FAQ about surgery for pets

When choosing surgery for your pet’s illness or injury, there are lots of factors to consider and it is natural to have many questions. Dr. Andrew Jackson, a board-certified veterinary surgeon in our BluePearl Minnesota hospitals, provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about surgery for

Before surgery:

What will happen at my first consultation?

Your first consultation is all about getting answers and gaining knowledge so you can make an informed decision about what is best for you and your pet. (By the way – make sure to bring your pet!) Your veterinary surgeon will meet with you to discuss all possible treatment options after reviewing your pet’s diagnostic tests and images. This will include information about your pet’s prognosis and recovery period. You will learn everything you need to know about your pet’s anatomy and specific condition. A veterinary technician will also give you a detailed treatment plan with associated costs.

If you decide to move forward with surgery for your pet, you will receive all the information you need about preparation and post-operative care.

What do I look for when choosing a veterinary surgeon?

Choose a confident veterinary surgeon with an extensive knowledge base and experience performing the type of surgery your pet needs. Surgeons who are board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons meet these standards because they have passed rigorous testing and gained a wealth of hands-on experience during the board-certification process. This process begins after becoming a veterinarian and includes, but is not limited to, a one year internship and a three year residency in veterinary surgery.

It is important to feel comfortable communicating with every veterinary professional involved with your pet’s surgery.  This includes your primary veterinarian, who will be involved with ongoing care, and veterinary technicians, who are also great resources for questions. The relationship between you, your primary care veterinarian and your veterinary surgeon is very important in providing a successful outcome. Most surgeries have a high success rate, but if there is a complication you should feel that you have everyone available to manage the problem. Make sure you establish a method of sending pictures back and forth (such as texting or emailing) can often be useful.

It is equally important to consider an excellent facility with trained veterinary professionals. If your pet requires overnight hospitalization, ask if the hospital offers 24/7 monitoring and care for your pet, with a well trained staff always present. This assures that your pet receives continuous care, especially in the event of a post-surgical complication.

How do I prepare for my pet’s surgery day?

Your pet’s surgical team will give you thorough instructions before the surgery day. These instructions will include guidelines for feeding, transportation and any necessary medications. If you have any questions about preparation, call your veterinary surgeon in advance.

Other than my pet, what should I bring on surgery day?

Unless otherwise noted by your veterinary surgeon, you don’t need to bring anything else on surgery day. You may want to ask your hospital if you are allowed to bring soft blankets or toys for your pets during their stay. Just be aware you might not get these things back — they can become soiled or lost.

If your pet is on medications for the current problem or an ongoing process, you will most likely need to bring these medications.

During surgery:

Will someone be monitoring my pet’s anesthesia?

Yes! BluePearl surgeons and surgical technicians monitor oxygen, blood pressure, carbon dioxide and heart rhythms during the entire procedure. If any of these measures are concerning, your surgery team can intervene to immediately work to correct the issue.

Are anesthesia complications common?

No. In fact, anesthesia complications occur in less than 1 percent of veterinary surgeries in healthy pets. Most of these complications are swelling or inflammatory reactions. There is higher risk in patients that are less stable due to trauma or disease process. You surgical team should be trained and have experience in these higher risk cases.

What measures are in place to prevent infection?

BluePearl surgical suites are closed off and veterinary professionals can only enter if caps, masks, gowns and shoe covers are worn. A strict pre-surgery checklist includes confirmation of sterilization of instruments. There are scheduled detailed cleanings of the surgery suit in addition to daily cleanings.

During surgery at BluePearl, the surgical team will clip your pet’s fur, complete a pre-surgical scrub and provide antibiotics every 90 minutes during the procedure. For intestinal surgeries, your surgeon will change gloves and instruments after completing the in-depth intestinal portion of the surgery. It is commonplace to use double gloving and orthopedic gloves in surgeries that involve the placement of orthopedic implants (such as plates and screws).

Antibiotics are not routinely used after all surgeries. The use of antibiotics after surgery is based on the surgeon’s preference and the type of procedure. It is important to have an efficient use of antibiotics, because the misuse of these medications has created multi drug resistant bacteria.

After surgery:

Will my doctor call me after surgery?

Your surgeon should contact you soon after surgery to provide you with updates and answer any questions you may have.

How will my pet’s pain be managed?

BluePearl makes pain management a top priority with surgical patients. In most cases, your veterinary surgeon will apply a local anesthetic and prescribe narcotic and/or anti-inflammatory medications to help ease your pet’s pain. The narcotics are typically given as an injectable and many time your pet will have continuous IV therapy to reduce pain. Epidurals are also available for pain management if necessary, most commonly used in orthopedic procedures.

What are signs of post-surgical complications?

The most common signs of post-surgical complications are swelling or discharge near the incision area. These can indicate infection. If you notice signs of infection or any other concerning signs in your pet, contact your veterinary surgeon immediately. Signs to watch for after your specific surgery are outlined in your aftercare instructions.

What do I need to know about follow-up care?

Your veterinary surgeon will discuss follow-up care information, including how to restrict your pet’s exercise, feeding instructions and estimated recovery period. The surgical team will make sure you know how to provide at home care for your pet.

Will there be a follow-up appointment?

Remarkable surgical care doesn’t just occur in the operating room. It’s a process that begins at the first consultation and continues until your pet has recovered and regained optimal health. A follow-up appointment is encouraged so your surgeon can check the incision and monitor the progress of your pet’s recovery. Additional recommendations will be made based on the recovery of your pet and tailored to help you and your pet continue to smile.