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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.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. At Three Islands Veterinary Services, we meet with owners and pets on the morning of the surgery. We do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering any medications. We do a risk assessment and anaesthetic plan for each patient undergoing an anesthetic. We look at the breed, age and medical conditions that need to be taken into account to make the anaesthetic as safe as possible. We select a mixture of appropriate drugs to reduce risks.
And just as anesthetics have become more advanced in recent years, so has the availability of equipment to monitor such things as blood pressure, blood oxygen content (SP02), respiration rates, expired carbon dioxide levels, body temperature etc. Of course, none of this equipment replaces the hands on monitoring of our experienced technicians who have assisted with hundreds, if not thousands of surgeries.
We keep pets warm under anesthetic using heated water pads, blankets and IV fluid warmers.
Intravenous catheter placement with IV fluids is 'mandatory' in some patients and 'recommended' in others having an anesthetic. Depending on the age, medical conditions and expected length of anesthetic, we can advise you on just how important it may be to do this procedure. The benefits to IV fluids are:
2) They help prevent dehydration. Many surgery patients do not drink the day of surgery and often not until the next day. IV fluids rectifies this problem and reduces anesthetic 'hangover'.
3) Having an IV catheter allows a painless and quick way to give most of the medications to the pet while in the hospital. This also provides a safety factor in the rare event we want to get drugs into the system quickly.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is offered to most pets before surgery to check things such as liver, kidneys, blood sugar, protein and red and white blood cells. These tests often detect internal problems we can't detect on physical examination. Like the IV fluids, for some pets blood testing is mandatory and for some it is recommended. You can speak with the doctor on the morning of surgery to discuss individual risks and recommendations for your pet.
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, especially spays and neuters, 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. With either type of suture, you will need to check the incision daily 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 inform us if they do and we may recommend you pick up an Elizabethan collar. 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 few weeks and no baths are allowed for the first 14 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.
At Three Islands Veterinary Services, we approach pain control with 2 principles:
1) It is far superior to give pain control in advance of the surgery. This prevents 'winding up of the pain pathways.' Stay ahead of the pain.
2) A multi-modal approach (several different medications) is superior to using just one painkiller. There are often synergistic advantages (2+2+2=10) to giving different classes of painkillers together. Narcotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, local anesthetics (freezing) as well as occasional epidurals and other drugs can be used in combination to lessen discomfort.
We will recommend a pain control plan that is appropriate for the procedure your pet is having.
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 small lump removals, nail trims 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 about 15 minutes of your time to meet with the doctor, have an exam of your pet, discuss the surgery and answer any questions you may have. We will discuss whether IV fluids and/or blood tests are being done and have you sign the paperwork. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 5 or 10 minutes with a technician or receptionist to go over medications and your pet's home care needs.
We often call you a few days before your scheduled surgery appointment to confirm the time and date (unless you recently booked it.) In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.