Treatment of diseases falls into two categories: Medical, using drugs, and surgical where an operation is necessary to correct a problem. In either type of treatment there is an element of risk, and the very nature of biological systems means that one cannot guarantee how they will respond to any type of interference. Please always remember that, just like you, we want every treatment we give to be successful and uncomplicated. We will be checking your pet for complications, but we need you to tell us if you notice anything untoward. I would rather hear about something which is not serious than not hear about something that is!!
Before giving an anaesthetic we routinely check some basic measurements on a blood sample (unless we have recently checked one or the pet is difficult to handle). This will allow us to have confidence that there are no major pre-existing problems with the pet which may cause problems during an anaesthetic and operation. If any major problems are found we would either give treatment to reduce the risks or abandon the operation.
The first aspect of surgery is the anaesthetic. It is important that the animal doesn’t feel any pain caused by the operation. A lot of research has been done into the workings of pain and it is possible to use several different types of drug to control different aspects of pain. For instance, giving a pain-killer before the operation has been shown to help considerably with the pain afterwards, so this is one of the things we do routinely.
Any anaesthetic carries an element of risk. To minimise this we use a monitoring device which measures heart rate, ECG, pulse, blood oxygen level and breathing rate. Each of these has a alarm which can be set for individual patients normal values.
Anaesthetised guineapig connected to monitor
In humans, some operations are carried out using local anaesthetics. This is less satisfactory in animals as they cannot be persuaded to lie still. So we have to make them unconscious. A general anaesthetic also relaxes the muscles of the patient allowing surgery to be performed more gently and reducing bruising.
So we like to have our surgical patients in the surgery early enough in the morning to allow us to give them pain-killers and other premedicants which will make the anaesthetic as safe as possible and the animal as comfortable as possible. This means having them at the surgery at least an hour before any significant operation.
It is rare nowadays, but animals occasionally vomit especially whilst recovering from the anaesthetic. If they inhale any fluid, this can cause obstruction to breathing or pneumonia and so we like them to have empty stomachs for anaesthetics. During most operations, the animal will have a tube in its windpipe and this keeps the airways safe.
After operations, the wound is sterile and if a scab is allowed to form, this will be a tight seal preventing infection getting in. Unfortunately, nature has decided that dogs’ and cats’ wounds in the wild are mostly infected, so it is better to lick them. This is NOT the case with surgical wounds, but the animal doesn’t know that so it is important to stop any licking, preferably by putting a garment over the area. Most animals will tolerate a knitted or towelling garment fitting snugly (not tightly) over the affected area. Those which will not may have to wear a plastic collar, but these are very unwieldy.
Some patients may benefit from physiotherapy after operations. Details of our practice physiotherapist are available via this link.
It is important that you report any concerns you have about operation wounds. It is better to be safe than sorry.
You will be given detailed instructions by the nurses when you take your pet home. If there is anything you don’t understand, or are worried about don’t hesitate to ask. Just like you, we want every operation to be a complete and uncomplicated success
Neutering involves surgically removing the testes of a male animal (castration) or the uterus (womb) and ovaries of a female (spaying). Both are surgical operations and general information about operations appears in another section.
Castration of male cats will prevent smell and reduce spraying of urine (some cats do this because of overcrowding or stress), roaming and fighting. Many cats suffering bites from other cats will have been attacked by un-neutered tom cats. Castration is virtually 100% effective in preventing these unwelcome traits of tom cats.
Castration of male dogs is much less effective. It is useful where sexually related behaviour cannot be modified by training. In many cases where owners ask to have their dogs castrated the problem is one of training or socialisation or exercise. I prefer to discuss castration of dogs with their owners before arranging the operation. It is very disappointing to operate on a dog to change its behaviour and to have no effect.
Castrating male rabbits can be useful in assisting in house training if the rabbit is to live free in a home, and will almost always reduce aggression in those male rabbits which tend to bite.
Spaying cats will prevent pregnancy, a condition which cats are otherwise adept at achieving. It will also prevent breast cancer which, though relatively rare in cats, is almost always a very serious disease in the cat.
Spaying bitches will prevent heats and false and real pregnancies. These can also be controlled by hormone injections, but the injections do not prevent other common serious diseases in older bitches. Many, many old bitches will develop breast tumours, malignant or benign, which need major surgery and can be life threatening. Every heat the bitch has will increase the risk of these tumours, up to the age of about 7 years. Thereafter, spaying will slow the progression of tumours, and will allow the use of a hormone in controlling the tumours if surgery is not appropriate. The earlier a bitch is spayed, the better this effect: the first heat is puberty and if a bitch is spayed before this she has the same risk of breast cancer as a male dog. Womb problems, particularly a condition called pyometra, are very common in older bitches and necessitate hysterectomy when the bitch is ill. Spaying will prevent this occurring. So I advocate the spaying of all bitches not required for breeding before their first heat.
Spayed bitches are at slight risk of developing bladder incontinence: this can almost always be controlled quite simply. They need fewer calories, so that some will get overweight easily and need care with their diets. A few breeds will show changes in their coats when they have been spayed. None of these problems are life-threatening.
Spaying rabbits, besides preventing pregnancy if living with a buck, will prevent the very bad moods some does have when on heat. There is also a high incidence of cancer of the uterus (womb) in rabbits over about 4 years of age. Spaying will prevent this also.