What You Need to Know Before 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.

What do I need to do the night prior to surgery or dental cleaning?

Most surgeries are scheduled for weekdays and we advise that you bring your pet the morning of surgery and/or dental cleaning between 7:30 a.m.- 8 a.m. that morning to allow us time to perform a pre-surgical physical exam as well as perform any safety procedures that have not already been done such as organ blood testing and placing an IV catheter.  Your pet should NOT have any food from 8 p.m. the night prior as well as not offered breakfast.  This is very important to avoid vomiting under anesthesia which can cause aspiration pneumonia.  Small animals like rodents and rabbits DO NOT need to be fasted.  Remove water the morning of surgery as well.  Feel free to bring a portion of your pet’s food with you that we can feed once your pet is awake after his or her procedure.

Is the anesthetic safe?

Today’s modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here at Halcyon Veterinary Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam as well as pre-anesthetic blood work 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.

Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing complications that could arise during anesthesia.  Most pets need 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 different levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in.  We prefer the more comprehensive screen, because it gives us the most information to ensure the safety of your pet.

It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. Vomiting during or immediately after anesthesia can predispose your pet to aspiration pneumonia. You will need to pull the pet’s food by 8 p.m. the night prior to surgery.  Water can be left down for the pet until midnight.  Rabbits, ferrets, and small rodents should NOT be fasted, and it is advised to bring their food and water bottles with them if being dropped off.

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, redness or discharge. An e-collar is often recommended, which can be purchased here at the clinic, to prevent your pet from excessively chewing or licking at the incision. 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 or until the sutures are removed.

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.  Signs of pain in your pet may expressed as a reduced appetite or lowered activity level. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Patients are given an injection to help with pain control prior to surgery and may be prescribed additional oral pain medications that typically start the day after the procedure. We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and other complications. Not all pain medications are tolerated by animals in the same way as humans; therefore it is extremely important to discuss all over-the-counter pain medications with us prior to giving them!

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), or acetaminophen (Tylenol), we are limited in what we can give them.  Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  We administer a pain injection prior to surgery and may send home additional oral pain medications.  Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.

Small mammals especially rabbits have a very low pain threshold and should receive additional pain medication post-surgery.

The cost will depend on the size of the pet and type of medication needed.  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.

What other decisions do I need to make?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it may be an ideal time to perform other 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 at least 10-15 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 10-15 minutes to go over your pet’s discharge/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.