What You Need to Know 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 River Forest 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.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of 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. 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.
We offer various 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 screen, because it gives them the most information to ensure the safety of your pet. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be 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. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 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 larger incisions, do require skin stitches. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. Some dogs and cats will lick excessively or chew at the incision, so this is a problem you will also need to watch for. We can fit your pet for an E-collar to prevent this from happening. 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.
All surgery patients will receive a pain medicine injection prior to surgery. Additional pain medication is administered afterward as needed in the hospital. Pain medication will also be sent home with your pet at the time of discharge from the hospital.
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, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and can be given even the morning of surgery. Anti-inflammatory pain medication is often combined with other medications to achieve better pain control.
Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications like the ones given to dogs, we are somewhat limited in what we can give them. However, recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. Additional oral pain medication will be sent home to control pain the days after surgery. There is now an FDA approved oral anti-inflammatory medication for cats that can be given for three days following surgery or a painful injury.
Providing appropriate pain relief 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 a dentistry, ear cleaning, small mass removals 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 your time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. 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.
Please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.