What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming Surgery
Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery or dental procedure, and we hope this information will help. It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your pet's upcoming surgery.
What do I need to do ahead of time?
- If you have questions about your cat's upcoming procedure, please call the office ahead of time so that we can address your concerns. Please let us know if you need an estimate.
- Your cat will need to be fasted prior to anesthesia. Please be sure to remove all food and treats after 6am the morning of your cat's procedure. You do not need to remove water. For some procedures, we may ask you to remove access to food earlier.
- You may want to leave your cat's carrier out for several days prior to the procedure. This will help your cat acclimate to the carrier and will make it easier to get him into the carrier on the morning of your appointment.
What do I need to bring with my cat?
- Be sure to bring your cat in a carrier. This will help keep him safe during transport into the clinic and on the way home. We do require that all cats being discharged after anesthesia be transported in a carrier. Cardboard carriers are available for purchase.
- You may want to bring a small blanket or stuffed toy from home. We can put this into your cat's kennel during recovery to help soothe anxiety.
- You may want to bring a small amount of food for your cat to eat after his procedure. We can supply food, but some cats prefer to eat their regular brand or flavor.
- If your cat is taking any medication, please bring it with you.
What will happen to my cat after I leave him at the clinic?
First, your cat will be examined by the veterinarian to be sure he is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Next, we will draw a blood sample to check liver and kidney function, blood sugar, and red blood cell level prior to anesthesia. If your cat has had bloodwork done recently, we may not need to repeat it.
Once your cat is ready for his procedure, we will administer a sedative to help him relax. After your cat is feeling sedate, an IV catheter will be placed and we will administer drugs to anesthetize your cat. We will use an anesthesia machine to deliver oxygen and anesthetic gas to keep your cat asleep during the procedure. Your cat will be attached to several monitors and monitored by a dedicated assistant during anesthesia. After the procedure is finished, your cat will be allowed to gradually wake, and will rest for a few hours before he is ready to go home.
Is the anesthesia safe?
Today's modern anesthesia drugs and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. If any problems are found during the presurgical exam or bloodwork, the veterinarian may make some changes to the anesthetic protocol or drugs to ensure your pet's safety. Or, if the problem is serious, she may want to postpone the procedure. We also designate an assistant whose sole responsibility during your pet's procedure is to monitor his vital signs. This will help us to detect any minor changes or problems so that adjustments can be made before serious complications develop.
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 sutures. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. Most cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for. An elizabethan collar (cone) may be used in many cases to prevent licking at the sutures. 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; 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. The doctor will evaluate your pet individually and make the best pain control recommendations for his or her situation. Your cat will likely receive pain medications before and after surgery, and additional pain medication may be sent home for you to administer orally after surgery.
For dental procedures or major surgeries, we often use opioid type pain relievers. Opioids are very effective pain relievers in cats, but they can sometimes cause behavior changes such as restlessness, pacing, and vocalizing/meowing. These side effects are expected and usually indicate that your cat has received an effective dose of pain medication.
What other decisions do I need to make?
While your pet is under anesthesia, it may be an ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as removal of small lumps, 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 to take 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 day 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.
Remember, when you pick your cat up after surgery, you must have a carrier to ensure his or her safety for the ride home. Cats recovering from anesthesia may still be groggy, or easily startled, and we cannot release them from the hospital without a carrier. Inexpensive, reusable cardboard carriers are available for clients who need one. Just ask!