What to Expect

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Wellness Exam

The veterinarians and staff at Red Hills Veterinary Hospital believe in providing each client and pet with thorough, non-rushed, comprehensive care, and great customer service. At each comprehensive exam appointment, we take the time to get to know your pet and you. We’ll discuss optimum care recommendations with you, determine appropriate preventive care choices with you, and thoroughly examine your pet from nose to tail. We offer advanced medical and surgical care, with a focus on maintaining your pet’s health. View our services

Surgery

What to know – before and after an anesthetic procedure

It is normal for pet owners to be concerned when their veterinarian recommends a procedure that will require anesthesia.  General anesthesia is used everyday in most practices.  While anesthesia is not totally risk free (the risk of veterinary anesthetic-related deaths is 1 in 10,000), the risk has been greatly reduced by the availability of pre-anesthetic testing, improved anesthetic drugs, state of the art monitoring equipment, and increased veterinary expertise.  Today, pets of all ages are acceptable candidates for anesthesia.

This page is designed to assist you in understanding the testing and medical management of patients undergoing anesthesia and their post-operative care.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to address them with a member of our staff or your veterinarian.  Our goal is to insure your pet’s health and guide you through what may be a worrisome process for some pet owners.

What does anesthesia do?

  • Bring about a state of unconsciousness so the patient has no awareness of the procedure
  • Blocks pain sensation over the entire body
  • Brings about muscle relaxation and suppresses reflex movements
  • Minimizes anxiety and stress for the patient

The depth and type of anesthesia (injectable-vein/muscle or inhaled) required for each procedure will vary depending on the procedure being performed and the age and health status of your pet.  Your veterinarian will determine what type and depth of anesthesia is necessary to ensure your pet is safe and pain-free throughout the procedure.

How can we minimize the risk of anesthesia?

BEFORE SURGERY

Follow your veterinarian’s pre-surgery feeding instructions.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that your pet have an empty stomach during the procedure to minimize the risk of vomiting and aspiration of food into the lungs.

Red Hills Veterinary Hospital recommends that you not feed your pet past 10:00 PM the night before surgery.  Your pet may have water. 

Please check with your veterinarian about giving current medications the morning of admission for surgery.

*The exception is “pocket pets” (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, etc) and pediatric patients (younger than 3 months).  Pocket Pets DO NOT require fasting.  Pediatric patients should be fed a small meal prior to being dropped off.  Please bring a small amount of food with you on the day of your pet’s procedure.

AT THE HOSPITAL

Prior to any anesthetic event, your veterinarian will review your pet’s medical history and give your pet a thorough physical exam.  Laboratory tests are performed to measure liver, kidney, heart, and bone marrow functions.  An ECG will also be performed prior to anesthesia.  This non-invasive test of heart function will be evaluated by your veterinarian and a board certified veterinary cardiologist prior to any administration of medication to ensure the safest anesthetic protocol is used and to rule out any heart disease that may not be detectable on your pet’s pre-anesthetic physical examination.  Your pet will also be given an injection of a medication to prevent nausea/vomiting, which often occurs after anesthesia.  By preventing such events, your pet will recovery more comfortably and the chance of developing a serious respiratory infection from aspiration of vomitus is greatly reduced.

At the time of surgery, your pet’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and tissue oxygenation) will be monitored to recognize and respond to any problems.  Intravenous fluids will be administered to ensure hydration, maintenance of blood pressure, and metabolism of anesthetic medications.

During surgery, skin and some soft tissue/organ incisions may be made with our Aesculight surgical laser.  Use of this cutting laser, instead of a surgical blade, decreases tissue damage and blood loss, thereby increasing the speed of post-operative healing.

Post-operatively, your pet will be monitored and may remain on intravenous fluids for a short time.  Skin incisions and wounds will benefit from a Therapy Laser treatment post-operatively.  This warm laser helps speed healing and increase your pet’s comfort by increasing blood flow, decreasing pain and swelling at the site of application.  Additional pain medications may be administered in this period.

AT HOME

Carefully follow any discharge instructions you have received.  Keep your pet in a warm, dry, quiet area, as they may be unsteady on their feet for up to 24 hours.  Do not leave your pet alone with small children or other pets for the first few days – temporary behavior changes may occur due to anesthesia and your pet’s pain threshold.  CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN if your pet becomes dehydrated or feverish (normal rectal temperature is 100-102 deg F) or has not fully recovered in 48 hours.

General anesthesia is performed on thousands of animals each day.  Advances in veterinary medicine have greatly reduced the risk involved.  The danger in choosing not to perform a necessary procedure far outweighs the risk associated with anesthesia.

Pre-Anesthetic Blood Analysis

We require a blood profile before anesthesia and surgery to ensure that your pet is in a low-risk category.  The latest technology lets us run safe, accurate blood counts and chemistries minutes before anesthetic induction.  These tests are similar to those your own physician would perform were you to undergo anesthesia.  In addition, the results of these tests will serve as reference values for future use should your pet become ill.

Additional Testing

Patients with specific medical conditions or with questionable health status may require additional testing, which will be recommended by your veterinarian.  These tests may include specific tests for blood clotting (PT or PTT), liver function (Bile Acids), or imaging –  radiographs (x-rays) and/or ultrasound.

Understanding your pet’s blood testing

Blood tests help us determine your pet’s health status and causes of illness accurately, safely, and quickly, and let us monitor the progress of medical treatments.  If you have questions, please ask any staff member.  We want you to understand our recommendations and be a partner in your pet’s care.

Complete blood count (CBC)

The most common test, a CBC, gives information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the blood’s clotting ability, and the immune system’s ability to respond

  • HCT (hematocrit) measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and dehydration
  • Hb and MCHC (hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) measure hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells
  • LYMP, NEUT, MONO (lymphocytes/neutrophils/monocytes) are specific types of white blood cells
  • WBC (white blood cell) increases or decreases indicate certain diseases or infections
  • EOS (eosinophils) are a specific type of white blood cells that, if elevated, may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions
  • PLT/PCT (platelet count and plateletcrit) measures cells that help stop bleeding by forming blood clots
  • RETICS (reticulocytes) are immature red blood cells.  High or low levels help classify anemias

Blood Chemistry profile

  • ALB (albumin) is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney health
  • ALP (alkaline phosphatase) elevations may indicate liver damage, Cushing’s disease, and active bone growth in young pets
  • ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a sensitive indicator of active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause
  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen) reflects kidney function.  An increased blood level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver, and heart disease, urethral obstruction, shock, and dehydration
  • Ca (calcium) deviations can indicate a variety of diseases.  Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions which alter serum calcium levels
  • CHOL (cholesterol) is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes mellitus
  • Cl (chloride) is an electrolyte often lost with vomiting and Addison’s disease.  Elevations may indicate dehydration
  • CRE (creatinine) reflects kidney function.  This test helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN
  • GGT (gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase) is an enzyme that, when elevated, indicates liver or gall bladder disease or corticosteroid excess
  • GLOB (globulin) is a blood protein, which often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states
  • GLU (glucose) is blood sugar.  Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus or stress.  Low levels may cause collapse, seizures, or coma, and can indicate pancreatic tumors
  • K (potassium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination.  Increased lecels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and urethral obstruction.  High levels can lead to cardiac arrest and death
  • LIP (lipase) is an enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis when elevated
  • Na (sodium) an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney or Addison’s disease.  This test also helps indicate hydration status
  • PHOS (phosphorous) elevations are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders
  • TBIL (total bilirubin) elevations may indicate liver or hemolytic disease.  This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia
  • TP (total protein) indicates hydration status and provides information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious disease
  • T4 (thyroxine) is a thyroid hormone.  Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, while high levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats

The Anesthetic Procedure

Before Anesthesia

Before undergoing general anesthesia, your pet will receive medications for sedation.  These medications also help with pain control until additional pain medications can be given post-operatively.  Most injections are given in the muscle and begin to work within 20 minutes.  The medication used varies depending on your veterinarian’s assessment of laboratory results, current health status, and level of pain.

Some procedures only require heavy sedation.  In these instances, your pet may receive an injection in the vein or muscle.  Monitoring of vital signs during the procedure is the same as when your pet is receiving general anesthesia.

While undergoing general anesthesia, your pet will have a shaved area on a limb (usually a front limb).  This is where we place an intravenous (IV) catheter.  Placement of the catheter allows us to administer further medications for anesthesia and for your pet to receive hydrating fluids during a procedure.  The IV catheter is also an important access point for the veterinary staff, should we need to administer emergency medications during anesthesia.  While this is rare, it is one more precaution we take in ensuring your pet receives the best care possible. Fur at the shaved catheter site should re-grow in a few weeks.

Now your pet is ready for their procedure!  Please be available at the contact phone number you provide for us the morning you register your pet for their procedure.

Pain Control

There are many ways we are able to control pain when your pet is undergoing a surgical procedure or dental extraction.  Your pet may already be receiving pain medication prior to the procedure.  Please let us know at the time you register your pet for anesthesia of ANY TYPE of medication or supplements your pet is currently receiving.  Also, inform us if you have small children at home, as we do not recommend “pain patches” in this environment for the safety of your family.

In order to keep your pet comfortable, we may utilize several methods of pain control simultaneously.  These include oral, injectable, or intravenous medications, local anesthetics, therapeutic laser, and/or pain patches.

Fluid Therapy

Intravenous fluids are administered during almost every anesthetic procedure.  There are few instances when it is contraindicated.  Fluids are an important part of maintaining acceptable blood pressure during anesthesia.  Sufficient blood pressure is important to ensure all of your pet’s vital organs and tissues receive adequate oxygenation throughout the procedure and to maintain hydration.  Fluid therapy is determined by your veterinarian and is based on your pet’s current health concerns and nutritional needs.

Recovery

Once the anesthetic procedure is complete, your pet’s vital signs and pain score will continue to be monitored until your pet is conscious.  At that time, your pet will rest comfortably in our hospital with warming trays and comfortable bedding.  Regular monitoring of vital signs is continued until your pet is discharged to return home.  A technician or your veterinarian will call you on completion of your pet’s procedure to inform you of recovery status and arrange a time for discharge. 

Please be available at the contact phone number you provided for us the morning you registered your pet for their procedure.

If your pet is to remain in the hospital overnight, a doctor or technician will call you each day with a status update.  If your pet’s stay is prolonged, you are always welcome to visit with your pet.  Please call to set up a time for visitation, as it is difficult to assist you with your pet during surgical procedures or emergencies.

Post-operative Care

Discharge Instructions

When you return to the hospital in the afternoon, you will be discharged by a technician or your veterinarian.  Please plan to spend approximately 20 minutes with us to review your pet’s discharge instructions.  Written discharge instructions will be provided for you, however this is the time we review your pet’s procedure, the anticipated outcome of the procedure, and any tests which were performed that day (blood testing, radiographs, etc.).  It is also an opportunity for you to clarify any questions or concerns you may have about your pet’s post-operative care.

At Home Monitoring

Once your pet has returned home with you, it is important to monitor your pet for post-anesthetic effects for the next 48 hours.  It is not unusual for your pet to be inappetant or not want to drink the evening your pet returns home.  For most procedures, your pet should return to normal appetite and thirst by the following morning.  You will be given any necessary special feeding instructions at your discharge from the hospital.

However, it is important to notify the hospital if you observe any of the following in your pet:

  • Persistent vomiting or retching lasting more than two (2) hours
  • Persistent diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours or if blood is observed in stool
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Difficulty breathing or frequent coughing
  • Pale gums/mucous membranes

Medications

You may be sent home with medications for pain, infection, nausea, or for your pet’s specific medical condition.  It is important to follow the directions closely.  If you have any questions about the administration of these medications, their use, or side effects, please do not hesitate to call the clinic.

We understand that medications may be confusing.  Every pet is an individual and not every medication affects each pet the same way.  We are here to answer your questions and prescribe medications in the best interest of your pet’s recovery.

Pain Control

Just as with people, pain can accompany a pet’s illness, injury, or surgical procedure.  Effective pain management is a vital part of caring for your pet and assuring their comfort.  Pain control can also help your pet recover more quickly and lessen the chance of serious complications or even death.  Pets are given medications to relieve pain when they are recovering from trauma, when they are undergoing any surgical or invasive procedure, or suffering from painful illnesses or conditions.  Frequently, a combination of injectable drugs and either oral medication or a longer-acting “pain patch” is used.  More aggressive forms of treatment are used for procedures that are likely to cause greater pain.  In elective procedures, medications for pain management are given before the pain stimulus actually begins.  At home, you can help your pet’s recovery and ability to cope with pain by:

  • Showing extra affection – pets benefit from extra “TLC” from their owners
  • Making sure your pet has a comfortable place to rest and sleep (you may also provide raised feeding areas or ramps to go in/out of cars/doors or navigate stairs)

Many pets who are in pain will not show obvious signs of discomfort.  Here are some signs to look for:

  • Depression/inactivity
  • Rising slowly/”collapsing” to lie down
  • Walking with a stiff gait
  • Lameness or any gait abnormality
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unusually aggressive behavior
  • Trembling
  • Inappropriate elimination (urine, feces)
  • Standing/sitting in unusual positions
  • Flattened ears or clamped tail
  • Unusual  vocalizations: yelping/whining – dogs; yowling/hissing – cats

Post-operative Care

Incision Care

If your pet has a surgical incision, it is important to check this incision at least TWICE each day for the next 14 days or until your surgeon has removed the sutures (not all incisions have external sutures – you will be informed at discharge if you need to return for suture removal).  When checking the incision, it should look the same or more like normal skin than the day before.

If you notice any of the following at the incision site, please call the hospital:

  • increased redness
  • swelling
  • discharge
  • pain at the site
  • area around incision feels hot
  • loss of sutures/opening of incision

DO NOT allow them to lick or chew at the incision site and ALWAYS keep the Elizabethan Collar in place when your pet is not eating/drinking or being actively monitored.

Activity Restriction

When activity restriction is prescribed for your pet as part of their recovery, it is important to adhere to your veterinarian’s recommendations.  This short time period is crucial in ensuring the success of your pet’s surgical procedure and healing from injury.  In general, “Activity Restriction” covers the duration of time until your pet’s sutures are removed OR until your veterinarian has released your pet for regular activity.  There are some conditions which require a gradual return to regular activity to prevent re-injury.

While being Activity Restricted, your pet should NOT engage in the following activities:

  • Running
  • Jumping (this includes up/down onto furniture or in/out of vehicles)
  • Excessive horseplay with you or other pets
  • Running up/down stairs
  • Bathing/Swimming
  • Please leash walk your pet for short intervals daily to allow them to urinate and defecate.

Post-Surgical/Medical Progress Examination

If your pet has had surgery or dentistry performed, your veterinarian may recommend a Medical Progress Exam to recheck your pet’s surgical incision or dental extraction site(s) within a week of the procedure.  This is not always necessary for each procedure and is offered as a service to our clients to insure your pet’s best and complete recovery.   With certain orthopaedic procedures, Medical Progress Examinations occur every few weeks to reassess healing and limb function.  Additional radiographs (x-rays) are commonly performed four, eight, and twelve weeks after such surgeries to review healing and implant or fixation viability.

There is no charge for most post-operative examinations.  If further diagnostic testing or medications are needed, you will be informed of additional costs. Depending on the surgery performed, your veterinarian may recommend further post-operative care goals, restrictions, or therapeutic/rehabilitation procedures.

Questions? We’re here to help! Give us a call at 307-462-0138.