When you drop off your pet for surgery, do you ever wonder what actually goes on? It’s not meant to be mysterious, and in many ways it is very similar to what happens in a human hospital. There have been tremendous advances in anesthesia and pain management in the past twenty which have improved both the safety and comfort of our patients.
When you are greeted by one of our receptionists, you will be asked a number of questions before leaving your pet. Making sure your pet has not eaten is important to decrease the risk of vomiting under anesthesia. We require presurgical bloodwork to check organ function on older pets, but it is also highly recommended in young animals presented for routine procedures so we will ask you about that as well. In addition, we offer microchip identification which can be easily done while your pet is sleeping. Once all the paperwork is complete and your questions are answered, one of our kennel assistants will bring your pet into the treatment area. He is given a physical exam by one of our veterinarians and any abnormalities that may affect anesthesia are noted. The temperature, pulse and respirations are recorded and the surgical record sheet is filled out. We assess the anesthetic risk and the pain level of the procedure to determine the best anesthetic protocol.
Most pets are given a preanesthetic when it is time for their surgery. This is a drug combination that includes a sedative and a pain medication. Doing this allows us to use less anesthesia and makes the induction and recovery smoother. Once they are sleepy, a technician inserts an IV catheter and gives another medication through it directly into the vein. This causes a deeper sedation and allows her to intubate the pet, insert an endotracheal, or breathing tube into the windpipe. The tube is then connected to the anesthesia machine which maintains the pet on anesthetic gas and oxygen for the duration of the procedure. The technician begins prepping for surgery by clipping the hair and scrubbing with a solution to kill surface bacteria and create a sterile field. Another pain medication and antibiotics if warranted are administered as well. The patient is then put on a gurney and brought into the surgical suite. Anyone entering that room must wear a cap and mask to keep the area as germ-free as possible. He is then hooked up to IV fluids and to several machines which monitor heart rate, EKG, level of oxygen in the blood, respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature and CO2. While the surgeon starts scrubbing him or herself, the patient gets a final scrub as well. A warm-water circulating blanket on the table keeps the pet’s body temperature up as people’s and animals’ temperatures can drop significantly with anesthesia.
During the surgery, an assistant keeps a close watch on the monitors and the patient to alert the doctor of any changes. As the last few sutures are placed, the anesthesia is turned off and the pet is allowed to wake up under the close observation of the assistant. Once he can swallow, the tube is removed. A post-surgical temperature is taken and if additional pain medication or sedation is needed to smooth recovery, it is administered. It generally doesn’t take long for the pet to be fully awake. We offer food and water a few hours afterwards and most pets are eager to take it since they had been without food since the night before.
By the time you pick them up, they are usually almost back to their old selves. Discharge instructions and additional pain and other medications are given to you and you are your pet are on your way. We strive to make your pet’s stay as stress and pain-free as possible. If you have any questions about your pet’s surgery, please let us know so we can put your mind at ease.