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. Here at Susquehanna Trail, 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 anesthetics 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.

At Susquehanna Trail, we offer a full in-house laboratory and we can also send bloodwork to a veterinary reference laboratory.  For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, ultrasounds, 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 and/or regurgitation during and after anesthesia. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. At Susquehanna Trail, we use endotracheal tubes with inflatable cuffs on all of our surgeries to help prevent aspiration of any fluids or stomach contents going into the lungs (like pneumonia which can cause further complications during and post-surgery). In addition, water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery. With young puppies and kittens, withholding food and water time spans may vary with age due to the possible complications like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If your pet qualifies, special precautions and anesthetic protocols will be made to fit your pet’s stage life. The veterinarian will discuss any further requirements during your pre-surgery consultation.

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. We may provide a few options or suggestions for you to help reduce the possibility of licking. 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. In addition, potty breaks may need to be done using a leash to help prevent running or jumping.

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 that maybe needed will depend on the surgery performed. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.

For certain surgeries with dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflammatory a few days after surgery to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. We will use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset but with most anti-inflammatories, the medication should be given with food to help further decrease stomach issues.

Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats according the surgery that was performed. Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate, it is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.

Just like in human surgeries, we use anesthetic gas to keep them in a surgical anesthetic plan. During the first 24 to 48 hours, your pet is metabolizing the drugs in their bodies which may cause some dizziness, stumbling, and grogginess. We advise the use of caution with going up or down any stairs and getting into or out of the car. The first night after surgery, your pets food amount should be reduce to quarter or half of their normal proportion of food. Your pet may still be nausea from their anesthetic drugs and inhalant gases, which may cause them to vomit (normal for first 24 hours unless blood is visible). Your pet may also drool a little more than normal due to the anesthetic drugs, having an endotracheal tube in their trachea, and if they have a dental procedure performed.

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 dentistry, 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 to 5 to 10 minutes to fill out paperwork and make any decisions about the other procedures that 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.

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 questions you might have. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet’s health or surgery. Here at Susquehanna Trail, we rather have you call us a hundred times in one day with questions (even if they’re small questions) than to have you or your pet in any discomfort or distress.