The Wright Animal Clinic

12050 Southshore Pointe Drive
Midlothian, VA 23112


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

resized to 300 pixels wideMany 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?

The anesthetic drugs and monitoring systems we have available today have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here, at The Wright Animal Clinic, we do a thorough physical exam of your pet before administering anesthetics to ensure that a fever or other illness isn't present.  We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health or breed or medical conditions of your pet.  The handout on anesthesia explains this in greater detail.

Preanesthetic 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 handle the anesthetic drugs.  Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing.  If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications.  Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle anesthesia better if they receive IV fluids during surgery.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected or controlled.

Our doctor will discuss bloodwork recommendations prior to scheduling your pet's anesthetic procedure. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery.

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.

Will my pet have stitches?

For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath and in the skin.  These will dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed.  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.  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 14 days after surgery or until sutures are removed.

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 often won't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it.  Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.  Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations. All patients receive an injection for pain management 30-45 minutes prior to an anesthetic procedure and most will go home with a few days of pain medication.

Dogs will go home with several days of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory after surgery to reduce discomfort and swelling.  We use newer medications, which are approved for use in dogs.  The cost of the medication ranges from $10 to $20, depending on the size of your dog.

Because cats metabolize the common anti-inflammatory medications in a very individualized way, we are limited in what and how much AND how often we can give them.  Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  We administer a pain injection 30 minutes prior to surgery.  After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis.  Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication that should be administered exactly as directed by our doctor.

We use narcotic patches for some surgeries as well.  Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery for both dogs and cats.  We will always provide appropriate and adequate pain relief for your pet.

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What other decisions do I need to make?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip.  If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please let us know before surgery.  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 5-10 minutes of your time for paperwork.  When you pick up your pet after surgery, please plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs.

We will call you the day before your scheduled surgery appointment to confirm the time you will be dropping your pet off, review pre-surgical instructions for your pet, 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 a pending surgery.