If your pet is a dog, cat, ferret, or rabbit, it is likely that your pet will need surgery at least once in his or her lifetime, most commonly to be neutered or spayed. Many other species of pets may require surgery, even birds, reptiles, and fish. Understanding what happens after you bring in your pet for surgery can help you to feel less anxious, and be more prepared to ask those questions you still may have.
What to expect prior to your pet's scheduled surgery
When setting up an appointment for your pet's surgery, you will likely be given some instructions regarding withholding food from your pet the night before surgery. We recommend not allowing your pet access to food after 8.00pm the evening before surgery for dogs and cats. Be sure to follow our veterinarian's instructions carefully since some pets can have food withheld for only a short time such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Food is withheld so that if the pet vomits while under sedation, the pet is less likely to vomit food which could be aspirated into the lungs.
At the time you make your appointment, you will complete some paperwork. This will include a surgery permission indicating the procedure to be performed as well as any other additional tests your veterinarian may recommend before surgery to check for any underlying health problems - Pre-anaesthetic blood testing is recommended for all patients receiving an anaesthetic.
If you have any questions about the procedure, or what a certain test is or why it is being recommended do not hesitate to ask.
Make sure you understand what the procedure will involve, and what to expect afterwards. Will your pet need help getting in and out of the house or litter box to urinate and defecate? Will there be sutures (stitches) that will need to be removed? If a biopsy is being performed, when can you expect to receive the results? Will there be dressings for you to change or medication you will need to give? How long before your pet can be left alone at home? Can your pet have food and water when he gets home? Will your pet need a special diet temporarily?
What to expect on the day of your pet's surgery
On the day of surgery, after your pet is admitted, a second physical examination will be performed, and any needed testing will be done. Once the test results are back and everything looks OK, your pet will be prepared for surgery. Your pet will usually be given a sedative at this point, which will help to calm and relax them, followed by an intravenous anesthetic and then a gas anaesthetic. For most species, an endotracheal tube will be placed in the trachea to protect the airway and to administer the gas anesthetic that will keep your pet unconscious during the procedure. During surgery, several types of monitors are often used to make sure that your pet is doing well. Your pet will be placed on a specially heated pad to keep them warm during the procedure. Intravenous fluids will often be given during surgery and for a short period thereafter especially in patients over 7 years - it is recommended for all pets.
Once the surgery is over, the anaesthesia is stopped and your pet is allowed to wake up in a quiet area to be monitored by a staff member until he/she is able to move around safely on his own. This may take several hours. Although you will be anxious to take your pet home with you, it is best for them to stay in the hospital where they can be monitored until the veterinarian feels it is safefor them to leave. During this time, your veterinarian can also provide any needed pain medication.
You will feel less anxious about taking a pet in for surgery if you understand what is going to be done, and why.