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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 equipment have made surgery much safer than in the past. While there is no such thing as "zero-risk" anesthesia, we are proud of our anesthesia safety record.  We have developed protocols to make your pet's procedure as safe as possible.  Here at Bay Animal Hospital we have the most modern anesthetic equipment available.  We use the safest gas anesthesia and we have state-of-the-art patient warming systems and surgical monitors.  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 anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.  Your pet is monitored under anesthesia by staff members who have received special training in anesthesia administration.  The handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.

Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia.  Blood testing is recommended for every pet before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys are functioning normally and that the blood sugar is normal.  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 may need adjustments in drug protocol or adjustments in IV fluids during surgery.  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.  If your pet weighs less than 4 to 5 pounds, ask us for a specific recommendation about fasting. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.

What are the benefits of LASER surgery?

Bay Animal Hospital is proud to be the only animal hospital in Bay County to offer Laser Surgery for your pet.

Less Pain - The laser seals nerve endings as it moves through tissue. Your pet will feel less pain after surgery.

Less Bleeding - The laser seals small blood vessels during surgery, resulting in less bleeding and quicker procedures.

Less Swelling - With laser technology, only light comes into contact with the tissue, causing minimal swelling.

Extreme Precision - The laser enables your surgeon to only affect or remove the target tissue, leaving the healthy surrounding tissue untouched.

Reduced Risk of Infection - The high heat of laser energy kills bacteria and microorganisms as it moves through diseased areas, reducing the chance of infection.

Will my pet have stitches?

For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. We use the highest quality suture material available, irrespective of cost.  Better suture material leads to less post-operative complications.  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.  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.

Will my pet be in pain?

Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals. A pet's nervous system is virtually identical to ours.  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.

For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflamatory 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 be given even the morning of surgery. 

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or 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 20-30 minutes prior to surgery.  After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis.  Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.

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 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 of 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 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.