Knowing your pet needs surgery can be a stressful thing to have on your mind. The questions, the confusion, it’s impossible not to worry at least a little. That’s why we want to give you a crash course in what to expect from your pet’s surgery, how to prepare, and what you can do to help your furry companion on the road to recovery.

Pre-Surgery Prep

You will be given a set of instructions to follow before your pet’s surgery, but here are some things you and your pet should be prepared to do:

Pre-anesthetic bloodwork – Anesthetic drugs are eliminated from the body through the liver and/or kidneys. For the safety of your pet, it is important that we run bloodwork to identify any deficiencies in their liver, kidneys and overall body function. If so, the doctor can either use different anesthetic drugs or may recommend postponing the surgery until the deficiencies are cleared up. We recommend having the bloodwork done prior to surgery day. This way you don’t make an unnecessary trip and we are able to send the blood out to a reference lab which is less expensive than if we have to run the tests in house on the same day.

Fast before anesthesia – Fasting, or withholding food and water after midnight the night before a procedure that requires anesthesia are essential. Anesthesia drugs inhibit the swallowing reflex, and it can be incredibly dangerous if your pet vomits from the drugs, risking inhaling the vomit into the lungs (aspirating).

Prepare for surgery – Ask if your pet should take his medication the morning of the surgery, if he is on any, or if you should just drop it off at the clinic along with food.

Morning drop-off – We ask that you drop your pet off very early in the morning, even if the surgery isn’t until later in the day. Your veterinarian may want to run blood work, take X-rays, administer IV fluids or observe your pet before the procedure.

At the clinic – You’ll be required to fill out several documents before you leave. Review them and ask for any clarification if you need it. Be sure to leave a reliable phone number where you or someone you trust can easily be reached if we have questions or need authorization during the procedure. At this point you’ve done all you can and should just try to relax and keep your mind busy.

Post-Surgery Care

You will receive another set of instructions for after care. Here are ways you can make your pet more comfortable.

Immediately after surgery – Your pet may or may not have to stay at the hospital for a bit longer. Ask about visitation hours so your pet can see a familiar face. The period right after surgery is when most complications occur so it is important to follow all your veterinarians instructions for recovery. If you think you may not be able to fulfill any of your pet’s after care needs, ask about any outpatient support available.

In-home care – Your pet may still be affected by the anesthesia some hours after the surgery. Find him a quiet and contained place to rest. It’s best to keep him inside for the time being, only allowing him outside for bathroom breaks. Leash walking will prevent your dog from running or jumping that could open surgical incision sites. Be sure to be giving your pet his proper doses of medication if he is on any, and restrict activity to a minimum. We don’t want him injuring himself! Food and water should be given in small amounts the first night they are home. Like people, anesthetics can make pets nauseous and they may vomit if they gulp too much food or water when they are still recovering.

Keep an eye on the surgical site – Make sure your pet isn’t picking at or disturbing the bandages. Some swelling right after surgery is expected, but keep an eye on oozing, odors, and excessive bruising or redness. Call your veterinarian if something looks alarming. If your pet is licking at the incision site, we may recommend an Elizabethan Collar (a.k.a. cone or lampshade) to keep them from being able to reach the site.

Recovery times are different depending on the procedure. It is important to attend all follow up appointments to ensure your pet has a speedy and successful recovery.