Aurora Hills Animal Hospital

14080 E. Mississippi Ave.
Aurora, CO 80012


What You Need to Know Before Your Pet's Upcoming Surgery


Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet's surgery, and we hope this information will help.

Is the anesthetic safe?

Today's modern anesthesia is much safer than in the past.  Our injectable and gas anesthesia have few side effects and are easy to maintain at safe levels.  Here at Aurora Hills Animal Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics.  We assess hydration, cardiac function, and respiratory function, any of which can impact a pet's response to anesthesia.  We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.

Why does my pet need a blood test?

Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthetic complications.  Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can process the anesthetic.  Blood testing also evaluates the number of blood cells to alert the doctor to hidden problems with infection, blood clotting, and blood levels.  Some animals will benefit from additional preanesthetic testing beyond basic blood testing including:  clotting profiles, EKG, echocardiogram, and blood sugar monitoring.  Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing.  If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications.  Often, animals with minor dysfunction can still successfully have anesthesia and surgery if the anesthetic drugs are tailored to the pet's health.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.

Why does my pet need an IV?

The use of intravenous (IV) fluids has also dramatically changed the safety of anesthesia.  Fluids aid in keeping the heart rate and blood pressure at the levels necessary to bring adequate blood to the organs.  This has been shown to improve a pet's recovery from anesthesia as well as reduce the risk of organ damage.  Fluids also help to offset the minor loss of blood your pet experiences during surgery.  Additionally, the IV line allows instant access to administer emergency drugs in the event that your pet does have a negative reaction to the anesthesia.  This instant access improves the odds of your pet surviving a negative anesthetic event.

Will my pet be monitored during anesthesia?

Anesthetic monitoring is another feature that increases the safety of modern anesthesia.  First and foremost, your pet will have a veterinary technician monitoring him from the time anesthesia begins until your pet recovers.  Your pet will be monitored by machines similar to those seen in human surgical facilities.  We have continuous monitoring of 7 vital signs:  EKG (heart rhythm), heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, blood pressure, and body temperature.  Your pet will be kept warm through the use of warm water blankets.  By keeping the values in acceptable ranges, we reduce the risk of negative anesthetic events and improve the odds of a smooth recovery from anesthesia.  We use monitors to alert us to changes in your pet's cardiac and respiratory function so that we can make anesthetic adjustments and hopefully avoid a crisis.  

Can my pet eat before anesthesia?

It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia.  You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery.  Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.

Will my pet be groggy?

Your pet may be tired for 12-24 hours following anesthesia.  The duration and degree depends upon many factors:  the pet's age, duration of anesthesia, and complexity of the surgery.  A puppy undergoing a spay or neuter will most likely be ready to race out the door that same evening.  An older pet who undergoes a 2-3 hour anesthesia to remove a cancerous abdominal tumor can expect to take 24 or more hours to recover.

Our anesthesia has a short duration of action.  This means that animals process and eliminate the anesthesia very quickly (within hours).  The older anesthetic drugs often took days to eliminate from the body.  Sadly, some practitioners still use these older drugs which have been shown to provide poor anesthesia, poor pain control and poor recoveries.  If you have had the experience of a pet taking "days" to recover from anesthesia, you can almost be positive that your pet received an inferior anesthesia.

Will my pet have stitches?

For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin.  These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later.  Some surgeries do require skin stitches.  With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge.  Most dogs and cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for.  If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.  You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time as many incision complications arise from over activity.  No baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.

Will my pet be in pain?

Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals.  Pets may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do; they usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it.  Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.  Major procedures such as abdominal or orthopedic surgery require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.  Prior to any surgical procedure, your pet will receive an injection of a pain reliever.  Receiving pain medication prior to the introduction of pain in surgery has been shown to decrease the level of pain felt in the post operative period.  We use narcotic IV infusions during surgery for some surgeries in dogs and cats as well.  In the post operative period, your pet's pain will be assessed and additional pain medications will be administered as needed.

For dogs, we usually recommend an oral anti-inflamatory the day of surgery and several days after to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling.  We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and can be given even the morning of surgery.  Additional oral pain medications may be prescribed depending upon the surgery.

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them.  Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  We have easy to administer oral pain medications that just need to be applied to your cat's gums or under the tongue.

Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.

What other decisions do I need to make?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as ear cleaning or implanting an identification microchip.  If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please call ahead of time.  This is especially important if the person admitting the pet for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet's care.

When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need 5 to 10 minutes of your time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available.  When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs.

We will call you the night before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm the time you will be admitting your pet and to answer any questions you might have.  In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.