Vet Watch – Pet Surgery

OK, this month I thought I would give a quick run down of what’s involved in preparation for basic elective surgery if your furry (or scaled or feathered) friend ever needs an operation.

First up, we always require our patients to have food and water withheld for about 12 hours prior to an anaesthetic.

Upon admission to hospital a patient is weighed, given a preliminary examination and sedated with an appropriate agent at least an hour before the procedure.

The patient will almost always be placed on an IV drip to maximise safety and post-operative comfort and recovery and support major organ function.

At the same time as sedation, an analgesic (pain relief)  is usually given to minimise post-recovery discomfort.  Sometimes other medication may be given in special circumstances. 

For middle-aged animals, or those with some degree of health compromise we will strongly recommend an in-house blood test to check on some basic biochemical and circulatory parameters.

For anaesthesia, an intravenous drug is used initially to induce rapid unconsciousness. Unconsciousness is achieved in only a few seconds, at which time the patient is immediately intubated to keep airways open and protected and supply oxygen, eye lubrication is applied, and respiratory and oxygen monitors are attached. The patient is also placed on a heating mat to conserve body heat. Prior to surgery the patient will have its surgical site clipped, vacuumed, scrubbed and disinfected. Nearly all patients will be placed on an anaesthetic gas machine during the procedure.

While under anaesthesia and during recovery, patients are connected to devices that monitor heart rate and rhythm, arterial oxygen saturation, blood pressure, expired carbon dioxide levels, core-temperature and respiratory rate. They are kept warm on a thermostatically controlled recirculating hot water pad.

During this time, and in recovery, the patient is monitored by one or two nurses, as well as the surgeon.

Once the surgery is over, the patient is transferred to a warm cage to rest quietly. At this time the endotracheal tube is usually removed, depending on the return of the patient’s normal swallowing and respiratory reflexes. In some circumstances the patient may remain on IV fluids for some time after surgery. Further pain relief is given at this time.

So if you wonder what all the fuss is about next time your pet undergoes a surgical procedure, keep in mind that it’s a complex process that aims to produce a good surgical result, but also maintain maximum safety and patient comfort even in what might be considered ‘routine’ procedures.

So hopefully that sheds a little light on the situation!


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