Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery. We hope this information will help answer some of those questions and help you with some of the decisions you will need to make prior to your pet's surgery. Please also view our "Surgery" page under "Services" for more information.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic equipment, medications and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. See our "Surgery" page for more details about how we keep your pets safe under anesthesia. Here at Sierra Pet Clinic, we do a thorough physical exam on and recommend pre-anesthetic bloodwork for your pet before administering anesthetics to try and pick up on any health problems before surgery. We use an intravenous catheter not only to administer anesthetic medications and optional fluids during surgery but also to administer life-saving medications in the rare event that unexpected complications arise. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health and size of your pet and on the procedure being performed.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Every pet should have a minimum of a pre-anesthetic blood panel before surgery to minimize anesthetic risk. Even young, apparently healthy animals can have underlying health problems that may not be detectable without blood testing. If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications.
We offer a variety of blood panels prior to anesthesia. Please discuss your concerns with your veterinarian to determine the panel most suitable for your pet. Depending on your pet's health other diagnostics may be recommended prior to your pet's anesthesia if the doctor feels they are necessary for the safety of your pet during anesthesia and/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 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. Some surgeries, especially tumor removals and laceration repairs, do require exposed skin stitches. With any type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision and watch for swelling, heat, increasing redness or discharge. It is also important that your dog or cat not be allowed to lick excessively or chew at an incision or wound repair site while it is healing. We typically provide an Elizabethan collar (E-collar) after surgery to help prevent problems with licking or chewing. If we do not provide one and you feel your pet needs one please call or come in to discuss your concerns. If there are skin sutures, these are usually removed here at the clinic 10 to 14 days after surgery. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level until incisions or lacerations are healed (10-14 days) 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 which is why we use pain medications in our surgical patients. Pets may not always show the same symptoms of pain as people do. They usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel pain. Some signs of pain are easy to identify such as limping or gently licking an incision or injury. But other signs to watch for that can indicate pain are excessive panting, pacing, restlessness or difficulty getting comfortable, avoiding certain activities or sometimes all activities, decreased appetite, hiding or sometimes clingyness with their owners.
The strength and type of pain medication used during and after surgery depends on the surgery performed. Major procedures generally require more or stronger pain medications than minor procedures. Medications commonly used for pain fall into two classes: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Rimadyl or Metacam; and opiates, like morphine, hydromorphone and tramadol. Your veterinarian determines the type of medication to be used during surgery and for use at home. However, you know your pet better than anyone so if after a surgical procedure (or at other times) your pet seems to be in excessive pain please call to discuss your concerns or to schedule a time to bring your pet in. Every dog and cat responds differently to pain and they all deserve to be as free from pain as possible.
What other decisions do I need to make or other things do I need to know?
While your pet is under anesthesia for certain procedures, it may be a good time to perform other minor procedures such as removing small masses, dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting a microchip. If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please call ahead of time and also discuss these additional services with our staff when you are dropping your pet off for surgery. Alerting us ahead of time as to your desires for these extra services 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 5 to 10 minutes of your time for you 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 going over your pet's home care needs with the staff.
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.
Despite our best efforts to provide safe anesthesia and surgery to our patients there is no way to guarantee that every surgery or anesthetic procedure will be free from complications. Anesthesia and surgery will always carry with them some degree of risk. Undiagnosed diseases, unexpected reactions to medications, surgical complications like infection or excessive bleeding, non-compliance on the part of pet owners as to our recommendations before and after surgery and unpredicatable behavior on the part of the recovering patient can all pose risks that are not always possible to predict. We attempt to mitigate these risks as much as possible by using every safety measure as our disposal and asking that you follow our recommendations for optional safety measures to keep your pet's anesthesia and surgery as safe and comfortable as possible.