What To Know When Dog Surgery Has Been Recommended
At Advanced Animal Care, we understand that it can be frightening to receive the news that a dog surgery is being recommended. It is important to understand that it is a recommendation that our veterinarians do not take lightly. If one of our veterinarians is recommending a surgical procedure, rest assured that it is with the best interest of your dog in mind. It is important to us that you understand the reasons as to why a surgical procedure is being recommended and are able to comfortably make the right decisions regarding your dog's health.
Canine surgical procedures fall into two categories where your dog is concerned, elective procedures and those that are urgently necessary.
Surgery can be an elective procedure or emergency procedure. Elective procedures, such as extracting a tooth or doing a spay or a neuter, are considered preventative care for the longevity and health for your dog. Emergency procedures, such as a mass removal, can be helpful for long-term health too, and even life-saving in some cases.
There are some surgeries that require a specialist, but we do most surgeries here. A lot of times with orthopedic surgeries, we will refer out to a specialist. We are considered veterinarians who do internal medicine, dentistry, surgery, cardiology, and those types of things on a general basis, kind of like your general practitioner. But there are board-certified surgeons, just like you would have a board-certified surgeon in a human field that would be doing your surgery. Your doctor refers you to a certain specialty surgeon.
Elective surgery is one that you elect to do. There are no time constraints to it, other than the recommendations of when to have the surgery performed. Spays, neuters, mass removals, or dental cleanings and extractions are more elective, unless they're associated with illness. If there's a dental abscess or if there is a tumor that needs to be removed because of the potential of cancer, or there's a bleeding tumor inside the belly that's causing a life-threatening situation, that is more urgent.
Any time that you are going to do a procedure, we want to know your pet. We want to talk to you about it, we want to answer any questions that you have. We want to lay hands on your pet, making sure that we've done a full exam, identifying any potential issues that may cause them to be more at risk. We also want to go over any medications, any postoperative care that they need, as well as giving you kind of a timeframe and expectation of cost and expectation of recurrence or recovery.
When your pet needs surgery, we will ask you to fast them from the night before, usually after midnight. No food, but water is fine. And then when they come in, they're given a small, light sedation and then the technician will then put an IV catheter in and take any blood samples that we need to do to check to make sure their liver and kidneys are OK to process the anesthesia. Then we'll surgically prep and clean the area and set them up in the surgery suite.
When your pet goes under anesthesia, just like if you went to a hospital for an anesthetized procedure, there always is an inherent risk. Those risks are low, but they're still present. The unexpected can happen. But we do what we can to make sure that their liver and kidneys are OK, make sure their heart is OK, make sure they're not ill and too malnourished to go under for a procedure that they wouldn’t be able to heal very well from postoperatively. We just want to make sure that you're aware of the potential risk involved, as well as allow us to do the preanesthetic testing to minimize those risks.
For most elective procedures, your pet will go home the same day. For urgent procedures, it depends on how the pet responds and their pain level. We try to make sure that they're comfortable and that everything is working the way it's supposed to and that they're going to be well enough to be cared for at home and not at an in-hospital environment.
After surgery, your pet will probably be sleepy. We do ask that you only feed half of their normal meal after a surgical procedure. They'll probably be happy to see you, but exhausted from the whole ordeal, being in the hospital, so they'll be sleepy for a little bit. But generally, if it's a spay or a neuter or a dental procedure, they're back to themselves the next day.
Concerns to look for at home include swelling, pain or discharge, and redness at the incision site. If they are not responsive, not wanting to eat or drink, overly depressed or tired, those types of things are a concern.
For small dogs and cats, we recommend spaying or neutering after their vaccine series and before their first heat cycle. Puberty occurs around five or six months for males in dogs and cats, so we want to do that before puberty occurs. In older male dogs, or in male dogs that are larger, we do like to postpone neutering until a little bit later, around 10 or even 12 months. For large-breed female dogs, we want to talk to you before we schedule a spay surgery. Generally speaking, spaying decreases their chances of mammary cancer if it is done before their first heat cycle, which is around six months.
Most common elective dog surgery procedures include:
- Dental extractions
- Benign growths of the skin
Some common urgent care surgical procedures include:
- Skin lacerations or abscess
- Intestinal obstruction from a foreign body
- Internal bleeding
- Torn cruciate or ACL ruptures
- Fracture repair
- Malignant skin tumors
- Bladder stones/urethral blockages
- Spleen cancer
Most Dog Surgeries Are Considered To Be Low Risk
Surgery always carries with it numerous concerns ranging from potential complications to prognosis for recovery. However, because veterinary medicine has progressed to encompass all modern considerations, the risks are very low to your dog having any major complications from most surgeries.
We Follow The Highest Standards Of Veterinary Care
At Advanced Animal Care, we are committed to the highest standards of excellence in veterinary medicine. This commitment to excellent care is why we are an American Animal Hospital Association Accredited veterinary clinic. This accreditation is awarded to only the top 12% of veterinary hospitals in the nation. Surgical protocols at AAHA-accredited clinics include:
- Pre-surgical assessments. Prior to surgery, the veterinary team verifies the specifics of the procedure; completes a physical exam of the patient; and ensures blood tests have been completed, documented, and reviewed by the veterinarian. Among other things, these precautions help determine if your pet is at risk for complications while under general anesthesia.
- Dedicated surgical suites. To prevent post-surgical infections and cross-contamination, surgeries are performed in a room used only for sterile surgical procedures.
- Surgical attire. Staff must wear disposable caps and masks when entering the surgical suite. Anyone involved in the procedure itself must also wear sterile gowns and single-use gloves.
- Sterile packs and equipment. Surgical instruments are carefully cleaned, sterilized, and wrapped prior to each procedure to help prevent infections.
Making The Decision To Proceed With Dog Surgery
The decision to do surgery involves a discussion with the owner about possible complications and all factors to be considered when deciding what is best for your dog. Factors to think about when considering dog surgery include:
- Age and general health of the dog
- Potential complications from the surgery
- Potential outcome if surgery is not done
- Recovery time and post op care required by the owner
- Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation
Although the decision to have your dog undergo surgery is ultimately up to you, our veterinary team will present you with all the facts and possible outcomes to help you make an informed, ethical and compassionate decision that is in the best interest of both you and your loyal canine friend.
Dog Pre-Surgical Instructions
Dog pre-surgical instructions vary depending on the type of procedure being performed, and whether or not the dog surgery is emergency or planned. However, we will provide you with a set of dog pre-surgical instructions that can be used as a general guideline for preoperative preparations:
- Follow your vet's recommendations for feeding and drinking the day before and/or morning of the surgery
- Most surgeries are done on a fasted dog. In general, you will be asked to not feed your dog after midnight the night before the procedure
- Most dogs are allowed to drink until the morning of the surgery
- Be on time for your canine surgery, as most veterinarians schedule surgeries very tightly, and delays potentially threaten the wellbeing of the tardy dog, as well as the other dogs in line
- Listen carefully to post surgical instruction from your veterinary care team and call hospital if you have any questions regarding the post op care for your dog
At Advanced Animal Care, we adhere to very stringent guidelines for administering dog anesthesia before, during and if necessary, after surgery. These guidelines come from the American Animal Hospital Association, a veterinary organization that only accredits approximately 12% of all veterinary practices nationwide. For example, the AAHA guidelines require that we first do blood work, and then depending upon your dog's overall health, other tests to ensure there is not an overt risk of complications from receiving dog anesthesia.
Dog anesthesia is extremely safe when the patients are stabilized before the procedure and all effort is made to have a good understanding of the dog's medical condition before surgery. There is always some risk to anesthesia, however, the risk is extremely low when being performed by a highly qualified veterinarian and surgical team.
Recovery from surgery depends upon the length of the surgery, the age of the dog and the amount of pain medication required to keep your dog free from any post operative pain. Some things to be aware of post anesthesia include:
- It is normal for your dog to be groggy or disoriented for a few hours after receiving a general anesthetic
- Your dog might sleep deeper or longer for 24 hours after receiving dog anesthesia
- Your dog might be a duller version of itself for 24 hours after anesthesia due to the dulling effects of anesthesia
- You might need to help your dog balance during feeding and bathroom breaks for the first 24 hours after surgery
- Consult your veterinarian for any feeding and/or comfort tips they can provide depending on what kind of dog anesthesia was used, and what surgical procedure was performed
Always remember to call us if you have any questions about your dog's recovery
Post Surgical Care For Dogs
Just like dog pre-surgery instructions, dog surgery recovery protocols and care vary depending on the type of procedure performed, and whether or not the surgery was an emergency. However, we will provide you with a set of dog surgery recovery instructions that can be used as a general guideline for postoperative care:
- If you are leaving your dog during surgery, make sure you know when you should return for pickup
- For routine procedures, most dogs can go home a few hours after waking up from anesthesia
- For advanced or emergency procedures, extended stays of 24 hours or longer may be necessary in order to monitor vital signs and deliver critical care
- If you did not do so beforehand, make sure to receive and understand all recovery information, including:
- The administering of medication, food and water
- The changing of bandages, cleaning of stitches, etc.
- Assisted care tips
- Follow up appointment scheduling
- At home, allow your dog to recover in a warm, quiet space of its choosing (if possible) to increase comfort and reduce stress
- For the first 24 hours, monitor your dog closely as it recovers. Always call if you have any concerns
- Limit outdoor exposure for at least 24 hours to supervised and if necessary, assisted bathroom breaks
- Consult your veterinarian for more information on the necessity and duration of limited or restricted outdoor exposure
- Suture care (stitches): Most surgeries will require some sutures. Your veterinary staff will review you the after-care which will include keeping the dogs from licking the incision.
- Most dogs will be sent home with an Elizabethan Collar to ensure they do not lick or bite out the sutures
- Monitor the incision for possible signs of infection which will include redness or swelling
- Continue to follow your dog's recovery program until told to alter or discontinue it by your veterinarian
Scheduling Surgery For Your Dog
If you need to discuss surgical options, or schedule surgery for your dog, please contact us today. Our veterinary staff are highly experienced and caring dog people who are happy to help ease the stress and fear associated with dog surgery for you and your canine friend alike.