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What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming Surgery
Is Anaesthesia Safe?
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. At our hospital we monitor ECG, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, body temperature and carbon dioxide levels continuously while your pet is under anaesthesia. In addition, our Registered Veterinary Technician is present throughout procedures requiring a General Anaesthetic to provide hands-on monitoring in addition to equipment monitoring of your pet. During some more complex cases both veterinarians are present as well as the Registered Technician.
In addition to monitoring, all patients undergoing general anesthesia at our hospital will have intravenous fluids prior to, during and after the anesthesia. The IV catheter is placed just prior to anesthesia being delivered. IV fluids are important to maintain hydration and blood pressure during surgery. In addition, many medications are administered intravenously during surgery such as pain medication, and emergency medications in the unlikley event that an emergency is encountered. We cannot overemphasize how important we feel intravenous fluids are for the surgical patient.
Prior to Anaesthesia:
At Derry Road Animal Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to attempt to detect any pre-existing health problems. We also customize the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the age, health and sometimes even breed of your pet.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anaesthesia. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic drugs. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing (see information on Wellness Testing under 'Services'). If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anaesthetic or surgical complications. If serious problems are detected, surgery can 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 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 do require skin stitches (sutures) which will need to be removed, usually in 10-14 days. 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. 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. Medications that prevent or reduce pain are called analgesics. Which analgesic is needed will depend on the surgery performed and to some extent on the individual pet. We try to institute what is called pre-emptive pain control. In other words, we try to have medications in place before we perform the procedure. Studies have shown that less medication is required when it is employed before the painful event. More medication is needed to curtail pain that is in full swing, so to speak. Major, more invasive procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.
We try to keep abreast of all of the methods of pain control. We will often combine different classes of drug (narcotics, anti-inflammatories, local or regional anaesthetics) that can work together (synergistically). This way, we can attack the pain from more than one direction and keep your pet more comfortable.
Cats can be more of a challenge as a number of the pain medications we can use in dogs are not appropriate for them. Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. Providing pain relief is appropriate and is the humane and caring thing to do for your pet. We pride ourselves in paying very careful attention to your pets comfort. Ask about our Comfort and Care Package that is available for all routine surgeries. A more customized pain control protocol may need to be implemented depending on the procedure being performed.
What else do I need to know?
While your pet is under anaesthesia, it may be the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dental cleaning, 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. We consider these Optional Services they are available for your convenience and provided we feel that your pets health will not be compromised by performing these additional services we are happy to provide them.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need to 5-10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available (if this has not been arranged ahead of time). 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 the night before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm the time you will be dropping your pet off and to answer any lingering questions you might have. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call if you have any concerns whatsoever.