What You Need to Know Before Your Cat's Upcoming Surgery
Many people have questions about various aspects of their cat's surgery, and we hope this information will help. It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your cat's upcoming surgery.
Is the anesthetic safe?
Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at The Cat Doctor, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem. We use the same gas anesthetics that you would receive if you were having anesthesia. Intravenous fluids are given during all surgical procedures except the very shortest ones. IV fluids help maintain blood pressure, prevent dehydration and are a path for drugs in thje event of an emergency. After your cat is fully awake the IV will be removed. We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.
Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia. Most cats need blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing. If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications. Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.
We have two levels of pre-anesthetic testing. Cats less than nine years old receive a complete blood count (CBC) and a mini-chemistry panel. Cats nine years and older have a CBC and a full chemistry panel. A CBC measures the red and white blood cell counts, hemoglobin, platelet count and several other blood cell parameters. A mini-chemistry panel tests the kidneys, liver, blood protein and glucose (sugar) levels. A full chemistry panel includes the tests in the mini with the addition of electrolytes (sodium, potassium), additional liver tests and calcium and phosphorus.
It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. You will need to withhold food for at least 10 hours before surgery. Water can be left down for the cat until the morning of surgery.
Will my pet have stitches?
For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later. Some surgeries do require skin stitches. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. Most cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for. If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 days after surgery. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time after they return home.
Will my pet be in pain?
Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals. Cats may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do; they usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.
Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them. Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. We administer a narcotic pain injection prior to surgery. Cats with normal kidney function also receive a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) prior to surgery which lasts 24 hours. Most NSAIDS are not safe for cats but we use the only oral NSAID which is FDA approved for cats. After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.
What other decisions do I need to make?
When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs.
We will call you the day before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm the time you will be dropping your pet off and to answer any questions you might have. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.