home since this could prevent the safe use of the more effective veterinary approved medication. Never give a dog Naproxen or Ibuprofen.
Because cats do not tolerate over the counter human pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, 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. An NSAID called Onsior is now approved for use in cats.
We administer a narcotic pain injection prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication is usually repeated. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.
We use narcotic patches for some surgeries in dogs as well. The cost will depend on the size of the dog. Injectable and oral pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats. 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 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 or if you want to authorize us to perform 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 you to spend 5 to 10 minutes to fill out paperwork and make decisions on any options available. When you pick up your pet after surgery you should also plan to spend time with a veterinarian or veterinary staff member to go over your pet's home care needs.
We may 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.