Alto Tiburon Veterinary Hospital

25 N. Knoll Rd.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

(415)383-7700

altotiburon.com

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 anesthetic safe?

Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here at Alto Tiburon Veterinary Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won't cause complications.  We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.  During surgical procedures, we continuously monitor your pet's EKG, oxygenation (pulse oximetry), respiration (end-tidal CO2), blood pressure, and temperature.

Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia.  Some pets need blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic. If your pet needs blood testing, our doctors will discuss it with you after the initial physical evaluation.  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.  Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.

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 12 hours before surgery.  Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.

Will my pet have stitches?

For some surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin.  These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later.  Many surgeries, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches or staples.  With either sutures or staples, 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 or staples, 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.  We do recommend that your pet be bathed a day or two before the surgery to minimize bacterial contamination of 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.

For dogs, 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. 

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them.  Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  We may administer a pain injection prior to surgery.  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 do I need to make?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it may be appropriate to perform other minor procedures, such as microchipping, dentistry, ear cleaning, or minor growth removal.  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.

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.