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. Here at Northern Ohio Animal Healthcare, 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, age, and temperament of your pet. Your pet's doctor or healthcare team member will discuss this further with you prior to scheduling surgery or at the time of admission for surgery. Patients will receive a pre-medication sedative and analgesic cocktail prior to induction of anesthesia.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic, as well as ensuring your pet does not have a blood clotting issue. 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. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in. 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. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.
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, may require nonabsorbable skin sutures. 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. Pets do not understand that they underwent surgery. Therefore, it is important that you restrict your pet's activity level to help reduce the risk of surgical site swelling due to excessive movement of the skin. 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 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 do not "baby" themselves like people do, 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-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.
Because cats do not tolerate many standard pain medications, we were previously limited in what we could give them. However, recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. We administer pain medications prior to and after surgery.
Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication. 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 early dental disease cleaning (except for open abdominal procedures), 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. We also ask that you provide us with a phone number that you can be easily reached so that we can provide timely post-op notification, as well as if an issue should arise that requires immediate feedback. 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.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
1. At what age can I have my pet spayed or neutered?
Spaying or castrating can be done as early as 3 months of age for cats, 4 months for medium to giant breed dogs, 5 to 6 months for small and toy breed dogs (due to potential for retained puppy teeth, which can be extracted at the time of surgery). Your pet is given an exam prior to surgery to help determine whether your pet is healthy enough to undergo the surgical procedure. Current vaccinations are required at the time of surgery. Also, a pre-anesthetic blood screen is required prior to undergoing anesthesia and surgery.
(Is it a good idea to let my pet have at least one litter?
No, there is no evidence-based advantage to letting your pet have one litter. Delivery complications and cost of caring for the litter can be quite significant. However there are plenty of advantages to having you pet spayed or castrated. These advantages include decreasing the chances of malignant breast tumors later in life, eliminating the chance of cystic ovaries and uterine infections later in life, decreasing the desire to roam the neighborhood, decreasing the incidence of prostate cancer later in life, helping prevent spraying and marking, usually makes training easier (not thinking with the hormones), and also decreases the surplus of unwanted puppies and kittens.)
2. Is it okay to declaw my cat?
Declawing your cat can be a sensitive subject. Certainly there are circumstances in which having your pet declawed makes the most sense: immune-compromised individuals or clients that are on blood thinners. Generally we dissuade owners from having all four feet declawed, at least not under the same procedure due to the potential complications. The best time and most "humane" time to have them declawed is when they are under 6 months of age / 6 pounds, but we prefer not before 3 months/3 pounds. Having a variety of scratching posts will help keep cats from clawing up furniture. Cardboard scratchers are best, as they can be destroyed, which many cats like. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is best to have scratchers that lay flat on the floor and another one that stands vertical. If you have room, cat trees with scratchers are a favorite. See OSU Indoor Cat for other ways to keep cats happy.
4. Do you crop ears?
5. Will you make my adult dog's tail shorter?
We will not perform a tail amputation unless it is medically necessary. The potential for complications/pain is just too high to justify amputation of the tail to keep it from knocking things off of the coffee table.
6. My pet has a broken leg, can you fix that?
Many advances have occurred over the years. Much like in human medicine, the correction of fractures has moved away from casts and splint, and more towards surgery, including internal and/or external fixators. The surgical correction tends to lead to a much quicker return to normal activity/function with a lower risk of complications. Casts and splints will not work if they become soiled (hard to tell a pet to keep it clean and not to chew on it) or damaged, and not only not allow the fracture to heal, but can make it worse. Skin irritation and infection can be common with casts and splints. Some fracture locations and breeds of dog cannot have cast or splint fixation. Lastly, if there are complications, the cost of casting or splinting could actually result in a higher dollar amount than with surgical fixation. This can occur due to repeat sedation for bandage/splint changes. If complications arise that result in a wound, the fracture may end up needing surgical fixation to manage the wound. (Orthopedic procedures are typically
performed by a traveling, Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon)