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Preparing for Surgery in Dogs

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Surgery is a part of nearly every pet's life. Many pets will only go under the knife once in their lives to be spayed or neutered. Other pets may have various planned surgical procedures such as lump removals, biopsies, mass removals or exploratory surgery. Then there are those potential emergency surgeries to suture lacerations, remove an intestinal obstruction or bladder stones.

Regardless of the reason, surgery can create a lot of anxiety and confusion for owners. By knowing what is expected and preparing yourself and your pet, the surgical procedure, hospital stay and home recovery can go a lot more smoothly.

Planned surgeries are the easiest to prepare for. You know when the surgery is going to take place and can have everything ready. Those emergency surgeries take you by surprise and there is little you can do to plan. This article will help you prepare for those scheduled surgeries and may give you some suggestions on what you can do to prepare your home for your pets return, whether the surgery is planned or an emergency.

Before the Surgery

About a week before surgery, make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations. Check with your veterinarian to see which ones are required for a hospital stay and surgery. Often, vaccinations for rabies, distemper, parvo and Bordetella are required. These vaccinations should be administered at least 5 days before the surgery date to allow the vaccines time to stimulate the immune system and provide protection for your pet. Vaccines do not protect your pet immediately after being administered.

The Night Before

If your pet is on medication, check with your veterinarian to see if you should administer the medication the morning of surgery. For some drugs, continuing the dose is important. Other times, it is best to have an empty stomach for surgery.

You may want to consider giving your pet a bath, cleaning her ears and trimming her nails the day before surgery. Once she comes home, you won't be able to bathe her for several days. If your pet is one that doesn't particularly enjoy being groomed, consider asking your veterinarian if bathing, ear cleaning and nail trimming can be done while the dog in under anesthesia.

If bathing isn't necessary, give your pet a good brushing the night before surgery. This can reduce mats, and some pets won't let you brush them for a while after surgery.

Try to prevent your pet from playing rough or going on long walks the day before surgery. This can result in muscle soreness the following day, something your dog doesn't need. She will already be sore from the surgery – she doesn't need muscle soreness on top of that.

Check with your vet to see if your pet requires a special diet following surgery. If so, purchase the special food in advance so it is on hand, or make a batch of homemade food and store it in the refrigerator. You will want to spend time with your pet when she returns from the hospital, not frantically trying to find or make the food she needs.

Consider cleaning or laundering your pet's bedding just before surgery. This way, she can come home to a nice clean bed, which is better for her incision.

If your pet will require limited activity following surgery, section off an area of the house or prepare her crate. Trying to prepare an area for her after she comes home is much more difficult and stressful. By preparing in advance, you can place her immediately in her own special area with a fresh, clean bed.

Just before going to sleep, take away your pet's food and water. Make sure the toilet lid is closed and your pet does not have access to any food or water. Most veterinarians recommend no food or water after midnight. This is very important. If your pet eats or drinks right before surgery, make sure you tell your veterinarian. Eating or drinking prior to the surgery doesn't necessarily mean the operation will be delayed, it just warns your vet that if your pet becomes nauseous when the anesthetic is given, he needs to watch for vomiting.

And finally, make sure you and your pet get a good night's sleep. Being fully rested is an important factor in reducing the stress and anxiety associated with surgery, for both you and your companion.

The Morning of Surgery

Don't allow your pet to eat or drink anything. Take her for a short walk to help encourage elimination. Allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at the veterinary hospital on time. Being late will put undo stress on your veterinarian, his staff and your pet. Make sure you leave a contact number so that you can be called as soon as she is waking up from surgery or in case there is any other reason your veterinarian needs to contact you.

Try to avoid emotional good-byes. You want your pet to be calm and ready for her surgery.

Returning Home

Once your pet returns home following surgery, follow all your veterinarian's instructions and call anytime you have a question. Restrict your pet's activity, even if she seems to be doing fine. The incision needs time to heal. Make sure she does not lick or chew at the sutures and her appetite and attitude are normal. If your pet was sent home with an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking, use it.

If your pet seems to be acting abnormal or appears to be in pain, consult your veterinarian. Do not give medication not recommended by your veterinarian. Certain over the counter anti-inflammatories that are quite effective in people have the potential to be toxic in dogs.

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