Our doctors are experienced in a wide array of surgical procedures, from the familiar general surgery (spay/neuter), to C-sections, urinary tract surgery, and surgery of the gastrointestinal tract and abdominal cavity. We also work closely with surgical specialists, should your pet need an advanced or unusual surgical technique.
What You Need to Know Before Surgery
Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery. This page will answer some of the more common questions, and also explain some decisions you will need to make before your pet's upcoming surgery.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic drug options, as well as advanced surgical monitoring equipment, have made surgery much safer than in the past. However, just as with humans, there is never a 100% guarantee that a specific pet won’t have an adverse reaction to anesthesia or surgery. The risk of adverse events is greatly reduced by thoroughly assessing the overall health of the pet before anesthesia, so that any underlying conditions that might make anesthesia and surgery riskier can be addressed, and anesthetic protocols adjusted to account for any risk factors. Some of the pre-operative measures that help us evaluate your pet’s anesthetic risk include: a full pre-operative physical exam; pre-operative blood testing to detect kidney, liver, or blood cell abnormalities, as well as other conditions that may not be apparent on physical exam; urinalysis in some patients; and chest xrays in some patients (particularly small breed dogs with heart murmurs). Selected patients may need more extensive cardiac evaluation (particularly cats with heart murmurs) prior to anesthesia. When we are able to fully evaluate the status of internal organ function before anesthesia, unexpected adverse events are extremely rare.
During anesthesia, we monitor all pets closely, with a dedicated surgeon and surgical technicians assigned to your pet, as well as state-of-the-art monitoring equipment that tracks EKG (heart rhythm), oxygen saturation, CO2 levels, blood pressure, and temperature. A key component to having a successful anesthetic experience is maintaining appropriate blood pressure. All anesthetic patients have an IV catheter placed and are given IV fluids to help maintain adequate blood pressure, thus ensuring that vitals organs remain “happy” during anesthesia.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. Generally, we will recommend withholding food after midnight the night before surgery. Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery but picked up by 6:00am. If you accidentally forget this, and feed your pet the morning of surgery, please let us know!
Isn’t my pet too old for anesthesia?
Being a senior citizen, in itself, does not inherently make anesthesia much riskier—it’s the diseases that can go along with being older, like kidney disease or heart problems, that make anesthesia riskier. However, at Lakeline Animal Care we have successfully managed anesthetic and surgical procedures on many senior pets—in fact, we pride ourselves on our ability to fully evaluate your pet’s risk factors, and manage the anesthesia accordingly. We do not want age alone to be a reason that a pet can’t have surgery to make them more comfortable and improve their quality of life, so we do all we can to make sure that every pet, regardless of age, has the safest anesthetic experience possible.
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. Depending on the location of the sutures, your pet may need to wear an Elizabethan collar (“E-collar”) to prevent premature removal of the stitches by your pet’s licking. 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. The amount and type of pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed, as well as an individual pet’s activity and response to surgery. Obviously, major procedures require more pain relief than minor procedures. We take a multi-modal approach to pain management in our patients. Surgical patients receive a pre-anesthetic injection that helps reduce anxiety and pain; during surgery, we utilize “local blocks” to numb the area of surgery, as well as an IV drip that delivers additional pain relief; and then post-operatively, depending on the procedure performed, we give an additional pain medication injection to keep your pet comfortable until you start giving oral medications at home.
After your pet goes home, we will often recommend a combination of a medication to reduce inflammation at the surgical site (thus reducing the source of pain), as well as a medication to reduce your pet’s perception of pain. Different medications are used in dogs versus cats, but in both species, a multi-pronged approach may be used to give your pet the most comfortable recovery possible. Some of the medications chosen may cause your pet to be a little bit sedate or less active than usual, but this is short term, and may actually make it easier to keep your pet rested as they recover from surgery.
Do I need to take time off of work for my pet’s surgery or after?
You do not need to miss any work to accommodate your pet’s surgical needs. We open at 7 am to check in surgical patients—if this is not early enough to allow you to get to work on time, we are happy to do check-in the evening before, and board your pet overnight at no additional charge to you. We stay open until 7 pm so that most people can leave work at their normal time and still arrive before we close for the evening.
Most pets are feeling well enough the morning after surgery that they are fine to be home alone. If you have concerns about leaving your pet home alone the day after surgery, we offer day boarding, and will give your post-op pet plenty of TLC.
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 any needed dental cleaning or oral surgery, 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.
How long will it take to check in and pick up?
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need 10-15 minutes of time to review and sign surgical and anesthetic consent forms, and to allow the doctor to meet with you and answer any final questions. 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.
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.