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Frequently Asked Questions: Surgery
When your pet is about to have an anesthetic procedure, it is natural to have questions. If one of your questions is not addressed below, please do not hesitate to call us.
How safe is anesthesia?
Here at TDAC we place a priority on your pet's safety. We take special steps to help minimize the risks of anesthesia. On the morning of your pet's surgery, they will receive a pre-anesthetic exam as well as blood work to screen for hidden organ abnormalities that may impact anesthesia. We use balanced anesthetic protocols including pain medications to keep your pet comfortable throughout the procedure. While under anesthesia your pet will have its airway protected by an endotracheal tube that also allows us to deliver oxygen and carefully adjusted anesthetic gas to maintain an appropriate level of anesthesia. A licensed technician will be monitoring your pet's vital signs while they are asleep, including heart rate, respiration, ECG, blood pressure, and anesthetic depth. We also keep our surgical patients on IV fluids while under anesthesia and during recovery to help maintain appropriate blood pressure as well as allowing IV access for additional medications as needed. After surgery your pet is bundled in warming blankets and watched closely until they are able to swallow and respond to their environment.
We also recommend that all pets (with some exceptions) be kept fasted in preparation for anesthesia. This reduces the risk of vomiting under sedation which could lead to aspiration and respiratory problems. We ask that you remove your pet's food after 8 pm the night before surgery. Water access is fine all night but should be pulled up in the morning so they don't come in with a stomach full of water.
Will my pet have stitches?
Depending on the surgery and size of the incision needed, your pet may have absorbable sutures under the skin. These are broken down by the body over time and generally do not need to be removed later. In some circumstances, external stitches or surgical staples may be used to close the skin. In these situations, suture removal can be scheduled for 10-14 days after surgery.
Regardless of whether your pet has stitches externally or under the skin, please observe the incision every day until it is healed. Watch for swelling, gapping, redness, or discharge. Some pets require Elizabethan collars (cones) to keep them from licking at their incision- we don't want them pulling out those stitches early or giving themselves a skin infection! Please limit your pet's activity during recovery from surgery and do not allow them to run, jump, or engage in any other activity that may cause that healing tissue to stretch or tear. No baths or swimming are allowed for the first 14 days after surgery.
Will my pet be in pain?
Anything that causes pain in people can cause pain in animals. We often overlook pain in our pets because they work very hard to hide signs of discomfort. Just because your dog is not actively crying or whining doesn't mean that she isn't experiencing pain. Signs of pain can include a quiet demeanor, hunching, avoiding using an injured body part, decreased appetite, increased aggression, hiding, or panting.
We try to anticipate pain for our patients and prevent it as much as possible. Our pre-anesthetic medications always include some type of pain medication and more may be given during or after surgery depending on our assessment of your pet's pain level. Many surgical patients go home with oral pain medications which can include opioids or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories).
Please tell us if you think our pain protocols are not managing your pet's comfort level at home. We have many modalities of pain medication to choose from and some work better for different pets than others. Please DO NOT give your pet human pain medications such as aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen. At best, they don't work well for animals and at worst they can be extremely toxic to 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 small mass removals, ear cleaning, clipping matted fur, or implanting an identification microchip. Some procedures can also be combined into one anesthetic episode, such as minor mass removals and dental cleanings. Nail trims and basic ear exams are always complementary with anesthesia. If you would like an estimate for extra or combined 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. Please leave a number where you can be reached during the day in case problems or questions arise regarding your pet's procedure. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over any discharge instructions including home care, medications, and discussion of any follow up that may be needed.
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.