Understandably, pet owners have lots of questions when their dog or cat is scheduled for surgery. We came up with this list of frequently asked questions — and answers — to help outline what to expect.
Q Is the anesthetic safe?
Today’s anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. At Southport Vet Center we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics to ensure 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.
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. Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery. It is much better to detect potential problems ahead of time. Surgery can be postponed accordingly until the problem is corrected.
Our doctors prefer comprehensive blood screens because it gives them the most information to ensure the safety of your pet. For geriatric or ill pets, electrocardiograms or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.
Q 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. Some dogs and cats will lick excessively or chew at the incision. Because of this we like to send your pet home with an elizabethan collar to deter chewing at the site. 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 the first 10 days after surgery.
Q Will my pet be in pain?
Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals — pets just may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do. 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 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 even be given the morning of surgery.
Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications, we are more limited in what we can give them. Recent advances in pain medications allow for better pain control in cats than ever before. We administer a pain injection prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis and as needed.
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.
Q What other decisions do I need to make?
While your pet is under anesthesia, it may be 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 us ahead of time. This is especially important if the person dropping off your pet for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet’s care.
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we need 5 to 10 minutes to fill out paperwork and make decisions on other options available. At that time, we ask you how we should update you on your pet’s surgery — via phone, text or email. We let you know when the procedure is done, and will send a photo of your pet to reassure you that it’s all done. When you pick up your pet after surgery you should also plan to spend about 10 minutes to review 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 off your pet and to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions you may have.
What to Expect…
… From a Dental Procedure
Beyond the regular dental check-up, dental procedures for pets can be a fairly involved medical procedure (which is one of the big reasons why we stress regular, preventive care).
Routine dental cleanings require general anesthesia. Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination, including lab work to determine your pet’s health status and anesthetic safety. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have regarding anesthesia with your veterinarian. Anesthesia medications are selected based on your pet’s overall health, size, breed, lab results, intended surgical procedure, and previous responses to anesthesia. Your pet receives an intravenous catheter to supply fluids and maintain blood pressure throughout the procedure and is intubated with a tube in the trachea to deliver oxygen and anesthetic gases and to protect the airway from water and tartar. He or she is monitored closely by a dedicated technician, paying special attention to heart rate and rhythm (ECG), blood pressure, respiratory rate and rhythm, temperature, and blood oxygenation.
Anesthesia is necessary in order to perform a thorough oral examination, dental charting, cleaning below the gum-line, and dental x-rays. Once these steps are completed, dental extractions or other periodontal therapy may be recommended and completed by the doctor.
We believe it’s important for our clients to know what to expect — in advance — and the range of costs involved, but please know that we may not be able to provide the most accurate estimate until we have completed the anesthetized exam and x-rays.