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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 midnight (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). 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, until midnight. Aspirin should be avoided for one week prior to surgery.

2. What do I bring to the surgery appointment? Please bring any medications your pet is taking and radiographs (X-rays) from your family veterinarian, if available. 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, blood work can be performed on the day of surgery at our hospital.

3. What time should I arrive the day of surgery? Some patients may have a consultation on the morning of surgery and others will have had a previous consult 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 of 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 a number of criteria when making our surgery schedule within any given day. Issues such as 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.

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 analgesia, most patients undergoing hind limb surgery can go home the day of surgery. In these cases, clients are welcome to stay with their pet prior to and following surgery. Many pets love the company of their ‘Moms or Dads’. We have many ‘pet lovers’ movies available to relax with and promise to keep you supplied with soda, coffee and snacks. Internet access is readily available. However, if you plan to stay you will probably be with us most or all of the day; please plan accordingly. Patients undergoing forelimb procedures usually spend one night in ICU following surgery. Parents can stay with their pets prior to forelimb surgery if they desire.

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 5:00 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. Some dogs experience incontinence due to the epidural they’ve received. You may want to consider a ‘pee-pad’ for longer rides home. 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 night of surgery to check on your pet and answer any questions. You will also be given the doctors’ home phone number in case you have urgent questions or concerns in the evenings or on weekends.

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.

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 send 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.

14. Can my pet go up and down stairs following surgery? Stairs are a definite consideration. We recommend restricting your pet from using stairs without help for the first day or two. After that, he or she can negotiate stairs as need be, but no more than that. 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 two weeks following surgery.