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YOUR PET'S SURGERY - WHAT TO EXPECT
Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery, and we hope this information will help. Here at Northwest Veterinary Hospital, we know that surgery can be the scariest procedure your pet will have. We do everything we can to make the procedure safe. Some of the steps we take to increase the safety of each procedure we do:
Monitor each pet with state-of-the art surgery monitors
Both Veterinarian and Surgery Technician monitors your pet
Laser surgery provides smaller, more precise cutting with less trauma to tissues and less bleeding
Warming pads to maintain your pet's temperature.
Before surgery day
We will call you the night before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm your pet will be dropped off at 7 a.m., 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.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. You will be asked to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. Just feed your pet as normal up to 8 pm the night before. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.You can give most oral medications as normal. If you give them with food, make sure it is only a meatball sized chunk of food - enough to hide the pill. If your pet is a diabetic or has more serious health concerns, let's make sure we go over all the medications your pet is taking so everthing goes smoothly.
What happens on the surgery day?
When you drop your pet off for surgery, you will be speaking with our Surgery Technician, whose responsibilities include providing an accurate estimate of the fees for the surgery and going over each part of the procedure. We pride ourselves in being straight forward with how much everything cost, so don't hesitate to ask questions. The technician will be the person who follows your pet through the whole morning's procedure until your pet has started to wake up.
While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, toe nail trims, or implanting an identification microchip. Laser surgery may be benificial for your pet. 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.
What is Laser Surgery?
We use a CO2 laser that produces a beam of invisible light to cut the skin and soft tissues. It can take the place of a scalpel blade. The main benefit is the laser has virtually no effect on the tissue surrounding the treatment area, since no tissue-damaging incisions are needed. The affected area is easily pinpointed. In addition, the laser never actually touches the tissue, which means that there is much less tissue trauma, and bleeding is greatly reduced. Of additional benefit to your pet is that surgery time is reduced greatly, and so is pain and discomfort.
The surgery procedure
We will check your pet's weight and temperature. Normal temp is between 100 to 103 degrees F. This can go down during surgery, so your pet will be on a specially heated water blanket, which is safer than a heating pad.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. This is a shorter version of the comprehensive Wellness Work-up we recommend be done annually. 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. Our Lab Tech will run this bloodwork on lab machines for veterinary use. This gives us a print out the veterinarian will review prior to starting the procedure. We are checking for signs of liver or kidney dysfunction, anemia, electrolyte imbalance, and other parameters. If serious problems are detected, the surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. All surgery patients have a probe attached to them during the entire surgery using up-to-date equipment that check for pulse, respiration rate, and oxygen saturation rate (SPO2). Normal pulse for a cat is 160-240 beats per minute and 70-160 for a dog. Normal respiration is 20-30 breaths per minute and 10-30 for a dog. The SPO2 rate is measured by pulse oximetry. This is a special method that uses infrared light passing through the pet's tissues to detect the amount of oxygen flowing through nearby arteries. We use the same probe as we do for blood pressure and respiration.
In some cases, the pet may handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery. A catheter is placed in one of the front legs, and the fluids, usually human-grade "LRS" or Lactated Ringer's Solution, flows at a continous rate using an electric IV pump.
During surgery, we adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet, what the monitors tell us, and observation. Some anesthetics are "gas", or inhaled by the pet. Others are strictly by injection. In additon to the veterinarian, there is a surgery technician with your pet. Pain medication will be given for comfort of the pet, and to speed the recovery process. We may also send a prescription home with you. Some procedures will require antibiotics as well.
Many factors will determine how long it take a pet to wake up from anesthesia. Generally, it is about 4-6 hours. Most pets will be ready to go home by 5:30 pm that day, and the doctor will go over instructions for home care.
What do I do after the surgery?
Some likely after-effects are lethargy, dizziness, lack of appetite and vomiting. These can last up to 24 hours. Keep your pet in a quiet place where you can watch them and they can't hurt themselves if they fall down. Be sure and call us if any of these symptoms are prolonged or seem severe.
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 do require 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. 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. In some cases, a special collar, called an Elizabethan collar, can reduce the chances of a pet licking and aggravating the surgery site.
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.
We can administer a pain injection for better pain control. 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.