Southern Hills Animal Hospital

3827 Hite Street
Roanoke, VA 24014


What You Need to Know About Surgery and Anesthesia at Southern Hills Animal Hospital

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.

What is Important to know about Surgery at Southern Hills Animal Hospital?

As a private hospital we only allow surgery to be performed by our doctors who are highly trained with many year of surgical experience. We do not allow students to perform surgeries on our clients pets. Although we understand the need for veterinary students to be taught surgical procedures, we feel local spay/neuter clinics offer adequate exposure for educational training. In addition we limit our procedures to less than 3 daily. Although this can sometimes make scheduling difficult, we feel that our clients deserve the best care we can provide. We provide a surgical assistant and veterinary nurse for each individual patient so they get the best care possible during their stay. Patients stay with their trained assistant before, during and after the procedure to ensure their is minimal risk of complications. We limit the number of pets in our surgical ward to decrease noise and distraction so there is decreased anxiety and fear. Although these practices are expensive in comparison to low cost clinics performing several dozen procedures per day, our pets more than benefit from the individual attention and extensive care                                                                                                                                                                                      . 

                                                                                                                                                  Alex Thornton Surgery Southern Hills Animal Hospital

How can we make anesthetics safe?

Today's anesthetic medication and monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. However, there is always a risk with anesthesia. The veterinarians at Southern Hills Animal Hospital will do everything we can to reduce risk and eliminate some of the anxiety associated with anesthetizing our pets.  Prior to any surgical procedure we will schedule a consult with our veterinary team. You will meet with a doctors assistant who will be responsible for your pet the day of the procedure. They will discuss the procedure in depth including what we will do before, during and after the procedure. We will also educate you on things you can do to make the procedure safer for your pet. In addition a thorough exam will be performed and an extensive history of your pet will be taken so a comprehensive evaluation can be made to determine the safest anesthetic protocol. Not every procedure is exactly the same and our goal is to eliminate unnecessary risk so our procedure is as safe and pain free as possible. 

Pre-anesthetic 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 dysfunctions 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. Pre-anesthetic lab work is included in almost all of our surgery packages. 

In addition to a comprehensive blood work and coagulation screen (testing the ability to clot blood) will also be evaluated. This give us the most information to ensure the safety of your pet.  For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be requested to eliminate risks associated with anesthesia. 

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.

Suture Care is Important.

For many surgeries, there are multiple layers of sutures. Internally we use absorbable sutures.  These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed.  There are often 2 layers of dissolvable sutures. In addition there is most often skin sutures.  En though there are sutures, it is imperative to limit activity so the area can heal. Too much movement will increase the risk of sutures not holding and complications can occur. Monitor 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 there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.  You can clean around the incision with peroxide but do not give a bath until the sutures are removed. 

Best Pain Control Methods.

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 may be needed depending on the surgery performed and your pets pain threshold.  There are multiple medications that can be used, but eliminated movement is the most important. Do not allow any jumping or going up and down stairs. Leash walk dogs only and do not allow cats outside until the sutures have been removed.  

Our surgery packages include injections of pain medication before the procedure and after if needed. Oral medications may be sent home. If medications are prescribed, use them as directed. Monitor for upset stomach or decreased appetite. Call us if there is no improvement in pain symptoms.  

Wound Care

Most surgical areas can be cleaned with peroxide once or twice daily. Use of cool compresses for the first 2-3 days can eliminate swelling (and pain). As the hair regrows and the incision heals it can become itchy. Monitor closely for scratching at the incision site. Use an Elizabethan collar or wound collar to eliminate biting, licking at the area. 

Additional Services while under Anesthesia

While your pet is under anesthesia, it may be the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, nail trims or implanting an identification microchip.  If additional services are requested make sure they are clearly written on the anesthesia and surgery consent form. 

Post Anesthesia Discharges

The day of the procedure, an IV catheter will be placed and fluids will be started after all lab work is complete. Pre anesthetic medications will be given by injection. Surgical procedures themselves usually take less than an hour but the pre-anesthetic and post op period often take several hours. An update will be provided on all anesthetized pets by 3pm or when they are out of post op care. Most pets will go home the day of the procedure, however they will not be discharged until they are able to eat, drink, walk and eliminate on their own. Most discharges are scheduled during the update and usually are made after 6:30 pm to give the pet ample time to recover. Sending a pet home too early can lead to unnecessary pain and complications. Although you may be anxious to get your pet home, it is in their best effort to remain under the care of our staff until they are fully recovered from the effects of the anesthesia. 

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.

                   Surgery performed by Surgeons You Know        Dr. Preston Thornton Veterinary Surgery at Southern Hills Animal Hospital