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How to Prep Your Pet Before Surgery: An Ultimate Guide

Prepping your pet before surgery is crucial to ensuring a smooth and successful operation. By taking some simple steps to get your animal companion ready, you can help them stay calm and comfortable while under the knife. 

Here’s what you can do:

1. Make sure you understand the procedure.

Talk to your vet about what will happen during the surgery, and ask any questions you have. You must feel comfortable with the process to help your pet stay calm.

For instance, if your dog needs soft tissue surgery, you should ask your vet what type of incision will be made, where it will be located, and how long the surgery is expected to take.

2. Get your pet used to being handled.

Once you know your pet needs surgery, get them accustomed to being touched in different ways, especially if they’re not used to it. This allows the vet and technicians to examine and work on them easily during the surgery prep. It will also help them stay calm when being restrained for the procedure.

You can start by gently touching or rubbing different parts of their body every day. If they seem uncomfortable, go slowly and let them get used to it at their own pace. Once they’re comfortable with touching, you can start handling them roughly, such as lifting their legs or moving their head and body around.

This helps them get used to being restrained and makes it less stressful for them when the time comes for their surgery.

3. Brush up on their grooming.

If your pet needs to be shaved for their surgery, start brushing them more frequently in the days following the procedure. This will help remove loose hair and make it easier for the technicians to do their job. It will also help your dog remain comfortable during and after the surgery.

If you’re not sure how to properly brush your pet’s fur, here are easy steps:

  • Start using a soft-bristled brush to remove dirt, debris, or tangles from their fur.
  • Then, use a metal comb to detangle their hair gently.
  • Use a slicker brush to remove any loose hair and undercoat.

Don’t forget to give them plenty of praise and treats while brushing them. Check for ticks and fleas. If your pet has ticks or fleas, you should get rid of them before surgery. Various products on the market can help you eliminate these pests, so ask your vet which one is best for your pet.

4. Pack a bag.

Once you have everything you need, pack a bag with all the items your pet will need during their stay at the hospital. This includes:

  • Their favorite toy or blanket
  • Any medications they’re currently taking
  • Their recent photo (in case they get lost)
  • Their medical records
  • Your contact information

If you’re unsure what to pack, call the hospital and ask for their list of recommended items.

You may not have time to pack a bag for emergency surgery (such as an accident). In this case, ensure you have their medical records and contact information on hand.

Also, if the accident occurred at night or on a weekend, some vet clinics or hospitals may not be open, so you may need to take them to an emergency animal hospital. Learn more here about professional advice during animal emergencies.

5. Don’t feed your pet for at least 8 hours before surgery.

This depends on your vet’s instructions, but it’s recommended that you don’t feed your pet for at least 8 hours before their surgery. This is because anesthesia can cause vomiting, and if there’s food in their stomach, they could aspirate it and develop pneumonia in severe cases.

If your pet is normally fed twice a day, you should withhold their morning meal. If they’re only fed once a day, skip their dinner feeding. In either case, make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water, so they don’t get dehydrated.

It’s also important to note that vets often advice pet owners to let their dogs fast for at least 12 hours before performing an ultrasound for pets.

6. Prepare them for possible lab tests.

Depending on the surgery type, they may need some pre-operative lab tests. These tests help the vet determine if your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia and surgery.

Some of the most common tests include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) – This measures the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the blood.
  • A biochemical profile – This measures the levels of enzymes and proteins in the blood.
  • An electrolyte panel – This measures the levels of minerals like potassium, sodium, and chloride in the blood.
  • A urinalysis – This checks for things like infection, dehydration, and kidney function.

The clinic or hospital will inform you if your pet needs any of these tests and give you specific instructions on preparing for them.

7. Take them for a walk or play session before surgery.

Get your pet moving before surgery to release any excess energy and nervousness. A short walk or play session should do the trick. Just ensure you don’t overdo it, as too much exercise can be harmful to some animals before surgery.

8. Make sure they have an ID tag and microchip.

If your pet doesn’t already have an ID tag, now is the time to get one. Include your name, contact number, and address on the tag so anyone who finds them can easily get in touch with you.

If it’s possible, have your pet microchipped. This small chip is implanted under the skin and contains your contact information. If your pet ever gets lost, a shelter or vet must scan the chip to find out who they belong.

9. Schedule a ride home.

After your pet’s surgery, they’ll likely be dizzy and disoriented from the anesthesia. For this reason, scheduling a ride home in advance is essential. It’s a good idea to ask someone (a family member or friend) to take you to the hospital and pick you up after the surgery is done.

If you can’t find someone to do this, many hospitals offer pet taxi services that will transport your pet home safely.

When picking up your pet after surgery, make sure you have everything they need, such as:

  • A carrier or crate
  • Any medications they were prescribed
  • Their favorite toy or blanket
  • Instructions from the vet for post-surgery dos and don’ts

Pets typically stay at the hospital for a few hours after surgery to recover from the anesthesia. Once they’re awake and alert, you can take them home.

Keep in mind

Every pet is different, so you should follow your vet’s specific instructions on preparing for surgery. In some instances, your dog may need to stay at the hospital for a day or two after the surgery for more complex procedures. In this case, the hospital staff will provide you with everything you need to care for your pet at home.