Pet Haven Animal Hospital

153 Mt. Auburn St.
Watertown, MA 02472


What You Need to Know Before 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.

Row of dogsIs the anesthetic safe?

Today's modern anesthetic monitors and medications have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here at Pet Haven Animal Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that nothing has changed since your pet's last visit.  We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the size, age, and health of your pet.  We used a balanced anesthetic protocol, meaning each patient receives an intramuscular premedication, an intravenous induction, and then gas anesthesia and oxygen delivered through a breathing tube.  Our anesthetic patients have an intravenous catheter placed and receive intravenous fluids throughout surgery to maintain hydration and support blood pressure. The 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 properly process the medications used.  Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing.  If problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected, or our anesthetic protocol can be adjusted accordingly. It is much better to find a problem before it causes an anesthetic or surgical complication.  

All blood testing is sent to an outside lab, where comprehensive metabolic screens can be run.  We also have the option of running some critical in-house labwork, should there be values we need to check day of surgery (like blood sugar on our diabetic patients).  For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood testing, electrocardiograms, or x-rays 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 left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.

Orange CatWill 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 mass removals, do require skin stitches.  With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge.  It is very important that your pet not be allowed to lick, chew or scratch at their incision.  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 that time, and no bathing or swimming is allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.

Sad Pug DogWill 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.  We control pain by administering different types of pain medication during surgery and immediately after, as well as performing local anesthetic blocks when we are able.  We also send home pain medication depending on the surgery performed.

Depending on the type of surgery performed, your dog will likely go home with a several day course of an oral anti-inflammatory to lessen discomfort and swelling.  For larger surgeries, your dog will also go home with a several day course of a drug that specifically controls pain.

For cats, we like to use a long-lasting injection of a narcotic pain reliever, which often prevents the need to send home oral medication.  Depending on the surgery, we may give other medications to help keep your cat comfortable as well.  There are several different drugs (anti-inflammatories and pain relievers) that we may choose to send home with your cat, depending on the procedure performed.

Child with CatWhat 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 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 to 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and confirm details for the day. 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.

You will receive emails and confirmation phone calls leading up to your pet's surgery. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's procedure or health.