What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming 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 anaesthetic safe?
Today's modern anaesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at the West Toowoomba Vet Surgery, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anaesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem. We also adjust the amount and type of anaesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.
Preanaesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anaesthesia. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anaesthetic. 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 anaesthetic or surgical complications. Animals that have minor dysfunctions will handle the aneasthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We offer three levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in. Our doctors prefer the more comprehensive screen, because it gives them the most information to ensure the safety of your pet. 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 anaesthesia. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. For most animals having a scheduled surgery, we recommend that no food is given from 6 PM the night before the surgery. Obviously, no breakfast on the morning of the surgery. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.
We usually get you to drop your pet down between 8 and 10 am in the morning. If we have not seen your pet before, or there are health issues, then the vet usually admits your pet. Sometimes, one of our Vet tech nurses will do the admission. Please answer all questions as truthfully as you can. If your pet has been ill, or eaten, we can modify the protocol that we use.
Your pet will be given a pre-medication injection. This contains 3 different drugs - to sedate and to start pain relief. Starting pain relief BEFORE any operation has been shown to have a MUCH better outcome than trying to control it once you are in pain. It also makes them a lot less anxious about the whole procedure.
They are also started on a long lasting pain injection. This takes a few hours to work, but will last 24 hours.
An intravenous catheder is placed in your pet's leg before surgery. This is where the induction anaesthesia goes eg the first part of the general anaesthetic. Using a catheter means we are unlikely to go outside the vein. We use the latest induction drug for all our surgeries. It is a bit more expensive than older style drugs, but it is 100% times safer.
A tube is then placed down your pet's trachea (windpipe) once they are knocked out. This allows us to maintain them under anaesthesia using a special type of gas.
Using the IV catheter, we start them on fluids at a high (surgical) rate. These fluids contain 3 different drugs to control pain and to make the whole experience as stress free as possible. These fluids are maintained the entire time they are knocked out. It also serves to maintain their blood pressure, flush out their system from the drugs and gives us easy access if there are any issues or complications.
During the surgery, a dedicated nurse will moitor your pet's vital signs. We have machines that tell us heart rate, blood oxygen levels and heart rate while your pet is anaesthetised.
A nurse sits with your pet until they have recovered from their surgery.
While every anaesthesia carries some risk - even in people - all precautions are taken to minimise that risk.
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, do require skin stitches. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. If appropriate, we have fitted your pet with an Elizabethan collar to prevent your pet licking and chewing at the surgery site. 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?
The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as: "An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage." The pain experienced by your pet depends on the stimulus received what type of tissue is damaged, and whether the damage is acute or chronic. Pain serves the purpose of warning an animal (or person) not to repeat that stimulus eg touching a hot object.
The nerve pathways that conduct the pain sensation to the brain are similar in nearly all species. It is therefore reasonable to assume that what would hurt a person will hurt an animal. However, there are marked differences in how animals show pain. As a general rule, predators will readily vocalise and display classical signs of pain; prey species on the other hand rarely show such signs of pain it would obviously attract a predator.
Just because an animal does not respond to pain like a person does not mean it is not in pain.
Aside from the obvious distressing effects of fear, crying out, and writhing, pain has marked effects on your pet's recovery from injury. Pain causes a breakdown of protein and fat in the body, which affects both wound healing and your pet's ability to fight infection.
The West Toowoomba Vet Surgery firmly believes that all animal species can feel pain, and that this pain is detrimental to your pet's physical and emotional wellbeing.
We therefore insist that appropriate pain relief is given to any animal suffering, or likely to suffer, a painful experience. This includes all surgical and dental procedures.
Research in both human and veterinary medicine has shown that the most effective pain control is achieved when painkillers are given prior to a painful stimulus, and then continued for at least 24 hours. Animals with chronic pain (such as arthritis) benefit from long term pain relief.
Your veterinarian will develop a pain control program for your pet, tailored to his/her condition. We require your assistance in determining whether your pet is receiving sufficient pain relief.
Working together, we can insure that your pet will receive relief from pain and experience minimal discomfort. If, at any time, you feel your pet is in pain please do not hesitate to discuss it with us.
What other decisions do I need to make?
While your pet is under anaesthesia, 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 servises, 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 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.