Our doctors perform a wide variety of surgical procedures, ranging from spay/neuter and wound treatment, to soft tissue, orthopedic and emergency surgery when needed.
Prior to every surgery, they will meet with the pet’s owner to review the treatment plan, explain the procedure, the risks, the after-care requirements, and answer any questions.
Our doctors work in collaboration with our experienced veterinary technicians and assistants to make sure each patient has the safest and most comfortable surgical experience from start to finish. Every surgery includes a pre-surgery physical exam and blood tests, as well as continuous monitoring of anesthesia, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels throughout the entire surgery. Every precaution is taken to create the best possible experience for each patient.
Pre-Surgery Physical Exam
The first step in assessing health status is performing a complete physical exam. One of the most important aspects of this exam is auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) of the heart and lungs. Through auscultation we can detect heart murmurs, arrhythmias or respiratory problems that could increase risks while your pet is under anesthesia.
The exam continues with a careful inspection of mucous membranes (gums) and skin turgor (elasticity) — both of which can subjectively help us determine your pet’s hydration status. Mucous membrane color can give us an idea of oxygenation or anemia status. For example, pale pink mucous membranes could be an indication of a low red blood cell count (anemia), meaning the pet could have difficulty maintaining adequate oxygen levels under anesthesia.
Palpation of lymph nodes and abdomen, checking body temperature, and evaluating dental health are also important parts of our pre-surgery physical exam.
Pre-Surgery Blood Test
We then perform a basic blood test to get a sense of what is happening internally, which provides us with much more detailed information than a physical exam alone. A “CBC” (Complete Blood Count) is a portion of a routine blood test that tells about a pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. As previously mentioned, low red blood cells (anemia) can affect your pet’s ability to oxygenate tissues, but more importantly, anemia is an indication that there is a bigger disease process occurring that needs to be identified. White blood cell elevations are good indications of infection and inflammation. Platelets are critical for clotting.
Thus, before any surgery, including dental extractions, knowing a patient’s platelet level can be very important. The other basic portion of a pre-anesthetic blood panel is the chemistry screen. This gives us an idea as to the health of specific organ systems or if metabolic problems exist. For example, if liver values are elevated, not only could this indicate another health issue, but liver disease could also affect the way medications, including anesthesia, are processed. Looking at kidney values can tell us about your pet’s hydration status or if there is compromised kidney function. This is important to know because it helps us determine the amount of IV fluids we should be giving during anesthesia. If kidney disease exists we need to determine why and take precautions under anesthesia to prevent hypotension (low blood pressure). If kidney disease is severe, we may decide anesthesia could be detrimental and routine procedures will not be performed.
Prior to a procedure, we administer a single drug or a drug combination as an injection in the muscle that we call a pre-anesthetic medication. We do this for several reasons: it can act as a mild sedative for nervous pets, and as a pain-reliever. Most importantly, research tells us that using anesthetic combinations, rather than simply a general anesthetic gas, decreases the likelihood of complications. Luckily, these complications are rare, but we want to do everything we can to avoid them.
Placing an IV catheter into the pet’s leg is another safety precaution we take here at Bothell Pet Hospital. This allows us to support the kidneys and cardiovascular system with fluids. Also, should an emergency situation arise, it allows quick access to give intravenous medication.
Multiple Levels of Monitoring During Surgery
During surgery, we monitor your pet on many levels. In addition to the doctor performing the surgery, there is always a trained assistant or technician on hand to provide a second pair of eyes, ears and hands throughout the procedure. We use an anesthetic monitoring device similar to those used in human hospitals to oversee various internal parameters, including a constant reading of the heart rate and rhythm (ECG), carbon dioxide levels and body temperature, as well as a pulse oximeter to tell us what your pet’s oxygen levels are. We place a blood pressure cuff on one of the limbs of your pet so that we can adjust anesthesia, fluids and pain medications according to what we are observing.
As you can see, there are many important components of a pre-surgical exam and of the surgery itself that helps us keep your pet as safe and comfortable as possible during the procedure. At Bothell Pet Hospital, we are proud of the many precautions we take and always welcome your questions. We not only want your pet to have the safest and most comfortable experience, but we want you to feel comfortable as well.