We believe that it is essential that you speak directly with one of our doctors if you have concerns or are uncomfortable with any part of your pet's upcoming procedure. However, here are some common questions that may help you feel better prepared:
Is the anesthetic safe?
Bottom line: There is risk inherent to every anesthetic procedure. At Happy Pet Animal Hospital, we do everything we can to minimize this risk to allow us to successfully complete the surgery and send your pet home safe and sound at the end of the day. We start by doing a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering any anesthetics to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem. We also look for the appearance of any new problems such as a cracked tooth or new lump that need to be addressed.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in identifying underlying risks as well. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic safely. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing. If there is a mild problem, anesthetics can be adjusted and appropriate post-operative care can be directed. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the underlying problem is identified and corrected. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.
Placement of an intravenous catheter and the administration of i.v. fluids throughout the procedure is another way to minimize the risks of anesthesia. This will help support normal blood pressure and organ function, allow quicker processing of the anesthetics by your pet's body and speedier recovery, and provide an immediate access for emergency drugs in the rare (but important!) event that they are needed.
Then, we use modern anesthetic drugs in combinations that allow smaller doses and easier recoveries. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used based on the health of your pet and even the procedure being performed!
While under anesthesia, your pet will be carefully and closely monitored. We utilize the most modern monitoring equipment that provides "real time" vital statistics. In addition, we have a trained support staff member monitoring your pet's status as well. We believe that the combination of these two provides the most accurate assessment of all!
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. Typically, this means no breakfast (or treats!) for your pet on the morning of surgery. Water can be left down.
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 skin stitches. With either type of closure, 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. It is important to watch your pet closely and prohibit any licking or chewing he or she is inclined to do! An e-collar (a.k.a. the beloved "satellite dish") can be provided, if needed. 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?
Unfortunately, pain is inherent to any surgical procedure. Animals are also not very good at telling us when they are in pain as a large part of their brains are devoted to not showing weakness. Fortunately, we've got them figured out... and there are many very good products and techniques that will effectively manage that pain. Appropriate pain management is proven to lessen anesthetic risks and speed healing and recovery. The specific pain medications utilized will depend on the surgery performed and tailored specifically to your pet. It is critical that you not give anything to your pet that has not been prescribed by your veterinarian for the procedure. Potential sensitivities and/or drug interactions can be fatal!
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 nail trims, ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip. If you would like an estimate for these extra services, just ask at the time you bring in your pet for surgery.
When you do come in, we will need to 5 to 10 minutes of your time to fill out the necessary forms and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. Please be advised that a responsible party must be present at drop off, and a contact number will be required. When you pick up your pet after surgery, you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes going 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.