When Your Pet Needs Surgery…

sx01A pet may require surgery and a hospital stay for a variety of reasons, from a routine spay or neuter to an emergency abdominal exploratory surgery. Whether the procedure is planned in advance or comes up unexpectedly, we want to put your mind at ease and show you exactly what your pet experiences when he stays with us in the hospital.

Meet Jebediah – here he is checking in for a routine neuter. His very first stop is the scale in our exam area. Even though he has seen us recently for vaccines, we’ll need a current weight to calculate dosages of the medications he’ll need for his surgery. The doctor will do a full physical exam to be sure nothing else has changed since his last visit.


Jebediah is a young and healthy dog, but we’d like to check a full blood panel just to be sure he is in ideal condition to undergo anesthesia. Sometimes, abnormalities of blood clotting, liver function, or kidney function do not have obvious clinical signs, but will show changes on bloodwork.


As each pet enters the hospital, whether for surgery or any other type of procedure or care, they receive an identification collar with their name and owner’s name. If a pet’s bedding or toys are accompanying them on their hospital day, we’ll do out best to label that as well and keep track of it while they are here… but if you plan to send items from home to the hospital with your pet, please remember this is a big and busy place, and sometimes things manage to disappear into the laundry!! We can provide your pet with all they need while they are here, and you can keep their “valuables” safe at home waiting for them to return.


Jebediah has received his first “pre-medication,” a combination of sedatives and pain relievers that will have him drowsy and relaxed as we begin working with him. It is often difficult to predict exactly what time a pet’s surgical procedure will begin as our hospital also sees emergencies, and a pet in need of an urgent surgical procedure may need to skip ahead of the routine procedures.


sx08     sx10Now Jebediah is very relaxed, and ready to have his IV catheter placed. IV access allows us to run IV fluids, give medications quickly and easily, and if needed, intervene if a pet has any sort of trouble under anesthesia. While some very brief procedures do not require an IV catheter, for longer and more involved surgeries having an IV catheter in place is the safest way to proceed.


Jebediah’s IV catheter is used to induce anesthesia, leaving him completely asleep for the rest of the procedure. A tube is placed in his airway, and a combination of oxygen and anesthetic gas is administered to keep him sound asleep. The probe on his tongue measures the oxygen saturation of his blood, leaving us certain he is stable and breathing well under anesthesia.



Jebediah’s owner has chosen to have a microchip implanted, so that if Jeb ever goes missing he has the best chance of being returned to his home. While this can be done in an animal that is awake, the needle used to implant the microchip is larger than the type used for a vaccine, so we prefer to place a microchip when the animal is asleep whenever possible.



This is also a great opportunity to cut toenails!! You don’t even need to ask… Our anesthesia team can hardly be stopped from cutting toenails on a sleeping pet! We will also frequently clean ears, brush out a matted haircoat, and check for fleas or ticks on a sleeping pet.




Next, we’ll put socks on Jebediah’s feet… not just because they are adorable, but to keep his feet warm during surgery. Towels, blankets, and a circulating warm water pad are also typically used to keep a pet warm during surgery (especially small pets). Body temperature is checked before surgery begins, during surgery for longer procedures, and as soon as a pet begins to wake up from anesthesia. If it’s too low or high, we’ll continue to check throughout the pet’s hospital stay until it is back on track.



sx14A new sterilized surgery pack is used and the surgeon scrubs in for every procedure. Bolton Vet follows the sterilization procedures required by the American Animal Hospital Association to be sure that all out supplies, however commonly or infrequently used, are clean and ready whenever we need them.

sx15     sx16Jeb’s procedure is completed in about twenty minutes. His heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure are monitored continuously, and IV fluids are provided throughout the procedure.




The procedure is completed, and a small scar remains. We’ll keep a close eye on how this incision looks for the remainder of Jeb’s time in the hospital, and tell the owners to watch it at home too. It is expected to look a little red and swollen at first, but this should decrease from day to day. Any sign of increasing inflammation or yellow-green discharge is suggestive of infection.



Jebediah wakes up with the careful supervision of his anesthesia technician, who has been monitoring him the whole time. He remains a little groggy for the rest of the afternoon, and he will stay in the hospital this evening to be sure he is comfortable and has no trouble with his incision. His pain medication will last for 24 hours after the last dose is given, and depending upon how he seems to feel, he may be given a few more doses at home afterwards.


Jeb’s recovery is uneventful, and he is back to his usual ridiculous self at home in no time at all.   🙂


  1. I love this place!!!! What a great idea to show us what happens when our furry kids go in for surgery!! It gives us peace of mind. Thank You for all you do and most of all our kind and loving Doctor Zyra!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!!!! Love Faith, Molly, and Storm

  2. My POA foster cat Heather had her spay surgery today with you and we are so grateful for your extra special care of her with her Grade 3 heart murmur. You are the best and thank you for posting this blog and helping enlighten us what our pets go through after we drop them off with you!

  3. I have had many cats over the years, and all have been taken care of by Bolton Vet. You are all wonderful! Special shout-out to Dr. Griswold! This blog is a great idea and this was a great topic for the first one. Thanks!

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