What You Need to Know Before Surgery
Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's dental or surgical procedure, and we hope this information will help. It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your pet's upcoming surgery.We are ALWAYS happy to discuss any specific concerns you might have about your pet and a recommended procedure.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetics and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at Grass Lake Animal 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 handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is another important part in further reducing the risk of anesthesia. We recommend some level of blood testing before anesthesia for every pet to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic, especially if your pet has not been having routine screening. 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 complications. If serious problems are detected, non-critical surgery might be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer three levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you before anesthesia. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be suggested as well. We will gladly discuss the risks and benefits of testing your pet prior to anesthesia.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia, if surgery is elective. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 hours before surgery. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of 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 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. You will receive detailed information about aftercare at the time your pet goes home.
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. Cats and exotic pets are notorious for hiding the fact that they are in pain. The pain medications needed will depend on the procedure performed. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.
For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflammatory the day after surgery and several days after to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. We use newer medications approved for use in dogs, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and can be given even the morning of surgery. If your dog can not take an anti-inflammatory, we have newer medications that can be prescribed as well.
Because cats can not safely take standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them. However, recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. We can administer a long-acting pain injection at the end of surgery or if needed, send home an oral medication that cats tolerate well.
Even exotic pets need pain medication after a surgical or dental procedure. These pets are notorious for not showing easily recognizable symptoms of pain, in part because they are still "wild" in many ways and hide pain/weakness as a survival skill. Also, sometimes they are different enough from dogs and cats that we are simply unfamiliar with what to watch for. There are a number of medications that can be used to keep even these pets comfortable after a painful procedure.
Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats, often as part of IV fluid therapy. This is more likely to be needed after an extensive dental or surgical procedure. Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet. Any animal we are taking care of that appears painful will receive additional pain medication. Staying current on the latest information and procedures for pain management in animals is a core value at Grass Lake Animal Hospital.
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 removal of small skin lumps, deep 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 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on blood testing and other options. 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 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.