VCA South Arundel Animal Hospital

85 West Central Avenue
Edgewater, MD 21037


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. 

Is anesthesia safe?

Today's modern anesthetic drugs and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past.  At South Arundel Veterinary Hospital, the surgeon will do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to look for any abnormalities that might increase the risk of anesthesia.    The handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.

Preanesthetic 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,and to check on all of the other blood parameters.  Even apparently healthy animals can have 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 may need the amount and type of anesthetic used altered.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected. An EKG is also performed on pets over the age of six to look for abnormal heart rhythms.

It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting and aspiration into the lungs during and after anesthesia.  This is not true in the case of rabbits. 

During surgery, your pet's heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood oxygen saturation levels, and blood pressure will be monitored to ensure a safe recovery.  Various types of heating devices will be used to keep your pet warm and comfy.  Intravenous fluids help maintain blood pressure and the flow of blood to the body's vital organs.

After surgery, your pet will recover on a heating pad with whatever monitoring necessary until awake.

Will my pet have stitches?

For most surgeries there will be absorbable sutures underneath the skin as well as skin sutures that you can see.  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 stitches, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for.  An Elizabethan collar may be needed, or other deterrent such as Bitter Orange ointment.  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 or swimming 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.  Signs to look for could be lack of appetite, panting, trembling or reluctance to move.  Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.  Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.

In the hospital, your pet will receive injectable pain relief medication.  For pain management once home, you will be instructed on the use of oral medication.

We use narcotic patches for some orthopedic surgeries as well.    Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet and will help speed recovery.

What else do I need to know?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other procedures, such as dental cleaning, ear cleaning, nail trimming or implanting an identification microchip.  If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please ask.  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 5 to 10 minutes of your time to fill out paperwork  and get your contact information.  When your pet is ready to be released to your care, you will have a scheduled discharge appointment with a veterinary assistant or veterinarian.  You will get all of the instructions you will need regarding feeding, activity permitted and things to be watching for.

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.