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Dog and cat surgery: preparation and care after surgery


Your pet is going to be operated on?

Do you know how to prepare for it, what awaits you after surgery and how to look after your friend in these difficult times?

Do not be afraid of the unknown, much less delay the procedure because of it!

Preparing a dog or cat for surgery, and caring for an animal after the procedure are not complicated and time-consuming activities, it is enough to familiarize yourself with them.

In this article you will learn everything about it, I invite you to read.

  • Preparation of the dog and cat
    • The decision about the operation has been made. What now?
    • Medical interview
    • Clinical examination of a dog / cat
    • Additional research
  • A few days before surgery
  • The day before surgery
  • What to take with you to the clinic?
  • Before surgery
  • Anesthesia during surgery
    • Local anesthesia
    • General anesthesia
  • Taking the patient home
  • The first day after surgery
    • A few hours after the operation
    • Several hours after the operation
  • Days after surgery
  • Symptoms to be concerned about
  • Removal of stitches after surgery
  • Costs related to the operation

Preparation of the dog and cat

The tips you will find in this article relate primarily to planned procedures.

Emergency operations are usually performed promptly, without prior preparation, and are designed to save lives.

After all, we cannot predict that a cat will fall under a car or a dog will be bitten during a walk and starve it in advance.

Unfortunately, such surgical procedures are also more risky for this reason.

The same may happen in the case of a bitch with pyomatosis - the animal may come to the clinic in a serious condition and immediate surgery will be required.

Such a procedure is much heavier than the routine sterilization preceded by the preparation of the patient - therefore we should prophylactically sterilize bitches at a young age.

The decision about the operation has been made. What now?

You should go to the veterinarian with the pet and his health booklet.

The animal should have current deworming and vaccination against infectious diseases.

The overdue vaccination of a dog or cat should be done at least 2 weeks before the procedure. You should do some checks around one week before vaccination.

Surgical procedure is a lot of stress for the organism that it carries lowering immunity, therefore, in the postoperative period, an unvaccinated and infested pet is more exposed to infectious diseases.

In the case of cats, we must pay special attention to the cat's runny nose, because viral infections like to show up in the phase of reduced immunity.

Vaccinated cats are likely to develop feline rhinitis after surgery minimal, and if it comes to disease, the symptoms are usually very mild and pass quickly.

That is why it is really worth taking care of prophylaxis in advance:

deworm and vaccinate your friend, even though it comes with extra costs.

All activities performed before the procedure are intended to minimize the risk of complications related to surgery and anesthesia.

We must remember that any general anesthesia is an interference in the body and carries it threat to the patient's life.

That is why it is so important to assess the patient's health in advance by a doctor who determines it on the basis of:

  • intelligence,
  • clinical trial,
  • additional tests.

Medical interview

Medical interview aims to provide the doctor with data about our animal.

Inform about:

  • the age of the animal,
  • current state of health,
  • illnesses and how to treat them,
  • previous treatments and anesthesia.
Medical interview

Tell the doctor about any illnesses your pet suffers from and the medications it is taking.

It is important to notify about any adverse drug reactions, allergies or carried out blood transfusions.

It is also important whether:

  • the animal has not suddenly lost weight or gained weight recently,
  • is not coughing,
  • there is no difficulty in breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, secretions from the respiratory tract,
  • what is his exercise tolerance.

Consider if your pet:

  • behaves normally,
  • is active,
  • whether he passes faeces and urine properly,
  • for diarrhea,
  • there is no vomiting or spilling of food,
  • there are no wounds on the body,
  • for skin lesions or itching.

Remember when the female was in heat or heat for the last time, or if she is using hormonal contraception.

Assess whether your pet is mentally sound, hasn't become overly aggressive or apathetic recently.

Clinical examination of a dog / cat

When joining a clinical trial, the doctor:

  • measures body temperature,
  • assesses the mucous membranes and the condition of the oral cavity and teeth,
  • assesses the time of capillary recurrence,
  • examines the lymph nodes,
  • palpates the abdominal cavity.
The doctor pays special attention to the circulatory system and respiratory system, because these are two systems whose function is impaired during anesthesia and the omission of any abnormalities may cause complications during the operation.

During the examination, the doctor auscultates the trachea, bronchi, lungs, heart tones and assesses the heart rate, checks for murmurs and arrhythmias, counts the number of breaths.

Additional research

The choice of additional tests depends on the age and health of the patient.

The doctor will also advise you on what tests should be performed before the operation.

Before the operation, under general anesthesia, the following should be performed in each animal, even in the absence of any abnormalities from the norm:

  • basic blood tests:
    • morphology,
    • kidney tests,
    • liver tests.
  • urine test.

On their basis, it is possible to predict the course of anesthesia or select an anesthesia.

On the basis of clinical examination alone, or the absence of disease symptoms, it is not possible to exclude liver failure or renal failure.

Failure to detect abnormalities in internal organs (liver, kidneys) or morphology and coagulation factors (circulatory system) may cause complications during anesthesia and the operation itself, and even lead to the death of the patient.

If the doctor detects any abnormalities in the circulatory system, he may order an execution chest radiographs and consultation with a cardiologist who will perform electrocardiographic examination (ECG) and ultrasound (echo) of the heart.

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If the heartbeat is abnormal, the cardiologist will prescribe medication to be given to the animal, usually for about a week before surgery.

In older animals or breeds predisposed to circulatory diseases, it is worth routinely performing an ECG and echocardiogram before surgery.

In young, healthy animals, the owners often refrain from additional tests on their own, because they generate additional costs, and young animals are usually healthy.

In fact, most often it is, but the exception proves the rule, and it may happen to your pet, so I think it's always worth doing some basic research.

If the tests show abnormalities in the patient's health, the doctor will administer appropriate treatment to improve the patient's condition, and thus reduce the risk of anesthesia.

The date of the planned surgery will be postponed to a later date.

We already have the first stage behind us. The animal is healthy, the date of the operation has already been set. Later in this article you will learn what to do before the surgery itself.

A few days before surgery

Do not overexert your pet, do not expose to stressful situations, save in a word.

It is better not to get an infection from a friend in the yard, not to cut himself, because even minor wounds are a habitat of bacteria that can infect a postoperative wound.

Give him easily digestible food for a few days, do not overeat and overburden the digestive tract.

The day before surgery

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Before the operation, we must apply hunger strike.

We do not give the animal anything to eat for the 12 hours preceding the procedure.

Since treatments are usually scheduled in the morning, we take a bowl of food overnight, counting down 12 hours.

If the treatment is scheduled for 8 o'clock.00 am, at 20.00 we take the food.

Two hours before the operation, we also take water to drink, i.e. in the example situation at 6 o'clock.00 in the morning.

Fasting reduces the risk of vomiting after drugs used during anesthesia, and thus the risk of ingestion into the respiratory tract.

An animal vomiting food could aspirate it into the lungs, which could lead to a fatal complication - aspiration pneumonia.

In addition, the overloaded gastrointestinal tract puts pressure on the diaphragm, which limits its mobility and reduces the breathing volume.

Fasting is also intended to prevent intestinal obstruction in the postoperative period, as drugs used during anesthesia slow down the work of the intestine.

So it's important that the intestines are empty.

Therefore, let's remember about the fasting recommended by the doctor, because it is really important.

If we have a nervous animal by nature, we can use it a few days before the operation pheromones for dogs and cats in an aerosol or in a plug-in diffuser.

Thanks to them, the animal will be calmer during the first activities performed in the office, even before the administration of anesthesia.

It is necessary to consult a physician in the preoperative period when administering medications, including sedatives.

What to take with you to the clinic?

Remember that your dog should come to the clinic with his:

  • with a collar or harness,
  • a leash,
  • muzzle.

A muzzle is worth wearing, even in calm animals, because premedication has different effects on the body and the dog's behavior can become unpredictable.

A cat is good if it has its own transporter.

You can bring blanket, so that the animal could be covered with it.

Dog blanket

The body is always slightly chilled after the procedure, this is how anesthesia works, there is always a blanket in the clinic, but the animal will feel more confident if it is surrounded by a familiar smell.

It is important that the blanket is clean.

Before surgery

Weighing the pet before surgery

We come to the clinic on the appointed day of the operation, where the doctor once again examines the animal clinically to check if its health has changed.

The animal is then weighed to accurately determine the dose of the anesthetic drugs.

Before administering drugs, the pet owner is obliged to sign a consent for the procedure, which includes information about the type of procedure, estimated cost and the risk of general anesthesia and surgery.

The doctor then gives the animal premedication medications.

Premedication is the pharmacological preparation of the patient for induction of general anesthesia and its maintenance.

It is part of general anesthesia and is mainly aimed at:

  • reducing anxiety,
  • calming the animal,
  • analgesic effect.

Usually, this first injection is given into a muscle.

Premedication medications usually last approx 5-15 minutes.

The animal may vomit saliva and gastric juices as a result of an adverse drug reaction.

After premedication, the animal has a reduced ability to respond to external stimuli and is slightly stunned.

Then it is put on venflon (intravenous catheter) and this way the following are administered:

  • narcotic drugs for general anesthesia,
  • painkillers,
  • drip.

Depending on the patterns practiced in a given veterinary office, there are differences.

Your doctor may skip the intramuscular injections and insert the venflon right away.

In addition, it can allow us to assist with all injections and the pet's anesthesia, and maybe after we have signed the consent for the procedure, ask us to go home and wait for the phone call.

Regardless of the scheme chosen by the doctor, we must trust him and believe that our client is in professional hands.

It is forbidden to be nervous, cry, scream, kiss or stroke the pet excessively.

Remember that now the most important thing is the pet and its comfort, and it feels safe if the owner behaves calmly.

In order for the animal to respond properly to premedication, it must not be disturbed by external factors - it must remain calm, so you must be quiet.

Young children should not be assisted at this point, as their crying or screaming will not be good for the patient.

It is worth keeping calm earlier, at home, because animals are extremely sensitive to our emotional state.

An upset animal reacts less well to anesthesia and may have high blood pressure.

After the caregiver leaves the clinic, the animal is placed under general anesthesia.

The operated area is carefully shaved and disinfected.

The patient is placed on the operating table and the surgeon immediately goes to work after washing his hands.

Anesthesia during surgery

Preparation for surgery - anesthesia

Anesthesia is the reversible abolition of the sensation of pain in all or part of the body.

We can divide anesthesia into local and general anesthesia.

Local anesthesia

Local anesthesia is a state of transient controlled decommissioning of peripheral nerves, induced by chemicals that affect sensory endings or nerve trunks.

  • It consists in the periodic inhibition of conduction in nerve fibers.
  • It makes it possible to abolish the feeling of pain without losing consciousness.
  • It is recommended in minor procedures and when the patient's condition does not allow for general anesthesia.
  • Local anesthesia is sufficient for:
    • diagnostic punctures,
    • incision of an abscess or hematoma,
    • excision of small, superficial tumors and cysts,
    • sewing wounds.

Local anesthesia is increasingly used in conjunction with general anesthesia.

The benefits of local anesthesia are:

  • ease of execution,
  • lower danger than under general anesthesia,
  • relatively low cost.

Unfortunately, not every animal can use them - nervous, aggressive dogs, scratching and biting cats can be difficult to maintain and therefore pose the risk of severe complications during surgery.

Thus, local anesthesia as a standalone method of anesthesia without premedication is reserved for calm, manageable animals.

We distinguish between different types of local anesthesia:

  • surface,
  • infiltration,
  • wired,
  • epidural,
  • subarachnoid.

Local surface anesthesia

Local surface anesthesia is the blocking of nerve endings in the skin and mucous membranes by applying pharmacological or physical agents to the surface of the skin or mucous membranes.

Physical substances are usually those which, having a low boiling point through rapid evaporation, strongly cool the skin, e.g. ethyl chloride.

Pharmacological superficial anesthetics include e.g. lignocaine (gel, liquid).

This anesthesia is used during punctures or cutting abscesses and works very superficially.

Local infiltration anesthesia

Local infiltration anesthesia consists in injecting tissues by a doctor.

This abolishes the conduction in small branches of the sensory nerves.

You can inject the cut line itself or the skin around the operating field as well as deeper tissues.

Local anesthesia usually starts after approx 2 - 5 minutes and lasts approx 0.5 - 1 hour.

It is used to remove skin lesions such as eg.:

  • atheroma,
  • cyst,
  • superficial proliferative change.

Local conduction anesthesia

Local conduction anesthesia is obtained by introducing an anesthetic in the area of ​​nerve trunks.

Sensation is turned off in the peripheral area.

They are performed under anesthesia of the nerves of the head and limbs.

This type of anesthesia is rarely performed in small animals and is usually combined with general anesthesia with the aim of reducing the dose of anesthetic and suppressing reflexes in the area.

Local epidural anesthesia

Local epidural anesthesia consists in reversible interruption of nerve conduction by injecting a local anesthetic into the epidural space of the spinal canal, located in the spinal canal between the dura mater of the spinal cord and the bones and ligaments of the spinal canal.

It requires prior pharmacological sedation of the patient.

The doctor should be skilled in carrying it out.

This form of anesthesia is rarely used in small animals.

Local spinal anesthesia

Local spinal anesthesia consists in the reversible interruption of the conductivity in the spinal nerve roots after the administration of local anesthetics to the subarachnoid space, located between the dura mater and the dura mater of the spinal cord.

Overdosing of the anesthetic may lead to respiratory arrest and severe hypotension.

General anesthesia

General anesthesia is a controlled, reversible loss of consciousness, reflexes and sensation. We distinguish between the following stages:

  • premedication,
  • induction,
  • conduction,
  • awakening.
General anesthesia in a cat

After administration of premedication agents, i.e. preparations for general anesthesia, the next stage is induction of anesthesia (induction), and then maintenance of general anesthesia (conduction).

Anesthesia induction, i.e. the introduction to general anesthesia, is the period from the administration of an anesthetic to induction of sleep.

Drugs used for induction are usually administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or by means of a mask through which the drug is administered as a gas mixture.

Conduction, i.e. maintenance of anesthesia, consists in administering consecutive doses of anesthetic drugs, so that the patient remains under anesthesia throughout the operation.

General anesthesia, depending on the route of administration of the anesthetic, can be divided into:

  • general intravenous anesthesia,
  • general inhalation anesthesia.

General intravenous (infusion) anesthesia

Anesthetic drugs are served intravenously, initially as a bolus, and later added during the operation to maintain anesthesia.

It is also possible to continuously administer anesthetics by drip infusion with infusion pump.

The benefits of intravenous anesthesia include:

  • ease of use,
  • quick and gentle onset of drug action.

The most commonly used agents for infusion anesthesia are:

  • dissociative agents,
  • benzodiazepines,
  • propofol,
  • opioids.

Intravenous general anesthesia is often used in veterinary medicine for procedures such as:

  • castrations,
  • sterilization,
  • removal of skin tumors,
  • sanitation (cleansing) of the oral cavity and others.

General inhalation anesthesia

In this type of anesthesia, anesthetic drugs are administered into the respiratory system and absorbed from the alveoli. It is given:

  • isoflurane,
  • desflurane,
  • sevoflurane.

Most often, the mixture of air and gas is administered to the respiratory tract via an endotracheal tube or, less frequently, with a mask - usually in very small animals, e.g. hamsters.

It is recommended for temporarily longer operations, i.e. many used in orthopedics, in the area of ​​the respiratory system or the circulatory system.

This narcosis it is more expensive and requires the use of special equipment.

Compared to intravenous anesthesia, inhalation anesthesia is easier to control, because its depth can be changed quickly by regulating the concentration of the anesthetic in the gas in the inhaled air.

The endotracheal tube is inserted in an animal already anesthetized, so the owner does not participate in this procedure.

Animals undergoing intravenous anesthesia may also be intubated to maintain an open airway and provide assisted respiration if ventilation declines.

Unfortunately, intubation may also carry a risk of complications, such as:

  • puncture of the trachea,
  • pressure sores on the tracheal mucosa.

After extubation for several days in a pet may persist cough.

You can see what a dog that wakes up from anesthesia looks like in the video below

// www.youtube.com / watch?v = PMrf1Mofbio

Taking the patient home

After a long and nervous wait, the final stage begins, which is taking the patient home.

The doctor usually calls the caregiver when the animal is awake and ready to be picked up.

When picking up your pet, ask your doctor about the course of the operation and further recommendations and how the animal might behave in the next few hours and what to be concerned about.

The doctor also informs about further treatment and the dates of the next visits.

Depending on the type of surgery and the patient's condition, this may only be administration of painkillers and antibiotics, but may require intravenous fluids and even blood transfusions.

Follow the advice of your doctor.

You must never self-administer medication, it can even kill your pet.

The animal is already usually dressed in postoperative cup or Elizabethan collar to prevent the wound from being licked.

It is important that until the stitches are removed (usually after 10 days), do not remove clothing or collar.

The collar must not be shortened or cut, as it is selected in such a way that the animal does not lick the seams.

An animal in a collar may have trouble drinking or eating from the floor, so it is worth placing the cups on small elevations.

Bowls and coasters should be smaller in diameter than the collar.

The cupcakes additionally protect the wound from getting dirty, unfortunately some animals have a tendency to lick them, which is not advisable, because constant moisture in combination with bacteria from the oral cavity complicates healing.

The first day after surgery

Care after surgery

The animal is already at home.

We must give him warmth, peace and quiet now.

It is important to cover the animal as it may be cooled after anesthesia.

They should be placed on a soft bedding on the floor.

This will prevent you from falling out of bed and harming yourself.

The animal is still slightly unconscious for several hours after the operation.

For the next 12 hours we have to keep again full starvation - we do not serve food or drink.

The animal is still a bit stunned, its reflexes are weakened, so it could choke to death.

Moreover, they are still possible vomiting, giving food or water could additionally provoke them.

So an absolute fasting requirement after surgery is just as important as it was before surgery.

During the operation, intravenous fluids are always administered, so we do not have to worry about dehydration.

A few hours after the operation

What can happen hours after surgery?

For several hours after the procedure, the animal can still vomit saliva mixed with bile and stomach fluids.

If the vomiting is mild, without blood, no more than 2-3 times, then there is no need to worry.

However, it is important that the animal does not choke while vomiting.

You can help him by supporting his head in a standing or sitting position.

The animal must not lie on its side or back during vomiting.

A few hours after surgery, pets, especially dogs, may squeal a little or even whine, this is partly due to pain, but mostly to light-headedness after surgery and stress.

Most doctors after surgery will give you strong opioid painkillers so your pet should feel no pain.

Several hours after the operation

Within a dozen or so hours from the operation, the animal's basic vital signs should be monitored.

You have to watch respiration, if the animal stops breathing, immediately drive to the nearest clinic.

Let's check if there is nowhere bleeding - after abdominal surgery, there may be a trace of blood on the postoperative garment near the cut line.

Don't panic, it may be a small blood vessel that has opened during movement or blood from the area of ​​the subcutaneous tissue.

However, if the stain of blood on the clothes grows rapidly, or the bleeding is from the openings of the body - urogenital tract, respiratory tract, digestive tract or blood appears in vomiting - do not waste time and call the doctor who operated on our animal or go to a nearby one clinics.

Unfortunately, early complications are always possible, such as a band slipping off or a large vessel opening, which is associated with life-threatening hemorrhage.

These are sporadic situations, but it's worth knowing about them.

Other worrying symptoms after surgery include:

  • separation of the edges of the wound,
  • severe swelling in the seam area,
  • dyspnoea,
  • pallor of the mucous membranes,
  • fever.

Days after surgery

First two - three days after a simple surgery in the abdominal cavity, e.g. sterilization, it's time to definitely improve the convalescent's condition.

Most of the animals behave quite normally, they may be a bit more lethargic, slightly sore.

Kittens in a coat may be reluctant to move.

Animals should show a desire to eat.

We can already provide food and water after 12 hours, but it is better if the food is easily digestible and served in smaller portions and more often.

We give water without restrictions.

After intestinal surgeries, the attending physician informs when and in what composition the food should be used and in what amount.

Of course, the recovery time depends on the type of surgery performed and the general condition of the patient before the surgery.

After major surgery and in elderly, diseased animals, the seriousness of the patient may last for days, but then the animal remains in the hospital or is taken to a clinic for treatment.

Then the doctor regularly checks the condition of the animal and, if necessary, modifies the therapy.

Symptoms to be concerned about

The following are disturbing:

  • no urination after the day,
  • persistent severe pain for more than three to four days,
  • complete reluctance to move,
  • not passing faeces,
  • visible discharge around the wound,
  • discharge from the orifices of the body,
  • vomiting,
  • refusal to take food and water,
  • pale conjunctiva,
  • separation of the edges of the wound,
  • severe swelling in the seam area,
  • body temperature above 39ºC.

After noticing the above-mentioned symptoms, it is necessary to take the animal to the veterinary clinic.

For approx 2 weeks traffic should be strictly limited.

Walks must be short, on a lead, only for basic physiological needs.

It is forbidden to jump e.g. for a bed and (in the case of cats) tall furniture.

After abdominal surgery, sudden or excessive movement, incorrect grasping of the pet and lifting with strong pressure on the abdominal wall may cause postoperative hernia.

It is worth saving the pet for at least 2 weeks after the operation.

In the case of orthopedic surgery, we must strictly follow the surgeon's instructions.

In some situations, rehabilitation or special exercises will be prescribed, e.g. slowly climbing up the hill.

At other times, the limb will be immobilized under a plaster cast for longer.

After spine or hip surgery, it may be advisable to keep your pet in a cage.

You should always ask the surgeon about everything and follow his instructions closely.

Soreness after surgery, the severity and duration of pain depend on the type and extent of surgery.

After minor operations, such as: sterilization, removal of skin lesions, suturing minor wounds, the pain is moderate and limited to a few days after surgery.

After larger and more extensive operations, for example, removal of the spleen, breast tumors (mastectomy) or intestinal surgery, the pain is greater and may last longer, even over a week.

The severity of pain and its duration after bone surgery are much longer than after soft tissue surgery, it can be up to several weeks.

Often, an orthopedic surgeon orders painkillers to be administered at home.

Removal of stitches after surgery

Taking out stitches

Removal of the stitches is usually done after 10 days.

It is not a painful procedure and does not require pharmacological sedation of the animal.

Sometimes the sutures do not need to be removed because thin threads that dissolve quickly have been placed, for example on the eyelid or mucous membranes, or the doctor has sewn with a suture that does not need to be removed.

Sometimes the sutures are left for longer than 10 days, e.g. in the area of ​​the fingers, pads, joints, i.e. where healing is difficult due to high mobility or stress in a given area.

So you should always follow the surgeon's instructions.

Costs related to the operation


The costs related to the operation are the necessary accessories, the cost of examinations, visits after the operation and possibly the cost of removing the stitches (approximate prices from one of Warsaw's friendly clinics):

Post-operative clothes:

  • varies depending on the size: 25 - 45 PLN


  • depending on the size: 10 - 40 PLN

Additional research:

  • general urine test: PLN 25-35,
  • blood test, complete blood count: 20 - 40 PLN,
  • morphology with kidney and liver tests: 40 - 70 PLN,
  • cardiologist consultation with ECG and heart echo: PLN 150-250,
  • X-ray examination: 40 - 100 PLN,

Visits after surgery:

  • the cost depends on the drugs used, may be included in the cost of the operation.

Taking out stitches:

  • PLN 10-30 or may be included in the price of the operation


Preparing the dog / cat for the procedure

Hope you know already after reading this article how to prepare a dog / cat for surgery and how to care for a pet after surgery.

If you have questions related to this topic, or think I should supplement the article with some key points, post a comment under the article.

I will answer your questions as soon as possible.

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