Lighthouse Veterinary Hospital

6030 Island Highway West
Qualicum Bay, BC V9K2E1


What You Need to Know Before Surgery


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.


Happy Alaskan Malamute dog with brown eyesIs anesthesia safe?

Twentyfirst century anesthesia has made surgery much safer than in the past. The first step is a thorough physical exam to rule out pre-existing conditions. Often we advise pre-anesthetic blood and urine testing to find hidden organ problems or diseases, especially if your pet is older or sick. Sometimes electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well.

It is important that patients have 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.  Your pet can drink water until the morning of surgery.

Tabby cat with light brown eyes lounging on its sideWill my pet have stitches?

For most surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These are not visible, will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later. Some procedures, especially tumor removals, do require surface sutures or staples that don't absorb and will need to be removed later on. Either way you will need to watch the site for swelling or discharge. Please don't let your pet lick or chew at the incision. IF this happens they will need to wear a cone or special shirt to prevent them from damaging the area. Nonabsorbable skin sutures, need to be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. (See your post-op home instruction page). You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time and no baths are allowed for the first 10 days after surgery.


Golden Retriever Will my pet feel pain after surgery?

Anything that causes pain for people can be expected to cause pain to animals too . We err on the side of comfort. Pets may not show the same signs of pain as people do; they usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed. Naturally major procedures require more pain relief than  minor laceration repairs. 

Patients often need pain control during and after surgery  to lessen discomfort and swelling.  As new products have come along, we adapt and introduce new medications. 

Cats can't be given standard pain medications such as aspirin, (In fact, Tylenol is usually fatal for them).. Recent advances in pain medications however have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.

We administer a pain injection during surgery.  After surgery, pain medication is given on a case by case basis. Any animal that appears painful will receive additional pain medication.


Adorable Dalmatian dog, held by female ownerWhat other decisions do I need to make?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as ear cleaning, nail trimming, tattooing,  or implanting an identification microchip. If you would like those done, please call ahead of time.  This is especially important if the person dropping the pet off for surgery is not the primary decision maker for the pet's care.

When you bring your pet in for surgery, we will need to 5 to 10 minutes of time to fill out paperwork and make decisions on the blood testing and other options available. When you pick up your pet after surgery you can also plan to spend about 10 minutes to go over your pet's home care needs.

We will call or email 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 contact us with any questions about your pet's health or surgery.

Images by Josephine Amalie Paysen, Alexandru Zdrob─âu, Regine Tholen, Helena Lopes