Preparing Your Pet for
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Considerations for your pet before surgery

First of all, if you're nervous about your pet's safety in surgery, please relax.

Anesthetics, especially for shorter procedures on healthy pets for routine things like spaying, castrating, and minor wound repair, have become very safe in the last 10 years. 

But, to maximize the safety and comfort of your pet prior to surgery, here's a list, most of which we talk about in person when we schedule surgery.

1.  Empty stomach to avoid vomiting/aspiration.  Don't feed anything except water for at least 6 hours prior to surgery.

2. Consider presurgical antibiotics.  Your vet will recommend them when appropriate.

3. Consider presurgical pain medications.  Recommended for most surgeries...your vet will recommend them when appropriate.

4. Preanesthetic SedationUsually done at the hospital but sometimes dispensed to the owner to be given an hour or two prior to coming in.  The advantage of preanesthetic sedation is that it reduces the fear and anxiety of the patient and greatly reduces the amount of anesthesia needed.

5. If your pet hasn't been seen for awhile, or if your pet is seeing the veterinarian for the first time, perhaps for a routine Spay, for example, that pet must first become a patient.  This is both legally and medically important.  That pet will need a Presurgical Exam.

You would think this is obvious, but I list it here for all those people who call vet to vet pricing different surgeries looking for the cheapest price. 

Don't expect a good veterinarian to do surgery on an animal. even so called routine surgery,  without first making sure that the animal is fairly healthy.  Completing a good exam takes time and costs money...the price of which may or may not be included in a quoted surgery fee.

He or she will be checking for signs of anemia, bleeding disorders, fever, infection, parasitism, malnutrition, jaundice, dehydration, and lack of vigor before risking anesthesia and surgery.

We will want to know whether intact females are in heat or pregnant.  It will make a difference to the safety and outcome of the surgery.

We will want to know any important historical information; has the pet had any trouble in the past with drug sensitivities?  anesthetic sensitivities?  any history of metabolic diseases such as diabetes? ETC

The survival rate and success rate for the vast majority of routine veterinary surgery is excellent in this country.  Guess what?  One of the reasons is that most of us are extremely careful and meticulous...and we don't skip things like a presurgical exam.

6. Consider preanesthetic and presurgical blood work.  Blood work prior to surgery is routine in human medicine and nearly routine in many veterinary practices. 

It identifies kidney, liver, anemic, electrolyte imbalances, and other internal problems before we start anesthesia allowing us to modify which type anesthetic we'll use and how much etc.
It helps us make sure that your pet doesn't have heartworm disease if you've been negligent about giving preventive heartworm medication (or if the pet is new to you and you don't know.)
The only reason to skip bloodwork is because of cost...usually in the range of $20-125 depending on how many tests are recommended. 

In truth, most young pets that are well cared for and seem healthy on presurgical examination, usually do fine without the benefit of presurgical blood work...but not always.  You and your vet need to decide together how important money is to you versus maximizing the safety of your pet while it undergoes the potential dangers of anesthesia and surgery.

In older pets, obese pets, and in pets with health problems...the importance of presurgical blood testing becomes greater.  If you love your pet enough to do the surgery in the first is probably wise to do the blood work too.

On This Page:

Preparing for surgery.
This is important

On Other Pages:

Our introductory page about surgery

Considerations BEFORE Surgery

Post Op Considerations

Spays (Ovariohysterectomies) in Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets

C Sections

Castration in Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets

Declawing Cats

Ear Cropping


Cancer and Mass Removal

Fracture Repair

Abdominal Surgery

Hernia Surgery

Using the Omentum

Soft Tissue Surgery

Descenting Ferrets, Skunks etc

About the Treatment of Injuries, Abscess', ETC
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Obesity; new information and about Pfizer's new FDA approved treatment


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Poisons  Snakes, Insects, household chemicals, plants, and foods that might poison your pet

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Senior Pet Page: Geriatric Medicine

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Surgery: Spays, Castrations, Testicle Recipes, Soft Tissue Surgery, Hard Tissue Surgery (Bones), C- Sections, Declawing, Tumor Removal and Cancer Surgery

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Our Dog Page:  a directory of problems of concern in dogs including parvovirus, distemper, canine herpes, and other diseases

Veterinary Pet Insurance

Surgery is a big step.  Take some precautions before you leap.