You drop your pet off in the morning for surgery, then pick them up at the end of the day. What happens in between remains a mystery for many, or we imagine scenes from Grey's Anatomy. We’ll give you a Cole’s notes version of what we do behind the scenes for procedures that require a general anesthetic (where the animal is made unconscious for the duration of surgery).
Pre-operative exam – all patients are examined to ensure no concerning health changes have developed.
Pre-anesthetic bloodwork – we often recommend some basic screening bloodwork prior to anesthesia. This allows us to detect certain issues that are not always detectable externally. For example, a young animal with a liver shunt (where blood bypasses the liver itself) may appear healthy, but have decreased liver function and be more sensitive to medications. In most cases, a healthy animal is just that – a healthy animal. Bloodwork, while not perfect, allows us to evaluate a few extra parameters to minimize anesthetic risk.
Induction – similar to people, animals are intubated to protect the airways during surgery, and breath a mixture of oxygen and a gas called isoflurane, which maintains their plane of anesthesia and keeps them unconscious during the procedure. Intravenous fluids are provided to help support the blood pressure since hypotension is a well-documented side effect of anesthesia.
Surgery – this includes the surgical preparation of the site, the surgery itself in a dedicated surgery suite, sterile equipment, and having a veterinary technician monitor the patient all throughout surgery.
Recovery – waking up from surgery can be quite disorienting. Dysphoria and confusion is not uncommon. A technician monitors the entire process to ensure a safe extubation and recovery while the animal regains consciousness.
Home care and discharge – it is important to understand what surgery was performed, and what home care instructions are provided to you. Animals are often willing to exercise as soon as they feel ok, although proper rest is vital to recovery. Please pay close attention!
Hopefully that sheds a little light on what we do behind the scenes so it’s not the big unknown. We'll have a follow-up blog post on surgery FAQ's and common concerns. Stay tuned!