Surgery – How To Plan

Surgery – How To Plan For Your Dog’s Upcoming Surgical Operation

Surgery – How To Plan For Your Dog’s Upcoming Surgical Operation

Sooner or later every dog owner must face the possibility that his or her dog will have to undergo surgery. The procedure could be minor, such as having a few stitches, or could be as complicated and risky as having a malignant mammary tumor or lymph glands removed.

How long must my dog stay in the hospital? Is his condition life-threatening? How bad is it? Is there a possibility that he might not make it through the surgery? How much money is the operation going to cost me? These are all questions that run through the minds of any dog owner who’s little friend will be going under the knife.

Length Of Hospitalization

The amount of time that your dog will have to stay at the hospital will depend on many factors. His physical condition before and after the surgery will be carefully evaluated. The amount of damage to the body which was caused by his ailment or injury is also in main factor. Some dogs require a couple of days of antibiotic treatments before the operation can be performed. And the post-surgery may entail extra hospitalization days should your dog not recover from the anesthetics is fast as planned.

The Cost Of Your Dog’s Surgery

Upon the first meeting about the upcoming surgery with your veterinarian, most of them will not be able to give you an exact figure upfront, so do not be surprised if this happens. Most of the time you’ll be given a low number and a high number and receive a statement  from a veterinarian such as “The total cost may run anywhere in between these figures”.

Most veterinarians will base their surgical fees around several factors; the length of time that the operation will take, costs of all surgical materials used, and the costs for additional surgical help with an assistant (or more if necessary).

Many dog owners get upset when they receive the bill which turns out to be much higher than the price range quoted by the veterinarian. But stop and think about it for a moment. You have to understand that surgery is not a cut and dry procedure. 

For example, what happens if your dog suddenly starts to bleed excessively during the operation? The veterinarian must then stop the hemorrhaging by tying off the blood vessels involved in the bleeding.

Suppose your dog went into shock.  His gums started turning blue and his blood pressure dropped at a rapid pace. To recover from this situation and continue with the surgery as planned, the doctor must then administer liquids intravenously and keep a close eye on your dog for several hours until his body is able to resume the procedure.

Many times a massive infection may be discovered during a surgical operation. A large dose of antibiotics are then necessary to aid in the process. As with the above proposed emergencies, all of this costs money and these occurrences cannot be planned for. So when you receive your bill and it is quite higher than expected, keep in mind these surprises that the surgeon has to handle if necessary.

Surgery – How To Plan For Your Dog’s Upcoming Surgical Operation (Part 2)

Sending your dog off to surgery is a serious ordeal. Of course the severity of the situation depends upon his condition and whether or not the reason for surgery, or even the surgery itself, may be a risk to the dog’s life.

In order to be properly prepared, you must understand that your dog’s operation may not be a simple process. Expect the unexpected in terms of both operational procedures and the costs associated with the process.

Planning For The Unplanned

How exactly can someone “plan for the unplanned”? You can’t, really. But you can certainly be educated about the possibilities that your dog may face during this operation. In addition to many complications that could go wrong, which thereby increases risk, length of hospitalization stay, and the total cost for the procedure, numerous other scenarios may come into play.

Suppose that your dog’s surgery has been scheduled for the following day. Your next set of questions should revolve around food and water for your pet. Can you feed your dog his normal food? If not, then what should he eat? Should the dog abstain from eating altogether?

Most veterinarians prefer to withhold food and water for up to 12 hours before the operation, so be sure to receive specific instructions. If there is any food present inside your dog’s stomach just prior to his operation, the general anesthetic given may cause your dog to become sick.

You should also mention to the veterinarian (specifically the person who is going to perform the surgery on your dog) of any medications that your dog may be taking, such as tranquilizers or heart medications. This information is vital in order for the doctor to determine the proper dose of anesthetic to administer the animal.


Besides basic anesthetics, your dog may be given a short acting anesthetic (for minor operations), a long-acting anesthetic, or a gas. Each type has its own advantages as well as drawbacks.

The surgeon will choose the appropriate type depending on several factors related to your dog. These factors may include the age of your dog, his general condition and how long the procedure will take. Some veterinarians charge a separate fee for each anesthesia used, while others may just charge a “base fee” for any anesthesia that may be needed, regardless of the amount.

If your dog must have the anesthetic injected, it is typically given in the large vein located in your dog’s forearm. Sometimes minor accidents may occur with the needle whenever a dog flinches or jerks suddenly from the injection. If this happens, a small amount of anesthesia may be injected into the tissue surrounding vein. Swelling will probably occur but the outcome should only be minor irritation to your dog once the surgery is over.

Surgery – How To Plan For Your Dog’s Upcoming Surgical Operation (Part 3)

Following your dog’s surgical operation he will be placed inside a recovery room in order to wait out the effects of the anesthetics. The veterinarian will check his breathing and the color of his gums periodically in order to ensure he does not go into shock. For example, if a dog has shallow breathing and his gums are a pale, bluish color, he is most likely entering shock and must be tended to immediately.

Waiting For The Anesthesia To Wear Off

The amount of time that it takes for your dog to become fully awake will depend entirely on the type of anesthesia that was used and the amount of dosage given. In some instances, a dog may be fully awake in 30 minutes or less. Other times it may last as long as 12 – 18 hours when a long-acting anesthetic was used for the procedure.

During this period of time when your dog is resting in the recovery room he will act sloppy and in a “drunk-like” manner. He may stagger around the room or paddle his front paws. Although these actions are innocent and harmless to himself, they may frighten the owner. It is for this reason that most veterinarians prefer keep the dog inside the hospital until the anesthetic has worn off completely.

Questions You Should Ask

Veterinarians who routinely operate on various animals day after day will generally offer a set of instructions and basic care information for your dog when he is ready to leave the hospital. You should never wait until you get home to think about further details and questions that may not have been provided by the vet.

Preparing ahead of time for your dog’s surgery and the post-surgery care for your pet means writing down questions before you arrive.  While every veterinarian will generally do a good job at making sure you are prepared to help your dog heal appropriately once he is home, there are occasionally some details that are missed. Some questions that may come to mind include:

“What should I be doing for him when we get home?”

“How do I look after the stitches?”

“What about food, do I feed my dog solid food or only liquids?”

“What about moving around, can I walk him like normal?”

These are just some general questions to give you an idea of how to prepare for your dogs trip back home.  Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and think of as many questions as possible that may come to mind. Do not be concerned about asking a stupid question or something that you feel is too simple. This is your dog’s health we are talking about, so ask away!

Surgery – How To Plan For Your Dog’s Upcoming Surgical Operation (Part 4)

once your dog’s surgery is over and the anesthesia has worn off completely, it is time to take him home. Post-surgical recovery is typically uneventful for most dogs. Even minor surgery can cause your dog enough pain and weakness for the first few days, forcing him to rest without allowing much movement.

Once you and your dog arrive at home, he should be allowed to rest as long and as quiet as possible. Never force your dog into doing any activity, regardless of what it is. Just going outside to use the bathroom is more than enough movement during the first couple of days for any dog going through post-surgical recovery, unless of course the surgery was very minor.

As far as exercise is concerned and judging when your dog is ready for some physical stimulation, simply look to your dog for the answers. His actions will give you plenty of clues as to what type of movement he is ready for. If your dog seems intent on moving around, allow them to do so, unless your veterinarian gave you specific instructions to do otherwise.

Complications With Healing

One of the most common complications that arise for many dogs during post-surgery healing is the licking and biting of the wound area, which is held together by stitches and bandages. Some dogs will bite at the stitches which can lead to serious infection. For this reason alone, your dog should have someone looking over him to avoid such behavior. Any type of barrier that can block your dog’s teeth and tongue from getting to the wound will help.

Depending upon the location of the injury in which the surgery was provided for, the main goal is to help your dog in prevention of hurting itself. For example, you can wrap a towel around the dog’s abdomen and fasten it with safety pins, slip a small sock onto the wound area (such as the dog’s feet) and tape it up to avoid injury, or you may even invest into an Elizabethan collar to prevent his face and head from bumping into objects.

Your veterinarian will let you know when you should return the dog back for a checkup and/or the removal of his stitches. Such a procedure is quite simple and should only take a few minutes. Once the stitches are removed, there may be some minor inflammation and irritation that goes away in just a few days.


The information shared on this site is for information only. It does not take the place of professional advice from your pet’s healthcare provider.

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