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Preoperative and Postoperative Care for my Pet

post-operative-pre-operative-petsThe specifics of any particular operation are a little beyond the scope of this discussion, but there are always some general rules that should be followed with any operation that you pet may have.  Most pets during their lifetime should have at least one surgery (to be spayed or neutered), and many other pets may require additional surgery due to injury or illness.

Preparing your pet for surgery.  You should always speak with your veterinarian about any preoperative care that might be necessary.  For elective procedures (those that do not require life-saving intervention) such as spays, neuters and many orthopedic procedures or mass removals, it is important that your pet be fasted prior to the surgery.  This means that they should not have any food in their stomach.  Although you may think that proper nutrition is essential for recovery (which it is), when there is a lot of food or liquid inside the stomach, there is a risk for regurgitation and aspiration of the stomach contents into the trachea and lungs. This can impair breathing and lead to pneumonia.  Most pets should be fasted for at least 6-12 hours before any elective procedure involving anesthesia.   Very young or small animals may require only shorter periods low blood sugar is not ideal.  Water is usually fine.  Your veterinarian may want to perform routine blood work or clotting tests prior to surgery to ensure that their anesthesia is tailored to the patient and to ensure normal health prior to the procedure.

Postoperative care.  There are many aspects that should be addressed including incision care, pain control, monitoring for infection and rest.  Any incision needs to be protected diligently, cats dogs and other pets don’t inherently know to leave their incision alone. Their most common response is to lick at the area or pull the sutures out, which can obviously have devastating consequences. Incisions should be protected with either bandages or Elizabethan collars.

There are a variety of pain medications that can be used to help control pain. The most common are oral anti-inflammatory medications such as carprofen or deracoxib. Other options for dogs and cats include morphine-related drugs such as butorphanol, buprenorphine, tramadol and hydromorphone; sometimes extended-release fentanyl patches can be used as well.  Tylenol (acetaminophen) is rarely used in dogs and is toxic to cats, so it should never be administered.  Always discuss pain control with your veterinarian.  Most over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen are not safe for dogs and cats.

You should monitor your pet for signs of infection as well. Things to watch for around the area of incision include swelling, worsening pain, discharge (especially if yellow, green or foul smelling,), redness and heat.  Sometimes infection can spread through the blood which will make your pet become lethargic, inappetant and feverish.  Rest after any surgical procedure is essential, it allows for normal healing and minimizes stress on the incision.  Pets should not be allowed to run, jump, play or even go up and down stairs vigorously as this may place unnecessary stress on the incision not allow proper healing.  For more routine procedures such as spays, neuters and lump removal, this may only be required for a few days. For major orthopedic procedures, weeks or months may be essential to allow the bone to heal.

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