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. At Lincoln Land Animal Clinic we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics to ensure that a fever or other underlying illnesses aren't present. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health and size of your pet. The handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of complications during 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. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer three levels of blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in. Our doctors prefer the more comprehensive screening, because it gives the most information to ensure the safety of your pet. There is an in-house blood test which is a smaller screening test, that may be elected for younger animals. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests may be required before surgery as well.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting and aspiration (inhaling of food particles) 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 you go to bed the night before surgery.
Will my pet have stitches?
Most surgeries performed do require skin sutures, which do need to be removed. We typically remove sutures 14 days after the surgery. For some surgeries we use absorbable sutures. This type of suture will dissolve on its own and does not need to be removed later. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling, redness, or discharge. Some dogs and cats do lick or chew at their incision site. If you notice this problem please call immediately and we can send out an E-collar (special collar to prevent licking and chewing).
You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a period of time after surgery and no baths are allowed until all the sutures are removed.
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 for several days after the procedure to help with discomfort and swelling. We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset.
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.
Sometimes we use narcotic patches for some surgeries in dogs as well. The cost will depend on the size of the dog. Injectable 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, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as ear cleaning, nail trimming, radiographs of hips and other joints that might be a problem in the future, or implanting a microchip. If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please call ahead of time. This is especially important if the person admitting the pet for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet's care. For some minor procedures, we can also perform dental cleaning at the same time. Your pet's safety is our primary concern and the number of extra procedures done will be determine by the length of time it takes for us to perform them.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. The consent form is available to complete ahead of time as well. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 5 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs.
We will call you 2-3 days prior to your scheduled surgery appointment to confirm the time you will be admitting your pet to the hospital 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.