A white corgi runs along a wall of tall grass in a field wearing a teal harness.


What to Expect

What You Need to Know About 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.

A veterinarian in green surgical dress ties a suture on a drape covered pet.

What do I need to do to prepare my pet for surgery?

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. We usually recommend giving no food after 10:00 PM the night before. Water can be left down for your pet until the morning of surgery.

Is anesthesia safe for my pet?

We do everything in our power to ensure our patients are safe under anesthesia.

We've chosen to use Alfaxan for induction. Alfaxan is the shortest acting FDA approved injectable anesthetic drug on the market, causing less bradycardia (slowing of the heart) and less hypotension (low blood pressure) than other induction drugs. Alfaxan is safe for puppies and kittens, maternal patients, and other animals who typically have trouble with other drugs such as sighthounds. It has been tested at 5 times the standard dose in cats and 10 times the standard dose in dogs and proven SAFE again and again. We strongly believe this is the safest induction agent for our patients.

We use multimodal anesthesia (meaning we combine medications that work concurrently to use small doses of each) producing a safer, light anesthesia comparable to the "twilight" anesthesia your dentist offers. Each patient has a dedicated surgical technician closely monitoring their vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, and level of oxygen in the blood, while the doctor performs the procedure, ensuring instant action if any anomolies arise.

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. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.

Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic. 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 dysfunctions 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.

We offer two levels of basic 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.

A veterinarian and technician look at the heart and pulse-ox monitor of a surgical patient.

Will my pet have stitches?

For some surgeries, such as spays, 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 sutures or staples. 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 you will also need to watch for. If there are sutures or staples, these will usually be removed 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 14 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 indicated 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 and can be given even the morning of surgery.

Cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, but it's still just as important to make sure cats are pain-free. Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. You may be sent home with a liquid pain medication for your cat that can be absorbed by the gums.

After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Injectable pain medications may be used after surgery on both dogs and cats. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication. 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. 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 your 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.