Surgical Services

Surigical FAQs

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What You Need to Know Before Your Pet’s Upcoming Surgery
Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet’s surgery, and we hope this information will help.  It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your pet’s upcoming surgery.

Is the anesthetic safe?
Today’s modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past.  Here at Shelter Island Veterinary Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won’t be a problem.  We also adjust the amount and type of anesthetic used depending on the health of your pet.  We use only the SAFEST anesthetics available for your pet.  We use propofol and sevoflurane for general anesthesia – the same medications used for people!

Preanesthetic blood testing is important in reducing the risk of anesthesia.  Every pet needs blood testing before surgery to ensure that the liver and kidneys can handle the anesthetic.  Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing.  If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications.  Animals that have minor dysfunction will handle the anesthetic better if they receive IV fluids during surgery.  If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.

We offer three levels of in-house blood testing before surgery, which we will go over with you when you bring your pet in.  Our doctors prefer the more comprehensive screen, because it gives them the most information to ensure the safety of your pet.  For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.

It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia.  You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery.  Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.  If your pet is currently receiving oral medications, please contact us for instructions for the morning of surgery.  Some medications may need to be given with a SMALL amount of food or water, other medications can be given by injection.

Will my pet have stitches?
For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin.  These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later.  Some surgeries will require skin stitches.  With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge.  Most dogs and cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will also need to watch for.  If your pet licks or chews at the incision, call us immediately or bring your pet it for an elizabethan collar.  If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.  You will also need to limit your pet’s activity level for a time and no baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.

Will my pet be in pain?
Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals.  Pets may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do; they usually don’t whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it.  Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.  Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.

For dogs, we may recommend an oral anti-inflamatory the day of surgery and several days after to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling.  We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and can be given even the morning of surgery.  The cost of the medication varies depending on the size of your dog.

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them.  Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  We administer a pain injection prior to surgery.  After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis.  Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.

We use narcotic patches for some surgeries as well.  The cost will depend on the size of your pet.  Injectable pain medications may also be used after surgery on both dogs and cats.  Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet.

What other decisions do I need to make?
While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting an identification microchip.  If you would like an estimate for these extra services, please let us know ahead of time.  This is especially important if the person dropping the pet off for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet’s care.

When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need to about 10 minutes of your time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available.  When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your pet’s home care needs.

We will call you the night before your scheduled surgery appointment, to confirm the time you will be dropping your pet off and to answer any questions you might have.  In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet’s health or surgery.

Spaying

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Spaying your pet has many benefits. The procedure, which prevents female animals from becoming pregnant and reproducing, can help your dog or cat live a longer, healthier life. Spaying will not change your pet’s personality.

By spaying your female pet, you’re protecting her against potentially deadly diseases, including bacterial infections, reproductive tract diseases, and several types of cancer. You also won’t have to worry about her going into heat. This means avoiding the mess that often accompanies the heat cycle in female dogs and the pacing and crying that happens with female cats. In addition, spaying your pet will help control the dog and cat overpopulation problem, keeping more animals out of shelters.

Spaying, which involves removing the ovaries and uterus, is a surgical procedure and does need to be performed with the pet under anesthesia. We follow strict protocols and continually monitor your pet’s vital signs to help ensure her safety. Please see the descriptions under Anesthesia and Patient Monitoring for more information on what we do to keep your pet safe.

To set up an appointment to have your pet spayed or to learn more about this procedure, call or visit our clinic. If you are struggling with the decision of whether to spay your pet, please call us so we can discuss your concerns.

Neutering

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Neutering your pet has many benefits. The procedure, which prevents male animals from reproducing, can help your dog or cat live a longer, healthier life. Neutering will not change your pet’s personality.

By neutering your pet, you’re reducing or eliminating his risk for prostate and testicular cancer, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Neutering will also reduce or eliminate undesirable and embarrassing behavior, including roaming, fighting, humping, and spraying. In addition, neutering your pet will help control the dog and cat overpopulation problem, keeping more animals out of shelters.

Neutering, which involves removing the testicles, is a surgical procedure and does need to be performed with the pet under anesthesia. We follow strict protocols and continually monitor your pet’s vital signs to help ensure his safety. Please see the descriptions under Anesthesia and Patient Monitoring for more information on what we do to keep your pet safe.

To set up an appointment to have your pet neutered or to learn more about this procedure, please call or visit our clinic. If you are struggling with the decision of whether to neuter your pet, please call us or stop by so we can discuss your concerns.

Soft Tissue Surgery

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We perform many types of soft tissue surgeries at our clinic. Soft tissue surgeries are those that are not associated with bone. These surgeries can provide many benefits to pets.

Probably the most common soft tissue surgery performed on pets is the removal of masses, or lumps. Most of these masses, once removed and tested, are found to be benign (nonharmful); however, occasionally they are more serious. Early removal and accurate diagnosis of a lump is necessary to improve the outcome in your pet if the mass is cancerous.

If your dog suffers from frequent ear infections, surgical intervention can reduce their occurrence by improving airflow into the ear canal.

Surgery can also help resolve several problems related to the eyes. Tearing in your pet’s eyes can mean an infection is present or may be a sign that the cornea (outer layer of the eye) has been damaged. Surgery may allow the cornea to heal faster with less scarring, improving your pet’s ability to see. In some pets, the eyelashes may actually damage the cornea. Surgical intervention improves comfort in these pets, reduces the chances of corneal scarring, and enhances the pet’s vision in the long term.

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss how soft tissue surgery might be able to help your pet.

Orthopedic Surgery

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We perform many types of orthopedic (bone) surgeries in our clinic. Because we want to ensure that our patients receive the best possible outcome, we occasionally refer them to board-certified orthopedic surgeons to perform back surgery and other very complex surgeries.

Leg fractures are the most common orthopedic problem presented at our clinic and usually result from a mishap with an automobile. They can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the location and type of fracture. We can apply a cast to treat certain fractures; however, many fractures will require surgical intervention:

  • “Pinning” stabilizes the fracture by inserting a long stainless steel rod into the middle of the bone across the fractured area.
  • “Plating” involves attaching a flat stainless steel plate to the bone using screws on either side of the fracture.
  • “External fixation” stabilizes fractures using a series of pins on the outside of the leg that pass through the skin and into the bone on either side of the fracture.

We also perform a lot of orthopedic surgeries related to hip dysplasia and disc disease. Please contact us if you have any questions about these procedures or if you think your pet might benefit from them.