CRITTER CHAT: Preparing your pet for general anesthesia

by Dr. Phil

Surgery or any procedure that requires general anesthesia for your dog or cat is a big deal, but by taking a few basic steps to prepare both before and after, you will help reduce some of your anxiety as well as increase the comfort of your pet.  Of course, it is most important that you follow your veterinarian’s pre- and post-surgical instructions.

If your pet cannot have food 12 hours prior to the procedure, make sure that no treats or food can be given accidentally or “found”.  Some pre-anesthetic agents and anesthetic drugs decrease the swallowing reflex that could result in vomiting and subsequent inhalation of material into the lungs. Puppies and kittens, however, have very little energy reserves and may require a small meal in the morning, as do pets with diabetes, so check with your veterinarian in any special situations. Most veterinarians recommend normal water intake the evening prior to surgery and a small amount in the morning to reduce the potential for dehydration.

Many veterinarians encourage the use of pet supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or probiotics beginning 2 to 3 weeks prior to surgery and continuing 4 weeks after.  Check with your veterinarian to see if such a regime is appropriate for your animal.  Maybe even continue such dietary supplements for the life of your pet to support overall physiological health.

Prepare a warm and comfortable area for recovery after surgery, one that is away from a heavy traffic and other dogs in the household.  Wash your dog’s bedding in advance of the surgery to provide a fresh smelling, hygienic space for recovery.

Bathe your dog – unless he is having an orthopedic procedure to repair a fractured bone – using a mild cleansing shampoo since you will not be able to clean his skin and coat for at least 3 weeks post surgery.

If possible, take some time off work or have someone check on your pet while you are away for a few days after surgery. Be sure that you understand any discharge instructions, and don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian questions before taking your animal home.  Be sure to follow any specific directions.

It is okay to spoil your pet a little with extra attention, but don’t feed any treats or foods that are too rich and could cause vomiting or diarrhea. Keep small children and other animals away for at least seven days following surgery. If your animal must be given medication or continue supplements, do so gently and have some help to reduce the likelihood of additional discomfort or torn stitches.

Some veterinarians recommend the use of a recovery collar if there is a chance your animal might lick or try to remove stitches.  Although awkward, this “cone of shame”, as it came to be known in the movie UP, often reduces the likelihood of torn stitches or infected incisions.

Be patient with your patient.  Most animals oftentimes don’t understand why they suddenly have discomfort, and good care in advance of surgery and after will help your pet recover faster and easier.  And you will feel better too.

Please share this post