What happens at the vets when your pet has an operation?
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What happens at the vets when your pet has an operation?

Health & Safety

When you factor in spaying or neutering, almost every pet owner in the country will need to leave their pets at the vet at least once in their lifetimes for an operation or procedure, and understandably this can be an anxious time for the caring owner, even when faced with a totally routine procedure.Because owners are almost always asked to drop their pets off in the morning and pick them back up in the evening (notwithstanding longer, more complicated or emergency procedures that may require an extended stay or factor in out of the ordinary events) often pet owners aren’t fully aware of what occurs while their pet is out of their hands- nor will they necessarily understand the reasons for following the instructions given by their vet, such as having to starve the pet for twelve hours the night before the procedure.Every single practice is understandably different, and the daily routines vary from surgery to surgery, but the main details of what occurs when your pet is checked in for a standard procedure are generally the same across the country. While your practice team will be able to answer any specific questions you may have about the procedure and may even give you a tour of the operating facilities, recovery kennels and treatment rooms, having a basic understanding of what goes on in the surgery after you have left your pet can help you to understand the whole process, and go some way to putting your mind at rest.Read on to find out more!

Dropping your pet off

Once you have an operation or other procedure that requires a general anaesthetic scheduled, your vet will almost certainly tell you that your pet must have their food removed twelve hours before the procedure (apart from in cases of pets with health problems such as diabetes, or grazing animals who need to have an active digestive system at all times). This is also the case with people- but do you know why? It’s to make sure that there is no food in the stomach, which might pose a choking hazard while your pet is under anaesthetic or coming round in recovery. Some of the drugs used to sedate and anesthetise your pet can lead to nausea, and cutting off food well in advance of the procedure minimises the risk of choking on vomit that may come from an unconscious animal regurgitating their food.You will normally be asked to drop your pet off first thing in the morning- often between 8am and 9am. This is to allow all of the inpatients to get settled in, checked over and prepped for surgery by the veterinary nurses while morning consults are in process with the vets. Upon booking in your pet, a vet or veterinary nurse should talk you through the procedure, have you sign the appropriate consent forms, and make arrangements for either collecting your pet or phoning to arrange collection. It’s time to say farewell for now! Understandably this can be a little worrying, but try not to stress yourself out too much, as this might upset your pet, who is probably already a little bewildered.

Once you have left

Once you have left your pet, the veterinary nurses will take them through to the kennels and fix them up with some comfortable, safe accommodation, some soft bedding and maybe a toy. Scared or shy pets my have the front of their kennel covered over to keep stress to a minimum. Then the veterinary nurses will write up your animal’s details on the day’s surgery board, and start to fill out your pet’s own clipboard with all of the information which will be used to monitor and identify them throughout the day.Once the nurses have had the chance to speak to the vet or vets in question about the running order they would like the day’s surgeries to take, the first animals to undergo procedures will be taken to a consultation room to be checked over by the vet, who will decide on the sedatives and anaesthetics that will be used for them. Their weight, pulse rate and other factors will be noted, and they may have an IV line placed to administer fluids and medications, although this depends on the nature of the surgery being performed and other factors including the age and health of the pet. Either the vet or one of the veterinary nurses will administer the necessary sedative, and your pet will be put back into their kennel for a while to allow this to take effect. If there are any health concerns surrounding your pet, a nurse will stay with them at all times to monitor their condition and wellness. All other sedated animals will be checked on regularly.Once your pet is sufficiently sleepy to proceed, they will be taken to the prep area, where nurses will insert at ET tube or place an oxygen mask on your pet which delivers the oxygen and anaesthetic mixture your pet will breathe in throughout the procedure.A veterinary nurse or sometimes even a vet will monitor your pet’s health and condition at all times while they are sedated, right from the moment they are prepared for surgery until they come round at the end. This person works alongside of the vet who is actually performing the procedure, and will note things like heart rate, temperature, breathing rate and other information onto your pet’s clipboard at regular intervals, and advise the vet of any problems or queries. Your pet’s nurse will then surgically clean (and possibly clip) the surgical field, and take your pet through to the theatre for the vet. While the procedure is underway, at least two people are always present in the room- the vet (or even more than one vet in some instances) performing the procedure, and at least one nurse or vet monitoring your pet under anaesthetic. Once the procedure has been completed and it’s time to wake your pet up, the anaesthetic component of the breathing mixture will be turned off, and the administered sedatives will be reversed. Once your pet starts to come round, the vet or nurse will remove the ET tube, reassure your pet and make sure they don’t fall or stumble off the table, and encourage them to wake up fully.Your pet will then be returned to their recovery kennel, where they may either be left to come around and monitored every few minutes to make sure all is well, or a nurse may stay with them until they are fully aware of their surroundings again, depending on the needs and moods of your particular pet.Once your pet has come round from surgery sufficiently and is alert, albeit probably a little sleepy, the vet or nurse will likely call you to let you know that all is well, and when you can collect your pet.Although you might want to go and collect them immediately, the practice will almost certainly arrange for you to come back in the late afternoon or early evening- both because the practice staff will be busy with other procedures and unable to spend the time needed to discharge your pet and talk you through the aftercare, but also to make sure that your pet recovers fully with no complications and starts to eat.Once your pet can be trusted to keep their eyes open for more than a few moments at a time, food will be offered and your pet will be encouraged to eat and drink.

Collecting your pet

When the vet arranges a time to collect your pet with you, please try to keep to it- and don’t turn up too early either! Understandably, when you arrive at the practice, the first thing you will want to do is see your pet. However, you may well find that a vet or veterinary nurse will meet with you without your pet in the first instance, to talk through the procedure with you, explain what’s required of you in terms of aftercare, and arrange for you to come back for a follow up appointment or to remove stitches. This is quite deliberate- veterinary staff are well aware that they will only hold half of your attention while your pet is in the room, and that you may possibly miss some important information that they need to tell you if you are concentrating on your pet while they try to communicate with you. Now your pet can go home! Remember your pet will be a little dopey for the rest of the day- and the later in the day their procedure was performed, the later into the evening they will be sleepy. Feed a very basic bland meal (your vet may provide or recommend a recovery diet for feeding on the day of the operation) and try to keep your pet from exerting themselves.Once you get home, follow the vet’s aftercare instructions closely, and contact your vet if you have any concerns between leaving and your follow up appointment.

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