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Crossroads Animal Hospital

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What to Know Before Your Pet's 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.

What to Expect the Day of Surgery

You will receive an appointment confirmation 2 business days prior to surgery. Feeding instructions will be included in that confirmation. It is important to perform surgery on an empty stomach so your pet should not have any food after 8:00 the night prior to surgery (this helps to reduce vomiting during and after anesthesia), however, water intake is encouraged to prevent dehydration.  We typically schedule our admit appointments every 10 minutes between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning. You will come in, check in at the front desk where you will sign a consent form and leave phone numbers where you can be reached, as well as sign a copy of the treatment plan for the procedure. Then you will meet with the doctor, where you can ask questions about the procedure and the plan for the day. Please plan to be here for 10-20 minutes for admit. 

Is the anesthetic safe?

Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here at Crossroads Animal Hospital, 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.  A handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail. 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 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. We offer three levels of in-house 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.

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, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches.  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 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. 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 administer a pain injection 10 minutes 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. Injectable pain medications may 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 is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, nail trim, anal gland expression, or implanting an identification microchip.  If you would like a treatment plan 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 pick up your pet after surgery you can plan to spend about 10 to 15 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs. Please check out the Post Surgery/Home Care Instructions below for more details.   Please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.

Post Surgery/Home Care Instructions

Every patient that comes in for surgery will go home with this form. A technician will go over all of these take home instructions with you prior to leaving with your pet. Each form is customized to each patient and procedure. Here's some additional information so you know what to expect.  

   Food and Water: One of the boxes will be checked off depending on the procedure, but typically Normal Diet is okay. You'll also want to follow the instructions directly below the check boxes to avoid vomiting. 

   Activity: Your pet may resume normal activity in 24 hours.

Allow leash walking only for 7-14 days, then a slow return to normal exercise. (This varies based on patient and procedure).

The other 2 will depend on the procedure your pet is having. They may not even be necessary. 

   Eliminations: Many patients may have loose/decreased bowel movements for 24-36 hours following procedures. This is normal. 

   Medications: If medications are needed, they will be listed here. If they're not necessary, then "None Dispensed" will be checked off. 

   Return: This will tell you if you need to bring your pet back for any reason. Some procedures require sutures or staples that will need to come out. We will schedule an appointment for you if this is needed. There is no charge for suture or staple removals. 

   Monitor: Just about every box will be checked off here, unless there is no incision (a dental procedure would not have an incision). 

   Special Instructions: This will be filled out based on your pet. This is where we usually tell you how the surgical procedure went, if any teeth were extracted during a dental procedure, if your pet will require an Elizabethan collar, and other information for your pet. 

   After your pet's procedure, the doctor will call you to let you know how things went. If something additional arises during the procedure, we will call you before doing anything. There shouldn't be any surprises when you pick your pet up and receive these instructions. A technician will meet with you at pick-up so you can ask questions at that time. And, of course, if you have any questions after you get home, we're a phone call away!

How to Prepare for a Wellness Exam

When you go to your primary care physician for your annual well check, and the doctor asks “Do you have any other questions?” do you usually have questions? Most people's minds go blank at this question, then they get home and remember that they DID have questions. Well, the same happens at veterinary visits. Here at Crossroads, there are certain questions our doctors and technicians ask during each well visit. Here is a helpful list for you so you can be prepared when these questions are asked:

  • What type of food are you feeding and how much?

  • Is your pet on any medications (including heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention) or daily supplements? If so, names and dosing is helpful.

  • Any changes in behavior? This does not necessarily mean aggression (although we want to know that as well), it could mean changes in mobility, bathroom behavior, etc. Any change, even a slight change, should be brought up.

  • Does your pet have any lumps or bumps? Make note of where they are and check them often to see if size has changed.

  • Any issues or concerns? These could be daily things or things that happen off and on (bi-weekly, monthly, etc.). If it seems odd to you, ask the doctor! No concern is too small to discuss.

  • We will ask you to bring in a stool sample. This tests for intestinal worms and parasites which may be present even if your pet is not showing any signs or symptoms.

  • If your pet is getting older or has health problems, we may recommend blood work. (See below for information about our senior wellness program).

  • We will ask if you need a refill of anything, so double check your supply of medications, heartworm prevention, flea and tick prevention, and any supplements before coming in. If you are in need of anything, we can get it for you during your appointment.

Senior Wellness Program:

  • Wellness exams every six months to look for early signs of disease. A year between exams is a long time in a senior pet’s life.  For example, for a ten-year old cat one year equals four years of a human’s life.  For a ten-year old Labrador, one year equals about 6 years.

  • Bloodwork may be recommended. This would include a complete blood count, chemistry panel, and urine testing to evaluate the liver, kidneys, endocrine system, bone marrow function, etc.

  • We may recommend a dental cleaning. Tartar buildup in the mouth also leads to build up of bacteria.  These bacteria can spread to other parts of the body.  Due to constant assault to the immune system, dental and gum disease can lead to heart and kidney disease if not addressed.

  • Some of the most common signs of aging in dogs and cats are due to development of arthritis. This leads to a decrease in the quality of our pet’s lives, as it takes away their mobility and forces a decrease in their activity level.  It is best to begin treatment early to improve the lifestyle of our pets.

*If this is a new pet, make sure you bring any previous vet history with you. We need to know where they are coming from (out of state, out of the country). It's very helpful for us to see exactly when and what type of vaccines have been given in the past (tags, unfortunately, do not tell us when and what kind of vaccine was given). Some animals have reactions to certain vaccines and we need to know that ahead of time to prevent any problems. Also, having this handy may prevent you from having to make follow up appointments to have vaccines done due to us not knowing exactly what was given.

This may seem silly, but write down any issues you may have to bring with you to the appointment. You can even call ahead and ask the receptionist to leave a note in your appointment or mention things you want to discuss when you schedule the appointment. You know your pet better than we do, so no concern is a small concern. We are here to help and we are happy to do so.