Surgery, Anaesthesia and Pain Management
Mountainview Animal Hospital’s services include surgery, general anesthetics and pain control. We are aware that even under the best of circumstances dropping a pet off for surgery is often a stressful event for most pet owners. So, we thought a behind the scenes tour of your pet’s day with us may help settle your nerves.
Most elective surgeries are scheduled for weekday mornings. Patients will be admitted in the morning between 8:00 and 8:30 am. If this time is not convenient, you are welcome to bring your pet in the evening before. Also for your pet’s protection, we recommend that all necessary vaccinations be up to date at least ten days prior to surgery.
Fasting – It is important to fast your pet before the surgery; having food in the stomach may cause your pet to vomit while under the influence of the anesthetic. During a general anesthetic your pet’s swallowing reflexes will be diminished; this will put him or her at risk of aspirating (inhaling) vomit into the lungs. This serious complication can be avoided by removing your pet’s food after 8:00 pm the evening before the surgery. It is okay for your pet to have water.
The morning of the surgery plan to spend 15 to 20 minutes reviewing the surgical consent form and discussing the procedure with our team. This lets us address any important details of your pet’s condition and the procedure. The doctor will also perform a complete physical examination to identify any existing medical conditions that could complicate the procedure and compromise the health of your pet.
Pre-anesthetic Blood testing – Because there is always the possibility that a physical examination alone will not identify all of your pet’s health problems, we strongly recommend that a pre-anesthetic profile (a combination of blood tests) be performed prior to anesthesia.
This blood test can be run in the clinic the morning of the surgery. The tests we recommend are similar to and equally as important as those your own physician would run if you were to undergo anesthesia. It is important to understand that a pre-anesthetic profile does not guarantee the absence of anesthetic complications. It may, however, greatly reduce the risk of complications as well as identify medical conditions that could require medical treatment in the future.
A normal blood test would confirm the health of your pet as well as give us a baseline to work with in the future. Because our older pets are more likely to have complicating diseases, this pre-anesthetic blood testing becomes mandatory in pets over eight years of age. If you are interested in reading more specific information about the pre-anesthetic tests open this PDF file.
Once your pet has been admitted to the hospital he or she will have blood collected for the pre-anesthetic blood test and may be placed on intravenous fluids if required. Then your pet will be placed in an observation kennel with a blanket until the blood analysis is completed. A doctor will give the registered veterinary technician permission to begin the sedation process after interpreting the pre-anesthetic blood results.
Just before your pet is given any medication the heart rate, respiratory (breathing) rate and body temperature are checked. If these parameters are within normal limits an injection of sedative and pain medication is given. This injection usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to create sedation. Now your pet is ready for the anesthesia and surgery.
To anesthetize your pet, we first give an intravenous injection to cause a deep state of sleep. An endotracheal tube is then placed and secured into the airway. This protects the airway and delivers the oxygen and gas anesthetic that will keep the patient asleep during the surgery.
Once your pet is comfortably sleeping, a lubricant is placed in the eyes to keep them moist, the nails are trimmed and the surgical area is carefully shaved.
Once all the fur is removed from the surgical area pets are moved into the surgical suite.
A common complication of anesthesia is hypothermia (low body temperature). To avoid this, our patients are wrapped in towels, placed on a warming pad and are cushioned by warmed oat bags.
All pets are also monitored closely during their surgery by our registered veterinary technician. Your pet’s heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature and blood oxygen levels are measured at regular intervals to ensure the safety of the patient. We may also measure your pet’s blood pressure and do an electrocardiogram if necessary.
The shaved surgical area is carefully washed and prepared for surgery in a sterile manner using special skin soaps and disinfecting solutions.
While this is occurring, the doctor is dressing and scrubbing for the surgery. A cap and mask are worn to cover the head and face; germs falling off the head or breathed into the incision could cause an infection. The surgeon’s hands and arms are scrubbed using a special skin disinfecting soap and are dried using sterile hand towels. The body is covered by a sterile surgical gown and gloves.
The surgeon covers the surgical area with sterile drapes and begins the surgical procedure using sterile instruments. All the while the registered veterinary technician continues to monitor the vital statistics of the anesthetized patient.
After the surgery is complete, the anesthetic is turned off. We continue to deliver oxygen to your pet through the endotracheal tube for 5 to 10 minutes to help the body recover. The area around the incision is cleaned of the soaps and a bad tasting disinfectant is spread onto the incision to avoid pets from licking the area when they have woken up.
Your pet is then moved back into his or her observation kennel for recovery. He or she is wrapped in fresh blankets and the oat bags are reheated. Preventing and treating pain is an important responsibility. Not only does it make our patients more comfortable, but preventing pain speeds the healing process. We use a combination of narcotic and anti-inflammatory pain medications tailored to the individual’s needs, health status and type of surgical procedure that was performed.
Most pets are lifting their heads within 10 minutes and standing up with in an hour of completion of the surgery.
We understand that you eagerly await news of your pet’s surgery, so once your pet has safely recovered from the anesthetic, our receptionist will call to give you an update.
Throughout the day we will continue to monitor our post-surgical patients for comfort as they regain their balance and strength. While many people are concerned their pet will be stressed and barking, most rest peacefully, napping most of the day.
Within a few days of your pet’s discharge from the hospital, we will follow up with you by telephone to ensure that your pet is continuing to have a comfortable recovery at home.
At the end of the Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life”, an ultrasonic whistle, audible only to dogs, was recorded by Paul McCartney for his Shetland sheepdog.