Most pet owners are frightened about their beloved pet undergoing anesthesia and surgery. At Groves Veterinary Clinic, we understand how you feel about your furry loved one, and we take every precaution possible to keep your pet safe and healthy while in our care. We do not take the responsibility lightly, which is why we are sticklers for a thorough presurgical evaluation. Based on the presurgical test results, we will develop a customized anesthetic protocol designed around your pet’s age, breed, health status, and the procedure. You may not completely understand our presurgical testing procedures, so we’re offering a behind-the-scenes peek at the tests themselves, and why we do them.

What tests are performed prior to your pet’s surgery?

While general anesthesia and surgery in a healthy pet is a minimal risk, a thorough presurgical evaluation to search for hidden disease further reduces any risk. Pets are excellent at hiding illness or disease, which can interfere with anesthetic drug metabolism, and their organs’ function under general anesthesia, making a complete presurgical workup vital. Depending on your pet’s age, breed, and health status, we may recommend any of the following presurgical tests:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC tells us the total of the various blood cell types circulating in your pet, including red blood cells, immature red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Based on the test values, we can determine if your pet is anemic, has an infection, has clotting issues, is dehydrated, or is unable to fight off infection.
  • Chemistry profile — Depending on your pet’s age and health status, we may run a short chemistry profile that tests organ function, or a longer panel that offers information about electrolytes. Checking your pet’s organ function prior to anesthesia is crucial, as the kidneys and liver are in charge of metabolizing and flushing out anesthetic drugs. Older pets are prone to electrolyte imbalances that indicate underlying disease processes, which may need addressing prior to anesthesia.
  • Urinalysis — Testing your pet’s urine is an important part of a comprehensive kidney function evaluation. The urine’s specific gravity indicates how well the kidneys are concentrating urine, and we may also pick up on an underlying infection or crystalluria issue.
  • Blood pressure — A baseline blood pressure helps us determine your pet’s normal values, before sedation. Many anesthetic agents cause a drop in your pet’s blood pressure, which we counteract with intravenous fluids. During your pet’s procedure, we also closely monitor blood pressure values, as they are good indicators of pain, bleeding issues, or anesthetic complications.
  • Electrocardiogram — Many older pets—and some younger ones—suffer from heart disease, which can create arrhythmias and decreased cardiac function. We may recommend an electrocardiogram prior to anesthesia, to see exactly how your pet’s heart is functioning.
  • X-rays — Based on your pet’s procedure, we may recommend pre-surgical X-rays, because the extra information they provide can help our surgical team with many procedures and conditions, such as tumor removals, broken bones, foreign body obstructions, and abscesses. X-rays grant us a first look at what’s happening inside your pet, before we proceed to surgery.
  • Ultrasound — While X-rays are ideal for depicting bony issues and generalized soft tissue problems, an ultrasound provides greater detail of your pet’s internal structures, and can detect blood flow through the heart, find an abdominal tumor, or evaluate kidney function.

Keep in mind that your pet is unlikely to need all these tests prior to surgery. In fact, most pets are healthy, and require only a CBC and chemistry profile, but some, particularly older pets, or pets with known health issues, may require more intensive presurgical testing, to ensure the procedure is as safe as possible.

Why are test results important for your pet’s surgery?

Presurgical testing is a vital part of your pet’s entire anesthetic and surgical procedure, designed to provide ample information, so we can make informed decisions. Based on your pet’s test results, we create custom anesthetic protocols, assess risk, and take special considerations depending on age, breed, disease process, and the procedure. Although age is not a disease, older pets suffer from various disease processes over time. Their organ function decreases, healing time increases, and overall health status tends to decline and, without presurgical testing, we would essentially be going into their surgery blind, with no clue about their reaction to anesthesia, or how they will handle surgery and recovery. We don’t want to take any chances with your pet’s comfort and well-being. 

If you have any questions about your pet’s upcoming surgical procedure, and the steps we will take to keep your beloved companion safe and healthy, call us.