Pet parents worry as much as human parents when they have to leave their beloved animal at the vet to have surgery. It's understandable. What happens behind the scenes is the unknown for most people. To help ease some anxiety we will walk you through what happens after you drop your pet off with us to be desexed (as this is usually the first and the most common surgery).
First things first — the basics are taken care of at the front reception. You will be asked to fill in and sign a consent for surgery form. The nurses will ask for a number we can contact you on and check if your pet is currently on any medications. They will also ask whether your animal has eaten that day. It is important for your pet to have an empty stomach so that they do not vomit and aspirate while under anaesthetic or post surgery. The exception to this is rabbits who must eat right up until the time of surgery. Rabbits do not have a vomit reflex and their gastrointestinal tract needs to stay active to aid recovery.
Once the paperwork is sorted, your pet will be weighed to ensure we give the correct drug dosages. Then the hardest part comes, leaving your pet in our hands. We will take your pet into the back cages where we have already set up a nice comfortable bed for them.
The vet on duty will give your pet a full examination and if you have chosen to, your pet will have a pre anaesthetic blood test done before any drugs are given. A pre anaesthetic blood test is done in house and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. The test is checking primarily for liver and kidney function as these organs help process and eliminate anaesthetics and other drugs. The blood test will also help determine if there is any anaemia or sign of infection present. All these checks help give a clear picture of your pets health and lessen the risk of giving an anaesthetic.
Once they have been given the all clear from the blood test and examination, a light sedative is given. This will help your pet stay calm and allows for less general anaesthesia to be given. It can also make the recovery process smoother.
The sedation will be given time to work and the nurses will place an intravenous catheter. Some fur will be shaved to allow for easier visibility and access to the vein. It also makes the area easier to clean with a surgical disinfectant to sterilise before the needle is inserted to prevent bacterial infection. Generally the catheter will be placed in one of the front limbs but occasionally a hind limb will need to be used. The IV line is then attached to a machine that will continue to provide fluid before, during and after surgery. Fluids are important to maintain blood pressure, keep your animal hydrated and help the liver and kidneys flush out the anaesthetic. Male cats aren't given intravenous fluids during castration as the surgery is such a quick procedure it is not needed.
When everyone is ready for the surgery to be started your pet will be taken over to the preparation table where an intravenous anaesthetic will be given via the fluid line. Once they are asleep an endotracheal tube will be inserted and it will be connected to oxygen and anaesthetic gas. The surgery area is then clipped so that all the hair is gone before they are transferred into the surgery room.
In the surgery room they are once again connected to oxygen and anaesthetic gas. They are also attached to all monitors including breathing, pule rate, ECG and Co2 saturation. A nurse will be watching these monitors throughout the whole procedure and noting down all the values on a chart every 5 minutes. The nurse will also be testing depth of anaesthetic and adjusting the flow of gas accordingly to ensure your pet stays asleep throughout the entire procedure. The entire surgical area is scrubbed with surgical disinfectant to prevent any bacteria entering the body during surgery.
Once the surgery is complete, the anaesthetic gas is turned off and your pet is transferred to their nice warm bed that has been set up in a cage. A nurse will stay with them while they are waking up and remove the ET tube once the swallow reflex has returned. They are continually monitored until fully concious.
As soon as your pet is awake and alert we will phone you to let you know that everything went well. You are generally able to pick your pet up in the mid to late afternoon. They will be disconnected from their fluids just prior to going home with you. Your nurse will go through all instructions on discharge including any pain medication they need at home and whether they require a buster collar (or cone of shame!).
Once home, your pet will need to be kept nice and warm and given time to recover. It is best not to leave pets alone with young children for a few days following surgery, even if they are normally very well-behaved, as sometimes they act out of sorts for the days following.
Hopefully knowing what happens behind the scenes can help ease some worries when it comes to leaving your pet with us. Most surgeries follow a similar process, though the recovery and discharge can differ. We always try to ensure your pet is comfortable and happy in our care, and we appreciate your trust in us when it comes to such an important member of your family. If you have any further questions feel free to speak to any of our vets or nurses.