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Anesthesia.. What to expect and how to prepare

Feeding Instructions:

  • Do not feed your pet after 8:00pm the evening before your pet’s anesthetic procedure.
  • Your pet should have water available throughout the night before surgery, but please take their water away first thing in the morning.
  • If your pet is on any medications, please contact us prior to the day of your pet’s procedure to get specific instructions regarding these medications.

FAQ: Why can’t my pet eat prior to their procedure?

Your pet’s stomach needs to be empty before anesthesia. That’s because anesthetic drugs can cause vomiting in some pets, and that can lead to aspiration pneumonia. When your pet is under anesthesia, the brain keeps the heart beating and lungs breathing, but many other body functions relax. That includes the larynx, which prevents things that should head to the GI tract from going “down the wrong pipe” and into the lungs. If a pet vomits during anesthesia, the vomit may end up going down the trachea and into the lungs instead of down the esophagus to the stomach. When something gets in the lungs that shouldn’t be there (aspiration) this can cause pneumonia.        


What to expect on the day of surgery:

  • Arrive at the hospital at your scheduled admittance appointment time (usually between 7:30am- 8:30am) on the day of surgery. Please allow 15-20 minutes to speak with the doctor and/or surgical nurse and sign the appropriate paperwork. Payment of estimated charges is always required in full before admitting your pet for a surgical or anesthetic procedure.  Arriving late or early for your admission appointment may result in a delay.
  1. Please plan on your pet being with us for the majority of the day. It is typical for surgical cases to be discharged between 4pm and 6pm. Some types of procedures require overnight hospitalization.  We typically have multiple surgical procedures in a day and the veterinarian will decide the order in which they perform the procedures based upon pre-operative exams and the specifics of each pet’s condition on the day of surgery. In most cases, you will be contacted at the beginning of your pet’s procedure and again once the procedure is completed. You will be given an exact discharge time once your pet is awake from anesthesia. Although you will be admitting your pet in the morning, your pet’s procedure may not be started until later in the day.

FAQ: Why does my pet need to be admitted in the morning if their procedure isn’t until later in the day?

There are several reasons that we admit all of our surgical patients in the morning vs. admitting at staggered times throughout the day.

  • Pre-operative exams and lab work are done on the morning of surgery. The condition of each patient and the results of their lab work may play a part in our decision to perform one procedure prior to another.
  • We often can’t predict how long each procedure will take due to unforeseen variables. For example, some dentistry procedures can take significantly longer than anticipated if we discover dental complications once the pet is anesthetized. Variables such as these could lead to constantly changing admission times and potentially long waits for pet owners.
  • Once all of our patients are admitted in the morning, our surgical team is actively monitoring and caring for those patients as they undergo their procedures. If we allowed for mid-day admissions, the veterinarian and their team would not be readily available to the pet parent at the time of admission. Please rest assured that all of our surgical patients are watched closely throughout the day and are kept as comfortable as possible while they wait for their procedure to start.


You will be given an estimate of the cost for surgery/procedure. Please remember that our fees may need to be adjusted in cases of advanced age, obesity, pregnancy, estrus, or other unforeseen situations. Surgical fees are based on the surgeon’s time. Any factors increasing the complexity of the surgery usually increases the time necessary to perform the surgery. Payment of the estimated charges is due at the time of drop off and any final balance owed will be due at discharge. We will do our best to provide an accurate range of potential fees in your provided estimate.

FAQ: Why can’t you give me an exact price quote for my pet’s procedure (particularly for dental procedures)?

With dentistry’s, we typically cannot perform a full diagnostic oral exam and radiographs until the patient is under anesthesia. Once we have this information we have a much clearer picture of what each patient needs. Additionally, since each mouth is different, we have no way to predict how long extractions will take if they are needed. We do our best to give an accurate price range for all procedures.

Admittance Requirements:

For your pets’ protection, he/she will need to be up to date on all of their vaccinations.  Dogs will need a current Distemper, Parvo, Bordetella, and Rabies vaccination.  Cats will need a current Distemper and Rabies vaccination.  Both dogs and cats will need to have had a negative fecal examination within the past year. 

Pre-Surgical Screening:

To decrease the risk of unexpected complications, which may be related to anesthesia and/or surgery, our doctors recommend the following:

  • EKG screening- measures electrical activity and rhythm of the heart.
  • Urine specific gravity- measures ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine
  • Pre- anesthetic lab work- blood test to check enzyme levels to internal organs which gives information about the ability of the body to tolerate anesthesia
  • BUN and Creatinine – evaluates kidney function
  • ALT and ALP – evaluates liver function
  • Total protein and Packed Cell Volume (PCV) - determines state of hydration and checks for anemia
  • Glucose - measures blood sugar

The pre-surgical screening (EKG, urine specific gravity and pre-anesthetic lab work) can be done the day your pet is admitted for surgery or, if you prefer, you may schedule an appointment to have the screenings done up to two weeks before your pet’s surgery. Pre-surgical screening is recommended for all patient undergoing general anesthesia but is only required in animals over the age of 7 years.

Surgical Monitoring and Precautionary Measures:

Patient safety while under general anesthesia is of the utmost importance and is our top priority. To keep your pet safe, we ensure that each patient receives the following:

  • A dedicated surgical assistant to monitor the patients vital signs throughout the entirety of the procedure and recovery.
  • Intravenous (IV) Catheter- gives the doctor direct access to a vein so that injectable medications can be administered quickly and efficiently.
  • IV fluids- maintains blood pressure, flushes the kidneys, and maintains hydration
  • Pulse oximeter monitor- monitors heart rate and oxygen concentration of blood
  • EKG- measures electrical activity and rhythm of the heart throughout the procedure
  • Blood pressure monitor- ensures that each patient’s blood pressure remains at a safe level. If blood pressure fluctuates during the procedure we can make modifications to keep it regulated.
  • Patient warming- anesthesia can cause a patient’s body temperature to drop. We use a combination of warm water and hot air blankets to help keep patients thermo-regulated.
  • If appropriate an antibiotic injection- helps prevent possible infection
  • If appropriate a post-surgical laser treatment of surgical incision- promotes faster healing and reduces pain and inflammation.

If you have any questions regarding the pre-surgical screenings, pre-surgical guidelines or the estimate of the surgery, please give our office a call.  As always, we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Post Surgical Care:

In most cases, your pet will receive an injection for pain relief to make him/her more comfortable.  We also typically send you home with pain medication to use following surgery. There may be specific instructions for your pet after surgery; these will be discussed at the time of discharge.

The veterinarian and our staff will check your pet routinely during the hospital stay, and again just prior to discharge. We will meet with you before taking your pet home, and give you post-surgical discharge instructions at that time. If it is not convenient to speak with us when picking up your pet, please let us know so that we may plan to speak with you ahead of time and/or send home written discharge instructions.


If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call us. We are here to make you and your pet comfortable with the procedure. 

It is important for you to understand that there is always a risk of anesthetic and surgical complications anytime these procedures are performed. We strive to take the highest quality care of your pet and take all the added precautions you allow to avoid potential problems. Thank you for entrusting your pet to us.


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