When your dog or cat is admitted to hospital for surgery, it is natural to be anxious about what is going to be happening while she’s away from you. We hope that this short guide to what goes on after he disappears through those mysterious double doors will help to allay any concerns you may have.

Firstly, it’s worth a reminder of what happens before the event. Unless there are special requirements which the vet will have explained to you, we normally ask that your pet is fasted from midnight the night before the procedure; usually water can be left with her until you leave for the hospital. It is essential that you let the receptionist or nurse know when your pet is admitted if there has been a problem with the implementation of the fast: if an animal does not have an empty stomach at the time of anaesthesia there is a risk of food material being regurgitated and entering the lungs, causing an aspiration pneumonia which can be life-threatening. We normally ask that your pet be admitted to the hospital between 8am and 10am; this allows her to settle into the hospital environment and permits us to best fit her operation into our surgery schedule for the day. It is important to realise that it does not mean that your pet will necessarily be operated on in the morning; the time will vary depending on the number and types of other operations we need to do on that day. The vet who has performed the surgery will normally contact you in the afternoon to inform you of how the procedure has gone. Unless we instruct you of a different time to contact us, if you have not heard from the vet by around 5.30pm, please phone and we can give you an update.

Prior to your pet being anaesthetised she will be examined by the vet performing the operation. In older animals, or those who are considered to be at a higher than normal risk, we recommend that we run a screening blood test to check the function of your pet’s liver, kidneys and so forth before proceeding with the anaesthetic. If there is any problem detected in this examination, it is important that we are able to speak with you, so we ask that you always leave us with a contact number on which you can be reached through the day. Occasionally we may advise that some treatment- for example intravenous fluids or antibiotics- is instituted before the anaesthetic is given.

Some minor procedures such as Xrays may be performed with the use of sedative drugs only. However, the majority of procedures which we perform are done under general anaesthesia. Prior to the anaesthetic being given, your pet will be given a “premed” which will help to relax her and also begin the pain relief management. Normally the anaesthesia itself is induced (begun) with an intravenous drug which causes unconsciousness; a tube is then passed into your pet’s windpipe so that we can deliver oxygen and a controlled amount of a gas anaesthetic agent which will maintain anaesthesia (keep her asleep). During the anaesthetic she will be connected to machines which monitor the breathing, heart rate, and amount of oxygen in the bloodstream. Our nurses, under the supervision of the vet, also continually check the patient’s condition during both the procedure and the recovery phase. The drugs and techniques which we use for anaesthesia at Gladesville are the very best available, and we have gone to great lengths to ensure that the procedure is the safest possible.

If an operation is being performed, after your pet is anaesthetised she will have some hair clipped and the skin will be prepared for surgery with a succession of antiseptic solutions. The vet will have scrubbed and be in sterile gear and gloves (yes, just like in “ER” or “Chicago Hope” – except with cuter patients!) and she will cover the area to be operated on with sterile drapes. The surgical instruments and materials used are all sterilised before use in each animal.

Analgesia is an important and routine part of any operation, and one which we take very seriously. As well as the low dose of analgesic which is contained in the premedication your pet receives before her anaesthetic, another higher dose and longer acting drug is administered during the procedure. This usually provides excellent pain relief for routine procedures such as desexings. For more involved operations which are likely to be more painful, for example bone surgery, analgesia treatment will be continued in hospital and in some cases we will discharge your pet to you with further pain relief for you to use at home. The analgesic drugs and doses which we use are tailored to each pet’s individual needs: it is essential that you do not use any other medication at home without first consulting the vet, or serious side effects could occur.

When your pet is discharged, the vet will let you know what specific requirements there are with regard to confinement, feeding, medication and so forth. Unless otherwise instructed, we need you to bring him back to the surgery to have the sutures removed after 10 to 14 days. It is advisable not to bathe your dog while the sutures are in place. In some cases we may need to check your pet before the suture removal appointment. You should keep an eye on the surgical wound before the time for suture removal arrives, and let us know immediately if there is any problem (such as stitches being chewed out or swelling or redness around the wound). Obviously, you should also let us know if you are at all concerned about your pet’s general demeanour, appetite, toileting habits, or any other departure from normal good health.

If you haven’t yet inspected the hospital facilities in the “downstairs” section of GVH we welcome the opportunity to show you around. A hospital tour is a routine feature of our regular “Talk and Tour” evenings. If you’re not able to make it along to one of these, we can arrange for you to have a look around at some other time, within the constraints of our normal operating schedule.

Remember that we are all pet owners and animal lovers ourselves: we want your pet to be as comfortable and happy as possible in the hospital environment. We chat to them in their cages throughout the day to make them feel at ease, and they even get an occasional cuddle. All of us at GVH want to do everything we can to make the period of your pet’s hospitalisation as stress-free as possible for both of you. If you have any concerns or queries at any stage, one of our vets will be happy to discuss them with you.