Surgery FAQs

What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming Surgery

Veterinarian and cat at River Oaks Animal Hospital in Houston

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.

Is the anesthetic safe?

Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. At our 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.

Pre-anesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Blood testing before surgery is recommended to ensure that the internal organs are functioning normally and there is no evidence of anemia, low platelets or an infection. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system or blood cell problems that cannot be detected without blood testing. We also recommend an electrocardiogram to help rule out heart problems which may be non-evident during your pet's physical exam. If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications. We administer IV fluids to patients during most of our anesthetic procedures. This helps maintain your pet's hydration throughout the procedure and helps them recover more rapidly. Additionally, it provides our staff with an emergency access port if the need should arise.

If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests or x-rays may be recommended 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 12 hours before 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 recommended will depend on the surgery performed. We include pain management with every surgical procedure for both the comfort of the patient, and to speed the recovery process. This may involve an injectable medication which will help ensure the patient is comfortable upon waking as well as a restful night's sleep at home.

When deemed necessary by the doctor, oral pain medications for the next few days may also be included in your pet's treatment plan. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations. We may also include an oral anti-inflammatory to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. The cost of these medications will range depending on the size of your pet and the duration of the prescription.

During the discharge process, we will carefully review your pet's pain management plan with you to address any questions that you may have.

Will my pet have stitches?

For some surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These will dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed later. Some surgeries 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.

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, 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.