Dog Surgery - What to Expect If Your Dog is Having Surgery

What do I need to know before my dog has surgery?

Great question. You may want to know what to expect, what you're going to have to do with your dog after surgery, how you're going to have to take care of them, and what that will require of you—whether that means you need to take extra time to spend with your pet or what that recovery looks like.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Will my dog need lab work done prior to his surgery?

I always recommend lab work prior to surgery. I think it's a good idea. That's a great way to tell what's going on inside of your pet.

What will my veterinarian be looking for in that blood work?

Sometimes we are looking to make sure that your pet can appropriately clot their blood. So, that's important in surgery. If they're having surgery, we want them to be able to clot regularly. We'll also check out their organ values, whether it's their kidneys, liver, their blood sugar, and some other values.

Doesn't my dog need a specialist for surgery?

Not all surgeries. We do a lot here at the Animal Hospital of Statesville. There are some surgeries that we would recommend going to a specialist, if we aren't comfortable doing those surgeries.

How long will my dog take to recover from surgery?

It depends on the type of surgery that's happening. In general, recovery from dog surgery is probably two weeks for most routine soft tissue surgeries. If it involves the bones or orthopedic, it could be 6, 8, 12 weeks or up to six months sometimes.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Dog Surgery - FAQs

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What can I do at home to get my dog ready for surgery?

At home, you can go ahead and prepare a place where they're going to recover. You can go ahead and get that ready. You can also work on the type of food that they may need to eat after surgery if it's special food. So you want to get all of that stuff done ahead of time so that when you bring your pet home, you're able to spend time and monitor your pet.

Does my dog need to be fasted for surgery?

Yes, we generally require fasting for surgery. Usually, that's after midnight. We recommend that you don't feed them if they're having surgery the next morning. Water's fine.

How soon can my dog come home after surgery?

That would depend on the type of surgery done. Most patients here at the Animal Hospital of Statesville go home the same day because we are not open 24 hours, and we are not here overnight. So most of the time we want them to go back home in the afternoon. So we'll monitor them after surgery for a few hours and then send them home later in the afternoon.

What do I need to know about taking care of my dog after surgery?

You want to know what's safe for them and what's not safe. Do they have any restrictions? If they've had an incision or surgery, how do you pick them up if you need to? You need to consider what to feed the dog, whether they're going to need help going up and down steps, and activity level—you want to keep them on a leash almost always.

What do I need to know about incision care?

Most of our surgeries are going to heal on their own. We may send home anti-inflammatories to help with the swelling or possibly antibiotics, depending on the type of surgery. There are certain procedures that we might ask you to wrap for protection. And if so, we would talk to you specifically about that.

When can my dog return to regular feeding and activity after surgery?

In general, the next day is what I recommend. We want to go light on their food on the day of surgery or the evening of because sometimes the anesthesia can make them a little sensitive with their stomach.

As for returning to activity, it depends on the type of surgery done. In general, we would say two weeks because that's the general healing time for most incisions. And then, of course, if it's anything major or orthopedic surgery, that would be much longer.

Will my dog need post-surgical pain medication?

Yes. If the dog has any type of surgical procedure that causes pain, we always do pain medication. Sometimes that pain medication may be administered in the hospital that will last them afterward. Or we may also send home additional medication for you to continue to give.

What can I expect from my dog's upcoming surgery?

It depends on the surgery. With sedation and anesthesia, sometimes the dogs aren't themselves when they come home. I like to tell my clients that when they're vocal, that does not always mean they're in pain. Sometimes they are what we call dysphoric, or just, they're a little out of it from the sedation. And so they're confused, or they're vocal because of that. So that's one thing I like to tell my clients.

What questions should I ask my veterinarian about the surgery that my pet is going to have?

One important question would be thinking about the care afterward, which we've talked a lot about. You'd, of course, want to know the cost of the procedure. That's an important thing for clients to know. And then, you may want to know the length of the procedure. Is the pet going to need to stay in the hospital, or will they come home the same day?

Will my dog go under anesthesia during surgery, and who will monitor them during that surgery?

So there are different types of anesthesia (we have a video on that), whether sedation or general anesthesia. So they will be sedated and/or anesthetized for any kind of surgical procedure. And the second part of that question was who's going to be monitoring them. So the veterinarian that is doing the procedure is constantly monitoring our patients. Because we are focused on the surgery, we'll also have a trained staff member that will be in the room with your pet, monitoring them physically. The dog will also be connected to monitoring equipment that measures their heart rate, oxygen saturation, their blood pressure. And so, there's a lot of monitoring that goes on. The trained technicians watch the monitors and physically put their hands on the pet, which are both important.

Will my dog be intubated for surgery?

In most of our surgeries, they will be intubated. There are certain minor procedures where they may only have IV anesthesia.

How will my veterinarian communicate with me during my dog's surgery?

Beforehand we've probably communicated with you as far as the general procedure, what to expect, and when we will follow up with you to let you know how the pet's doing. We offer multiple ways to communicate, whether through texting or calling. Sometimes we send pictures and things like that during recovery, and you can always call in and check on your pet if you want to. We do have the occasional client that stays with us during the procedure. You cannot be right there with them during the surgery, but you can stay at our clinic if you don't want to leave them. But the majority of our clients we call or text.

Will my dog be in pain during and after surgery?

We hope to be able to control that pain. Surgeries are painful procedures by definition, but we control that pain by giving them pain medication before surgery. We call that our pre-medication. We provide them with pain medication during the surgery, and then we send them home medication afterward. We also control pain through our cold laser, our K-Laser, a non-medication, but it is a pain control.

How effective is surgery in dogs?

That's a great general question. So it depends on what type of surgery that is. We wouldn't recommend a surgery unless we thought it was effective for whatever the problem would be. But of course, some prognoses are better than others.

What are the associated risks with dog surgery?

There are always risks that their blood pressure could drop, or their heart rate could drop too low. We want that to be under control during anesthesia, and that's why we monitor those things. In most of our procedures, we've also taken the next step in placing an IV catheter and having the pet on fluids to support them. So we try to minimize those risks with monitoring and by doing some preventative measures. We also use multimodal anesthesia. So, again, I mentioned pre-medication. So by giving multiple steps along the way, we can reduce the overall load of sedation that we give.

Do certain dog breeds have a higher risk factor when they're in surgery?

We always worry about our brachycephalic breeds, which, if you don't know that big term, are the smush-faced breeds. These are your English Bulldogs, your Pekingese—dogs that don't breathe well before surgery and anesthesia, and so, during recovery, they might be at higher risk.

How can the risks of dog surgery be minimized?

Prevention. We're all about prevention. So by preventing the problem initially through monitoring and blood work before surgery, we can catch things ahead of time before they become problems. For example, we may leave that intubation tube longer in some of our English Bulldogs to help with breathing.

Is anesthesia always necessary for my dog to have surgery?

There's local and general anesthesia. So any type of surgical or painful procedure, we would want to use some type of local, topical, IV, or general anesthesia. And part of the anesthesia benefit is to not have them moving.

How will you ensure the safety of my dog during surgery?

Much like they use in human medicine, our monitoring equipment helps with measuring. We also have them on a ventilator to breathe during anesthesia, so we don't have to worry about them not taking breaths or not breathing well. And then I think just the personal touch of having a trained staff member together to monitor your pet. So not only do we do a complete physical exam before the surgery and monitor them during, but we also have someone watching them during recovery.

What are the side effects and possible complications of surgery?

Heart rate dropping and blood pressure dropping are two possible risks from surgery. And sometimes, if they have an underlying condition that we weren't aware of, anesthesia could make that worse. Afterward, the side effects might be swelling, pain, and other things that we'll want to control with either laser therapy or medications.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.