Why does my pet need surgery?
Surgeries range from elective procedures to emergencies. Common examples include routine spay/neuter, dental treatment and mass removal. We also see pets that need surgery for wound repair, stomach/intestine obstructions and orthopedic injuries. More serious emergencies include slipped intervertebral disks, urinary blockage and bleeding internal tumors.
Instead of why pet needs surgery can we put common surgical procedures our veterinarians perform? Usually if an owner is looking for surgical risks they already know their pet needs some sort of surgery. This way we are highlighting what our doctors can do not what they can’t.
Our veterinarians are well qualified to perform routine surgeries and minor emergencies. For more complicated cases, your San Jose veterinarian may recommend having a specialist with additional training and experience do the procedure.
What are the risks?
There are risks with every surgical procedure. Surgical risks include bleeding, delayed healing, infections, and reactions to suture material. Anesthetic risks include drug reactions, low blood pressure, low temperature, abnormal heart rate/rhythm, pneumonia and death (very, very rarely).
We want to balance surgical risks and benefits. The vast majority of patients do not have complications under anesthesia and feel much better after their surgery. We will discuss the options with you about your pet’s specific surgery and individual health conditions. Realize that all we can talk about is potential risk, not guaranteed outcomes.
How can I reduce my pet’s risk?
Pre-anesthetic exams, blood work and ECG give us valuable information in choosing safe drugs. Sometimes we find medical concerns that need to be treated before your pet can safely undergo anesthesia. We can also reduce risk by detecting and treating surgical problems early. For example, pets that receive dental treatment for early periodontal disease have a shorter procedure, fewer extractions and faster recovery than those with more advanced disease.
How much will surgery cost?
Costs will depend on the procedure being done, anesthesia time, aftercare, and whether any additional tests need to be done before or after surgery. Sometimes there are complications or unforeseen events. This means that the cost may be more than what was estimated prior to surgery. When we examine your pet, we try to give you as accurate an estimate as possible, based on what we are aware of at that time.
What do I do before and after surgery?
You will receive specific instructions based on your pet’s procedure. In general, your pet should have no food for at least 12 hours prior to anesthesia, and no water about 4-6 hours prior. Your pet may need to have some tests done such as blood work, x-rays, or ultrasound. If your pet is taking medication, be sure to ask whether it is safe to give.
After surgery, you will be given instructions regarding feeding, activity restriction, medications (if any), and any rechecks or suture removal. If we submit samples to the laboratory for biopsy or culture, we will follow up with you when the results are finalized, usually within a week.
What happens when my pet is under anesthesia?
First, your pet will be lightly sedated with an injection under the skin to start pain control and reduce stress. Next, we place an IV catheter and induce anesthesia with injectable medication. Your pet will then be intubated and attached to an anesthetic machine that feeds carefully measured amounts of oxygen and gas anesthetic. Your pet will be on a circulating water heating pad to help maintain normal body temperature. IV fluids are given to maintain hydration and blood pressure. Your pet will have various monitors placed to monitor core body temperature, respiratory and heart rates, blood oxygen saturation level, ECG (electrocardiograph) tracings, and indirect blood pressure. We have an assistant monitoring these functions from the moment your pet is under anesthesia, throughout the surgery, and after recovery.
Is surgery painful?
Pain control is a top priority for our surgery patients. The amount of pain your pet will experience depends on the procedure. We make individualized pain management plans. We generally include pain control as part of the pre-anesthetic injection before inducing anesthesia. We can use local blocks during the procedure, if needed. We can also give additional pain control medication during and immediately after the procedure. After surgery, most patients go home with oral pain medication. Like humans, pets heal faster and with fewer complications if they are in less pain.
This covers the basics surrounding your pet’s surgery. You will probably have other questions regarding your pet’s specific situation. We are happy to discuss all of your concerns before surgery. Our team of veterinarians in San Jose, CA will do our best to make you feel as comfortable as possible.