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What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming Surgery


Many clients have questions about their pet's surgery and we hope this information will help ease some fears.  We also explain the decisions you may need to make before your pet's upcoming surgery.
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Is Anesthetic Safe?

At Larchmont Animal Clinic, we do our best to minimize any anesthetic risks by doing a thorough physical exam on your pet to ensure no underlying conditions are present.  We recommend doing a pre-anesthetic blood panel which also helps to detect any underlying conditions.  Our doctors are then able to tailor each anesthetic protocol to the specific needs of a patient.  Our surgical technician monitors the pet closely throughout the surgery and recovery.  This handout on anesthesia explains things in greater detail.   

What is the pre-anesthetic Blood panel?

Pre-anesthetic blood work is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia.  Every pet needs blood work before surgery to ensure that the patient can handle the anesthetic.  Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.  For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.

We recommend intravenous fluid be given to every patient undergoing surgery.  Not only does this keep your pet hydrated during the procedure, but the intravenous access is important to have in the event of an emergency.  This allows for fast administration of life saving medicine.

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 do require skin stitches.  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 seen after surgery.  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?

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, but they can be uncomfortable.  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.  The cost of the medication will depend on the size of your dog.

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them.  However, recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than before.  After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis.  Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.

We use narcotic patches for some surgeries in dogs as well.  The cost will depend on the size of the dog.  Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats.  Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.

What Other Decisions Will I Need To Make?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, 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 5 to 10 minutes of time 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 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.

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