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Preparing for Surgery

The day of surgery represents the beginning of your pet's steady, comfortable return to a pain free lifestyle. Find answers to the variety of questions you may have when preparing for your dog's surgery.

1. What should I do the night before surgery? Feed your pet dinner as usual, but no food after 9pm (water is o.k. up until the time of surgery). Try not to let the scheduled surgery disrupt your pet’s usual routine (i.e., remember to let your pet out for his or her usual romp). At the time of consultation, please let our doctors know the names and dosages of any special medications your pet regularly takes. Most medications can be given the night before surgery. Let us know if your pet is taking special medication so we can determine if they should still be given the morning of surgery. Aspirin should be avoided for one week prior to surgery.

2. What do I bring to the surgery admit?  Please bring any medications your pet is currently taking. We will contact your veterinarian for current blood work. Ideally, a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel should be performed by your family veterinarian within 6 months of major surgery. If necessary, bloodwork can be performed on the day of surgery at our hospital. At the time of admit, we will go over some information, including estimated cost, order of surgery, and possible time for discharge. Please be aware that we might have to adjust this during the day.

3. What time should I arrive on the day of surgery? Some patients may have a consultation on the morning of surgery and others will have had a previous consultation with surgery being scheduled for an upcoming day. Regardless, the exact time for arrival will be discussed when your appointment is made. It is important that all patients arrive at their appointed time, so we can prepare your pet for anesthesia and surgery. During the morning hours, between 7:15 am and 10:00 am, we get all our ducks in a row (no pun intended). Blood work is run and/or reviewed, IV catheters are placed, pre-medications are calculated and administered, etc. Even if a patient is going into surgery at 3:00 pm, we require their presence in the morning hours.

4. How is the exact time of my pet’s surgery determined? We use several criteria when making our surgery schedule within any given day. Issues such as the critical nature of the problem and distance the client travels to and from our hospital, etc. are considered. In general, we strive to provide the best surgical care available while trying our best to accommodate each client’s needs. We will send you a text message when your pet goes into surgery and call after surgery to set up a pickup/discharge time.

5. Will I be able to stay with my pet the day of surgery and when can I take my pet home? Because of the effectiveness of epidural and regional block analgesia, most patients undergoing hind limb surgery can go home the day of surgery. Clients are welcome to stay with their pet prior to surgery. However, if you plan to stay you will probably be with us most or all day; please plan accordingly. Some surgeries require us to keep your pet overnight and that will be determined at the time of the consultation.

6. When will my pet’s post -surgery care be reviewed? A full set of detailed, written discharge instructions will be reviewed with you prior to leaving the hospital. The review takes 10-20 minutes, and a specific time of discharge will be determined on the day of surgery. Most discharges are between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

7. How do I prepare for the ride home? Bring along some blankets for padding and warmth. The back of an SUV is an ideal choice for transporting your pet. If your pet has had an epidural for analgesia, they can experience incontinence. You may want to consider a ‘pee-pad’ for longer rides home. We can provide this if needed. For an average sized ‘Lab’ try to have two adults available to lift your pet out of your vehicle when you get home. Three adults may be needed for giant breeds.

8. What should I expect when I get home the night of surgery? Your pet will most likely be able to walk (but not well) when you get home. Most patients find their comfort zone once home and sleep the evening and night away. Your doctor will call the day of surgery to let you know how surgery went and answer any questions.

9. How long will I need to stay home with my pet? This depends on your comfort level. Some pets will prefer you to be home, but most will be doing quite well by the following morning and are pretty much back to normal (except for limping) within 48 hours of surgery. Dogs are remarkably resilient and may surprise you just how agile they are soon after surgery.

10. Will I need to plan for post-surgical appointments? Yes, most cases require post-surgical X-rays. You can schedule X-rays with your primary veterinarian or our doctors. Some cases also require suture or staple removal ten to fourteen days after surgery. At the time of your pet’s discharge, we will go over the estimated cost for this.

11. Will my pet have trouble walking on slick floors at home? At first your pet might. Restricting your pet’s run of the whole house and using rug runners on slick floors may help. You’ll probably find the sling we sent home with you will be useful during the first few days.

12. Can my pet be left alone with other animals? It is best to separate your healing pet from other pets when unsupervised. Allowing them to be together may encourage romping or your other pets to disrupt the surgery site (i.e., licking).

13. How do I keep my pet quiet if he or she wants to be active? Again, thinking about confining your pet to a small room or kennel is a good idea. Some people use baby gates to block off access to other areas, creating a limited, but comfortable space. There are medications available to help calm your pet if needed. Please let us know when we are admitting your pet if you would like some of these medications to go home.

14. Can my pet go up and down stairs following surgery? Stairs are a definite consideration. We recommend restricting your pet from using the stairs without help for the first day or two. After that, they should only use stairs when necessary and with supervision. For example, they can go up the stairs at bedtime and come down in the morning, but going up and down repeatedly should be avoided.

15. Will I need to keep my pet indoors during the healing phase? Pets should only be outside on a leash during the healing period, which is two to three months depending on the procedure. In most cases, we recommend and encourage several five-minute daily leashed walks after the first week and increasing by five minutes each week thereafter. It is important to keep the surgical site clean, so make sure your pet doesn’t roll around in the dirt, as most dogs love to do. Avoid bathing your pet for 3 weeks following surgery.