Veterinary Surgery: An Introductory Guide for Dog Owners

Veterinary surgery can be a scary thing for both the pet and the owner. Depending on the type of surgery, the vet may need to monitor your dog after surgery. Sometimes monitoring the early stages of recovery requires pets to stay over a night or two. Different kinds of surgery call for certain steps that must be taken pre- and post-surgery to ensure a safe, speedy and smooth recovery.

Pre- and Post-Surgery Instructions

Preparing your dog for surgery begins long before the morning of surgery. You should not feed your dog for at least 12 hours before surgery because anesthesia can cause dogs to vomit. If the dog’s stomach is full, the vomit can cause asphyxiation during surgery. In addition, the vet will ask that you arrive an hour or so early for the surgery—typically before office hours. Post-surgery procedures help to prevent infection and to ensure a smooth and quick recovery. After surgery you should:

  • Protect the wound area—do not allow your dog to aggravate it
  • Keep an eye on sutures
  • Limit activity
  • Limit food and water consumption

After leaving the hospital, you should use a leash or a carrier if at all possible. This will help to prevent additional injury. At home, make sure your pet's sleeping area is clean and free of drafts. If your vet prescribes any medications, follow dosage instructions carefully. Post-surgery diet instructions must be followed carefully to prevent vomiting, nausea and an upset stomach.

Common Veterinary Surgery Types

Veterinary surgery can be considered minor (a few stitches) or major (gastroplexy). Some of the most common types of veterinary surgery procedures include are gastroplexy, spray and neuter, cataract surgery and hip dyslpasia.

Gastroplexy is a procedure in which the stomach is attached to the abdominal wall. This type of surgery relieves bloat, a common condition in dogs in which the stomach expands from an excessive amount of gas, fluid or expanding food.

Spay/neuter is the process of removing all or part of the animal’s reproductive organs.

Cataract surgery can help to restore some or all of the dog’s eyesight. During surgery the lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.

Hip dysplasia surgery such as Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), Femoral Head and Neck Excision, and Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS), can relieve some of the pain and symptoms associated with the degenerative joint disease called dysplasia. Total hip replacement is not uncommon.

Basic Veterinary Surgery Procedures

When your dog arrives at the veterinary hospital the day of surgery, the vet will begin by sedating your pet to keep him calm during the next few steps. The dose is based on age and weight. Next, the vet will clean the teeth, trim the toenails, and shave the surgical area before inserting the anesthesia tube. The vet will then check the dog’s heart rate before inserting the tube. And finally, before surgery, the vet will scrub his hands and put on clean scrubs and a mask.