Written by Rickard Kohler, DVM, DACVS
Across Ethos hospitals, we perform a wide range of board certified veterinary surgeries: orthopedic, oncologic, emergency, ophthalmic, neurologic, minimally invasive, and many more. Whether you’re dropping your pet off for a common procedure such as a TPLO or mass removal, or a more advanced one such as a spinal surgery, it can be nerve-wracking for pet owners to leave their pet at a hospital.
But rest assured, your pet is in good hands.
Here is a glimpse behind the scenes into all the care our patients receive when hospitalized for surgery.
Planning: Before Your Pet Arrives
We understand that each dog or cat is unique and requires an individual plan for the procedure and hospitalization. The surgeon and anesthesia team, including our board certified anesthesiologist and high-level veterinary technicians, carefully review the medical records from the past including any recent appointments with us. If previous anesthesia has been performed here or elsewhere, these notes are carefully assessed as part of the work-up.
A highly detailed and individual anesthesia protocol is created by the team to provide the safest possible anesthesia dosing for your pet. We take into account your pet’s signalment (age, breed, sex), history, physical exam findings including attitude (e.g. calm, anxious, stressed), surgery to be performed, current medications, and any other underlying diseases (e.g. heart murmur, liver or kidney disease etc.).
Drop-off: All Questions & Concerns Addressed
Drop-off for surgery patients is between 7-8 a.m. the day of surgery, or earlier if requested. Upon arrival, you must check in at the front desk and fill out a drop off form which includes questions regarding any new health updates/medications, special requirements or requests during their stay, and your contact information. Next, one of our veterinary technicians meets with you and asks you a few additional questions and make sure you have all your questions or concerns answered. Once we have obtained all our information and you feel comfortable with the plan, we assist your pet to the surgery area.
Pre-Op Exam: One Last Check
Once a pet has been checked in and comes to the surgery area, the surgeon and anesthesia team performs a physical exam on your pet. The surgeons also review the information provided on the drop-off form and if any new health concerns are noticed or any additional information is needed, the surgeon will call you prior to the planned procedure.
Flow of the Day: Triage
Most days of the week, multiple pets are scheduled for anesthesia and surgery. The surgeon and anesthesia team assesses each individual anesthesia candidate and determines the order of the day. Patients are triaged based on the urgency of their illness or injury, where emergent cases are prioritized. All patients are equally important to us and the order of the day is planned to facilitate every pet’s needs to provide optimal care.
The Procedure: A Team of Teams
We understand that having your beloved pet undergo anesthesia and surgery can be stressful. In general, dogs and cats tolerate anesthesia very well. At our hospitals, we believe anesthesia and surgery is a team approach and we have designated pre-operative technicians, anesthesia technicians, and scrub-in technicians all being supervised by the attending surgeon and anesthesiologist. We have a highly advanced anesthesia monitoring system to be able to monitor all important parameters to provide the safest anesthesia possible.
To decrease potential painful stimulus from surgery, we give all surgery patients pain medications prior to surgery (preemptive pre-medication), during surgery (if needed) and post-operative based on the individual need. We also use local nerve blocks when possible to eliminate pain sensation from surgery site. We make our absolute best effort with every patient to make anesthesia and surgery as stress-free and pain-free as possible.
Recovery: They Will Always Have a Friend
After the surgical procedure is done, the patient is taken out of the operating room to start their recovery. During the initial recovery phase, the pet is always closely supervised and a veterinary technician is always by their side until they are safely awake and calm. Then the patient is moved to either the wards or ICU depending on health status, type of surgery, and level of monitoring required.
In ICU or wards, your pet continues to be closely watched for their remaining stay. We have 24-hour care and monitoring of all our inpatients. Even after hours, we have multiple doctors and technicians assessing and monitoring the recovery of your pet. Every patient gets their own individualized treatment plan, including medications, written by the surgeon. Pets are offered food and water when safe to do so and dogs are walked outside according to the doctor’s orders.
Updates: Keeping You in the Loop
One of our biggest goals is to provide pet owners with frequent updates on their beloved pet who has been hospitalized. If you have questions or concerns prior to anesthesia and surgery, we address those questions to our best capability before the procedure. If you want to be informed when your pet’s surgery is about to start, we would be happy to give you a quick phone call at that time.
Under normal circumstances, the surgeon will contact you after the surgical procedure has been performed and your pet is recovering from anesthesia. After this first phone call, it is our goal to provide you with updates two times daily until your pet goes home. During the update calls, we discuss how your pet is recovering, the plan for your pet, the anticipated day and time to set up the discharge appointment to go home, and if you want to schedule any in-person visits.
We know how stressful it can be to leave your pet behind, but we want you to know that they receive the best care possible and lots of love while they’re with us. And soon enough, they will be back home with you.