Our staff understands that bringing your pet in for a surgical procedure is a very stressful time to both you and your pet. Fortunately, today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. Pets receive a thorough physical exam before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness will not complicate surgery. We also strive to provide the latest in safe and pain free anesthetic protocols.
Surgeries offered include but are not limited to: spay and neuter, mass removal, dental cleaning and extractions, abdominal explore, abscess repair, cystotomy, cranial cruciate ligament repair, and more. Some surgeries are performed by our traveling boarded veterinary surgeon. We require a consultation/physical exam before performing a surgery, to ensure that your pet is a good surgical candidate and so that your pet's doctor can plan the details of their surgery in advance.
Please scroll down to view general information on surgery and anesthesia, as well as to read surgery FAQs. Click here to learn more about our surgical consultations.
General Surgery and Anesthesia Information
Drop off and pick up times: Please bring your pet to NRIAH between 7:15 and 7:30am on the day of their surgery. Plan to spend 5 to 10 minutes filling out paperwork, and making decisions on pre-operative blood testing and other options available. After surgery, a member of our staff will call you when your pet has recovered from anesthesia. During this call, we will also set up a specific discharge time for your pet. Please plan on spending about 10 minutes when picking up your pet to go over your pet's home care needs (medications, whether an e-collar is necessary, etc.)
Eating and drinking pre-op: Please withhold food for at least 10-12 hours before surgery (no food after about 8pm the night before). It is important that surgery be performed on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. Water can be left out for your pet until the morning of surgery.
Pre-anesthetic blood work: To further decrease the risk of anesthesia, we recommend pre-anesthetic blood testing. We strongly recommend every pet have blood testing before surgery, to ensure that their liver and kidneys can handle anesthesia. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected just by physical exam. Pending the blood work findings, we may just need to alter the patient's fluids during surgery. Should a serious problem be detected, surgery may be postponed until the problem is corrected. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.
Pre-surgical evaluation: Mornings begin with pre-surgical evaluations by the surgeon. Any blood test results and physical exam findings are reviewed in order to determine an appropriate sedative and anesthetic for your pet. Most animals can be given a combination of sedative and pain medication after their evaluation, so they can remain more relaxed while awaiting their procedure. If there are any findings of concern to the doctor, you will be notified at the contact number you leave on your admit sheet and an alternative plan will be discussed.
During surgery: Surgeries generally start between 9am and 3pm, pending the number of surgical cases scheduled that day, and are usually finished by 5pm. Please note that if an emergency procedure has to be scheduled, your pet's procedure may take place later in the day. Once it is time for your pet's procedure, an intravenous catheter is placed that will allow us to provide fluid therapy and medications to maintain his/her blood pressure, prevent infection, and continue pain management during and after the procedure. Once the catheter is places, an injectable anesthetic is used to allow us to place a tracheal tube in his/her airway. This tube lets us provide them with oxygen and the safest anesthetic gas for their surgery. During surgery, your pet's heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen levels, carbon dioxide levels, and blood pressure are monitored both by specialized surgical equipment, and an anesthetic technician.
Recovery after surgery: Once the procedure is finished, your pet is placed in a supervised recovery area where they are kept warm and comfortable until the anesthesia wears off. Depending on the type of procedure performed, your pet may also receive additional pain medication. Once your pet is fully recovered, you will be called at the contact number you have provided us; surgeries are generally finished by 5pm. We do ask that owners refrain from calling for updates throughout the day as it does distract the surgery staff from the patients who are under anesthesia at that time. Pets are usually ready to go home after 6pm, at which point you will meet with a technician to go over all your home care instructions/medications. Pets generally are a little sleepy but can tolerate a small meal and water once home.
Incision healing after surgery: For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These will dissolve on their own, and typically do not need to be removed later. Some surgeries, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. Most dogs and cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for. Occasionally, an e-collar ("cone of shame") may be recommended to keep a pet from licking at the incision site(s). If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time and no baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.
Post-operative at home care: Pain medications and/or antibiotics will be prescribed pending the type of surgery performed, taking into consideration the individual needs of the patient. The cost of these medications will depend on the size of the dog. Providing recommended pain relief is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet after surgery.
Other considerations: The use of pre-surgical work ups, advanced anesthetics, pain medication, fluids therapy, and patient monitoring equipment are designed to protect your pet from any complications that may arise during surgery. Despite these preventative measures, adverse reactions and emergency situations may develop that are not predictable. For this reason, every patient undergoing anesthesia has a form filled out by the surgeon that lists your pet's doses for emergency medications that may be required. In this way, our staff hopes to provide the safest experience for your pet, while being prepared for all other possibilities.
Anesthesia & Surgery FAQs
Wait, when is my pet's surgery scheduled again?
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.
My pet is VERY stressed at the vet, can he have surgery sooner in the day?
We will make our best effort to accommodate any concerns regarding your pet that may require an earlier surgery time. Please discuss these concerns with our staff before scheduling surgery so that we may work with you to ensure your pet has as un-stressful a day as possible.
Do all pets receive the same medications for anesthesia? What if my pet has health issues, or is a senior pet?
Our doctors adjust the amount and type of anesthetics given, depending on the pet's age, weight, temperament, breed, current medications, and concurrent health issues.
Will my pet be stressed or in pain after surgery?
While some mild discomfort is expected, all of our routine and elective surgical patients are given medications throughout the course of their stay, to keep them as calm, comfortable, and pain-free as possible.
Can my pet receive more than one procedure at the same time?
While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry (pending on the severity of dental disease present), ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip. If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please call ahead of time. This is especially important if the person dropping the pet off for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet's care.
My pet is acting funny/tired/mopey/not hungry since getting home from surgery, is this normal?
Anesthesia frequently makes pets pretty tired and occasionally nauseous the first 24 or so hours post procedure. However, if you are ever concerned about your pet's behavior after surgery, please do not hesitate to contact us.
My pet is licking/chewing at their incision but they were not given an e-collar ("cone of shame"), what should I do?
We do not send home every patient with an e-collar, depending on the type of surgery that was performed. However, should your pet begin irritating the incision site, please contact us ASAP (or go to a local pet store) to purchase an appropriately sized e-collar to avoid delaying healing of the incision.
My pet's incision looks weird, should I be concerned?
Some erythema (redness) and mild discharge are to be expected the first couple of days after surgery. However, if you are ever concerned about the appearance of your pet's incision post-operatively, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we may inspect the incision. Occasionally a pet may irritate the surgery site, and require for example additional antibiotics.