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What happens when your pet needs surgery?


It’s always a worrying time when you have to leave your pet at the vet clinic for an elective surgery.

Here, Sugarloaf Animal Hospital’s chief veterinarian Dr Katie Powell gives you a brief run through of what actually happens behind the scenes.

Animal admissions are always first thing in the morning, to give everyone a full day for post-surgical recovery, with the aim of getting your beloved pet home to you the same day. 

Upon arrival, a vet nurse will guide you through the consent forms you need to sign, while also explaining the procedure in detail and answering as many questions as you may have.

Once your pet is admitted, it will undergo a thorough physical examination by one of the vets to ensure it is in good health and fit to undergo surgery.

This will include recommended pre-anaesthetic blood tests to establish normal baseline values and to check for any undetected health issues that may compromise the surgery.

They are especially important if your pet has not had a recent blood test.

With the information provided by the tests and the physical exam, the vet is then able to calculate dosages for the necessary pre-medication drugs, ongoing pain relief, and the required anaesthetics for the procedure.

The vet will then discuss the procedure with the surgical team to ensure everyone knows their role and what to expect.

Continuous Monitoring

Surgical patients then have an intravenous catheter placed and an individualised fluid therapy plan for their procedure.

Once the surgical preparation is completed, anaesthesia will be induced and as soon as the animal is asleep, it will be transferred to the sterile surgical theatre.

The aim is to keep the anaesthetic time as short as possible, as this benefits the patient considerably.

Your pet will be continuously monitored during their procedure by a dedicated anaesthetist, including regular checks of all the vital signs, such as heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and body temperature, which are communicated to the vet throughout the surgery.

Upon completion of the procedure, the vet will close up the surgery site, often involving multiple layers of tissue, using dissolvable sutures internally.

The outer skin can be closed with dissolvable or non-dissolvable sutures, or tissue glue can also be used.

As soon as surgery is finished, additional pain relief is given to promote a smooth recovery.

A dedicated nurse will stay with your pet in the recovery area, continually monitoring for as long as necessary.

Pets can recover differently post-operatively, so we make sure they are supervised, safe, warm, comfortable, calm and recovering in the way we expect?

Subsidised Surgeries

Except for the most serious surgeries – when overnight care is recommended – your pet should have improved sufficiently recovered from their procedure and be able to go back home to continue its aftercare in more familiar and less stressful surroundings.

When you come to collect your beloved pet, our qualified nurse will provide you with a discharge consult that will include an individual treatment plan, with detailed instructions for post-surgical care, both for physical rehabilitation and for any continuing medication that may be required.

As always, any questions or concerns you have will be answered.

Non-elective procedures are discharged with a veterinarian.

Post surgery, we recommend pets wear something to prevent licking/chewing at their surgery site, to maximise the healing process.

Often your pet will go home with an Elizabethan Collar (the cone of shame).

The nurse will also arrange for a progress consult dependent on your pet’s procedure, just to ensure that everything is healing properly.

Non-dissolvable sutures are typically removed 10-14 days after surgery, under veterinary supervision.

While all surgeries always have an element of risk, particularly for any compromised pets, physical examinations, surgical planning, pre-operative blood testing and fluid therapy are just some of the ways we can minimise those risks to support your pet.

Some surgeries, such as de-sexing, are heavily subsidised by our vet clinic to encourage owners to take advantage of a procedure that may help prevent more complicated issues later in life, or unwanted breeding.

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