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 anesthetic safe?

Today’s modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. We do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem.  


Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the animal can handle the anesthetic. Pets that appear healthy can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing. For geriatric or ill pets, additional testing 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 anesthesia. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. Water can be given to the pet until midnight.

Will my pet have stitches?

For many surgeries, we use absorbable stitches 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. Both absorbable stitches and skin stitches require you 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. 


Skin stitches 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. However, pets may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.


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. 


Cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol,  so we administer a pain injection 10 minutes prior to surgery. After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. 


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 is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip.   


When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork. 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.


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 additional questions you might have. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.