My Pet Needs Surgery – How Do I Prepare?

March 30, 2023

Preparing for your pet’s surgical procedure can be a stressful time. In addition to the natural concern that comes with knowing your beloved pet will be undergoing anesthesia, there are a number of steps that need to be accomplished prior to surgery to assure the best outcome. As an owner, you play a very important role in this process. 

Keeping in mind that there are specific actions needed in some but not all procedures, we’ll discuss the most common preparatory steps for most routine surgeries.

Surgery Preparation Tips for South Charlotte Pet Owners

BVET patient photo_IMG_9102Finding out that a beloved pet needs surgery is never easy, and it’s important to remember that all surgeries — even routine ones — come with inherent risks. However, pet owners in Ballantyne and the South Charlotte area can help to mitigate those risks by following our clinic’s instructions for pre-and post-surgical care. 

Some surgeries are more invasive than others and may require more complex preparation and a longer recovery time. Common types of pet surgeries include:  

  • Elective surgeries
  • Spay and neuter
  • Dental procedures
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Emergency surgeries
  • Trauma and accidents
  • Intestinal obstructions
  • Cancer treatment

It’s normal to feel hesitant about disrupting a pet’s routine, and some care instructions may seem excessive or overly restrictive, especially those regarding withholding food or limiting movement. Just remember, the restrictions are temporary and are in place to keep your pet safe and healthy.


How to Help Prepare Your Pet for Surgery

Surgical Consultation

Before surgery, you’ll meet with us for a consultation. This is a great time to ask questions and air concerns. Some common questions include:

  • Are there other treatment options? What makes surgery the best choice?
  • What exactly does this surgery entail?
  • What are the potential risks and complications of this surgery?
  • How often have you done this surgery?
  • Will my pet need overnight care? If so, does your clinic have staff onsite overnight?
  • What are my pet’s pain control options?

You should leave the consultation understanding precisely what will be done to their animal companions during surgery. Asking questions and keeping the lines of communication open with our clinic is vital.


Pre-Surgical Testing

We may need to do some testing before surgery. For example, to safely administer anesthesia, we may need to do bloodwork and take urine samples, sometimes multiple times. 

Imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans may also be necessary to help us diagnose the problem as well as plan for the correct surgical technique for your pet. 


Pre-Surgical Routine

Depending on the type of surgery, your pet may require significant changes in its routine. Typical changes include:

  • Fasting: It’s common to restrict food and water intake before surgery. While mildly uncomfortable, fasting helps reduce the danger of vomiting while under anesthesia, which can cause potentially lethal complications. At Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic, we suggest removing any available food after 10 pm the night before surgery and then skipping the morning meal (if there usually is one). Your pet may have free access to water.
  • Exercise: Restricting exercise before surgery will typically be limited to patients having orthopedic or repair of traumatic injury procedures. For your typical spay/neuter, dental, or mass removal, no pre-surgical exercise restriction is needed. We will discuss these requirements with you when scheduling the surgery.
  • Medication and supplements: Discuss any regular medicines or supplements with our team. Most chronic medications are fine to give before surgery, but there are a few we will ask you to withhold.

Follow all instructions carefully and thoroughly. While temporarily disruptive, these changes help keep pets safe during surgery and improve their postoperative outcomes.


Preparing Your Home for Your Pet's Recovery

Getting a pet physically ready for surgery is only the first step. Ballantyne pet owners will also need to change the home environment to support recovery.

Pets recovering from surgery need a safe, quiet place to regain strength. Choose an enclosed area, free from stairs and other hazards they may be tempted to jump or climb on. If your pet is crate trained, these are ideal. A gated-off small area of the house or a bathroom can also be used. 

Ensure the recovery area is well-stocked with clean bedding, toilet facilities, and easily accessible food and water. 

Before bringing your pet home from surgery, you should also ensure you have all the medical supplies needed to care for them as they recover. Antibiotics, pain management, and nutritional supplements may all be part of your pet’s care plan during recovery, as well as specific tools to help pets with their mobility after orthopedic surgery.


What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

We require surgical patients to arrive at 8 am unless other prior arrangements are made. We need this time to examine your pet, perform any final diagnostics, give nausea and pain/sedation medications, and place an intravenous (IV) catheter. 

Drop-off is the last chance to ask questions before surgery occurs. If you have any last-minute concerns or lingering questions about the surgery or its potential outcomes, address them before you leave. You are welcome to call during the morning if you realize you forgot to tell us something or ask a question but understand we may not get back to you immediately.

Be sure to provide or double-check the contact information we have on file. After leaving the office, stay close to your phone. It’s essential to be available if we need to get in touch.


Helping Your Pet Through Post-Surgery Recovery

The real work of recovery begins after surgery. Healing may take significant time and supportive care. Review the care instructions with your veterinary team before going home and ask questions. At Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic, we will happily provide detailed, written care instructions. 

Common aspects of post-surgical pet care include:

  • Follow-up appointments: Depending on the type of surgery, one or more follow-up appointments may be needed to monitor your pet’s condition after surgery. Attend all the required follow-up appointments, even if your pet seems fine. Vets can often see problems that untrained eyes might miss. 
  • Medications: We may prescribe medicine to prevent infections and manage pain. Timing and dosage are important, so follow the instructions carefully and reach out if you believe adjustments may be needed. When using a new medication, monitor your pet carefully for potential adverse reactions.  
  • Monitoring behavior: After surgery, your pet may be lethargic and show decreased appetite and changes in bowel movements. Side effects from medication and stress from the procedure can cause these behavioral changes. You should give us a call if these behaviors persist or become worrying.  
  • Suture and incision care: Keep the incision site clean and dry. If we have recommended that your pet wears a recovery collar or cone to prevent chewing, ensure it stays on. Regularly check the incision site for discharge, swelling, discoloration, or bleeding, as these can all be early warning signs of infection. 
  • Nutrition: Extra nutritional support following surgery may be needed. You may need to temporarily — or permanently — change a pet’s food to something more easily digestible or nutritionally dense.   
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is always important. Ensure that your pet has easy access to clean, fresh water. Any concerns about potential dehydration should be addressed with our team as soon as possible in case IV fluids become necessary. 
  • Physical rehab and exercise: Pets recovering from surgery may need to take it easy for a while. It can take time and effort to resume previous activity levels. Some rehab exercises may be done at home, while others might need professional assistance. 


Contact Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic for Top Pet Care in Charlotte, NC

All surgeries and all pets are different, which means that every pet’s surgical journey involves unique challenges. Preparing your pet, home, and yourself for a procedure can overwhelm even experienced pet owners. 

Just remember, we’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out with concerns or questions. Surgery isn’t comfortable, but its goal is to decrease pain that we can’t effectively treat in other ways. 

If you live in South Charlotte and have a pet that needs surgery, contact Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic to schedule an appointment today.

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