7 things your veterinarian wants you to know before your pet has surgery
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
If your pet is having surgery, whether it’s a spay/neuter procedure or an orthopedic repair, you may be wondering whether that blood work is necessary, why your pet can’t eat or drink beforehand, and how soon he’ll recover from the experience. The following information can help ensure that your pet has a good experience and rapid recovery.
Pre-test protocol. The lab work your veterinarian recommends before surgery is to make sure your pet doesn’t have any liver or kidney problems that could interfere with the ability to metabolize the anesthetic and to ensure that your pet isn’t anemic, which could be an issue in case of blood loss.
Comfort begins at home. Your veterinarian may prescribe gabapentin or trazodone for you to give at home before bringing your pet in. High levels of stress spark chemical changes in the body that can weaken the immune system. Stress can also exacerbate the sensation of pain.
“If we have those drugs onboard before there are any pain impulses, they're much more effective,” says Tamara Grubb, DVM, assistant clinical professor of anesthesia and analgesia at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Medicating pets beforehand can help ensure that they arrive at the clinic calm.
Other pre-surgical stress busters include playing soothing music specially composed for dogs and cats and spraying feline and canine pheromones, artificial chemical messengers that create a sense of security.
Cats are special. New anesthesia guidelines by the American Association of Feline Practitioners recognize that cats have special needs when it comes to sedation and anesthesia. The guidelines address ways to prevent common cat complications related to anesthesia. Your veterinarian can provide you with a handout that explains the anesthesia process.
Nail nausea. Nausea and vomiting from carsickness before surgery or as a result of anesthesia can affect how well a pet does during and after anesthesia. Veterinary analgesia and anesthesia specialist Jordyn Marie Boesch at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine encourages veterinarians to give maropitant, an anti-nausea medication, to cats and dogs orally the night before anesthesia or to send it home with owners to give it with the pet’s dinner the night before surgery.
“A single dose will prevent vomiting for 24 hours,” she says. “We have found this to be extremely effective at preventing vomiting due to pre-medication for general anesthesia.”
Tell your veterinarian about supplements and medications your pet takes. Some herbal supplements can increase bleeding during surgery or interfere with the drugs being used, says veterinarian Sheilah Robertson, a specialist in anesthesia and pain management. Don’t leave anything out, even if it’s something as innocuous as fish oil pills or a baby aspirin. Even low doses of aspirin can increase the risk of excessive bleeding during surgery.
Your pet accidentally got breakfast the day of surgery. Now what? Be honest. “It’s not a problem as long as we know,” Dr. Robertson says. And it’s OK to give oral medications pre-operatively. Your veterinarian isn’t referring to those when she says nothing by mouth beforehand.
Post-surgical care. Icing the incision (ask your vet how to do it and how often); providing deep, soft bedding if your pet has a fracture or bruising; and feeding canned food after tooth extractions are some simple things you can do at home to help your pet recover more quickly and less painfully. Give pain medication as directed, and call your veterinarian if your pet appears to be in pain.
“Owners know the patient best, and if an owner tells me they believe their pet’s pain is not well controlled, I take that very seriously,” Dr. Boesch says.
to cat fur
Q: I love my cat’s fur. What can you tell me about caring for it?
A: Whether you have a domestic shorthair; a cat with a long, flowing coat; or a hairless, wirehaired or curly-coated cat, you know how wonderful it feels to run your hands over that glorious fur. Whatever their type, cat coats are soft and beautiful, but they also serve as an environmental buffer, protecting the skin beneath it from heat, cold and invading aliens -- er, bacteria. Even more fascinating, the coat is an integral part of a cat’s sense of touch, alerting her to potential dangers such as sharp objects.
A cat’s coat is made up of three types of hairs: intermediate-length awn hairs that make up most of the coat; the downy undercoat; and coarse, thick, straight guard hairs of the outer coat, which insulate and protect. Cats shed as old hairs fall out and new ones come in. If your cat stays indoors all the time, she’ll shed consistently year-round, but cats exposed to natural light shed on a more seasonal basis, with coats that are thicker in winter, thinner in summer.
Although cats do a great job of grooming themselves with their spiked tongues that moisten fur and remove dead hair, brushing and combing on a regular basis helps them out and reduces the incidence of hairballs because cats don’t swallow as much fur as they lick themselves clean. Shorthaired cats usually do well with a weekly brushing, but longhaired cats -- depending on their coat type -- may need brushing two or three times a week or even daily.
Caring for a cat’s coat is more than just brushing or combing to remove dirt and distribute skin oils to make it shine. Feeding a high-quality food with plenty of meat protein is also a must for thick, gleaming fur. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Pet DNA tests for
fun, not diagnostics
-- Pet DNA tests are for fun, not for making serious decisions about your dog’s health (the majority of pet DNA tests are for dogs). While much is known about the relationship between gene mutations and disease in the human genome, less is known about the canine genome. Just because a DNA test says your dog may be at risk for a certain type of cancer, degenerative disease or other illness doesn’t mean it will happen. The science isn’t that good yet, and mistakes could cause owners to seek invasive treatments that aren’t necessary or even to euthanize dogs who might never become ill in the first place. Pet DNA tests have a lot of potential, but they’re not ready for diagnostic prime time.
-- Hedgehogs are the most popular pocket pets in Alabama, Connecticut, Minnesota and Oregon, while ferrets rule in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. A survey by Trusted Housesitters tracked social media mentions of pets in each state to rank their popularity. In Maryland, hamsters are more popular than bulldogs and Labrador retrievers. Lizards outnumber beagles and terriers in Nevada.
-- Meet the toyger. This domestic cat has a uniquely striped coat resembling that of a tiger. Breeder Judy Sugden created the toyger to help inspire conservation of tigers in the wild. The cats have no wild blood, but were developed from approximately 40 domestic cats from various countries. Toygers have circular facial markings, a body with dark markings on a bright orange background and a scatter of gold “glitter,” and a white belly. The International Cat Association recognized the breed in 2007. The medium-size cats weigh 7 to 15 pounds and are friendly, smart and affectionate. Many love to play fetch and walk on a leash. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.