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Choosing Your Veterinarian

As the practice of veterinary medicine becomes more sophisticated, more pets are living longer, and therefore suffer from more diseases, ligament ruptures and muscle tears. The average pet owner is unable to determine which veterinary hospital will provide the best medical or surgical care for their pet. Here are a few tips on what questions to ask before taking your pet to a veterinary hospital for any diagnostic or surgical procedure. Most pets, at some point in their lives, will require anesthesia for a medical or surgical procedure. Whether this is an elected procedure such as an ovariohysterectomy (spay), neuter, declaw, or a necessary procedure to improve your pet’s quality of life, one key to a successful outcome is the anesthetic protocol. Contrary to common belief, a pet’s age, appearance, and overall general health do little to determine how well anesthesia can be tolerated. This would be like trying to predict who will or will not have an allergic reaction to a substance. Rather than relying on a “Crystal Ball” to determine how well your pet will do, here are some questions to ask and the reasons to ask them.

1-What type of anesthesia is used? Isoflurane and Sevoflurane gas anesthesia have minimal effect on major organs because they exit the system quickly. They greatly surpass other gas options such as methozyflurane and halothane, which can cause permanent liver and kidney damage. A computerized ventilator enables anesthesia to be delivered while it automatically maintains the normal rate and depth of breathing.

2-What precautions are taken to minimize the risks of anesthesia? Pre-anesthetic blood profiles and Complete Blood Counts (CBC) are used to screen patients for anemia, underlying infections, hereditary diseases, chemical imbalances, and the ability to clot blood properly. This information enables us to take additional precautions pertaining to your pet.

3-What if my pet has complications while under anesthesia? An intravenous (IV) catheter placed prior to the surgery provides direct access to a major vein should your pet require emergency medications during surgery. IV fluid administration before, during, and after surgery helps maintain blood pressure and replace fluids that have been lost.

4-How will you know if my pet is having difficulty while he is under anesthesia? Intensive care monitoring involves state-of-the-art equipment such as a “pulse oximeter” which measures oxygen levels in the blood stream, heart rate, body temperature, and allows a technician to view a constant ECG of the patient. A Doppler pulse monitor measures blood flow through the extremities and a blood pressure monitor indicates if blood pressure is being properly maintained. Trained technicians monitor the machines and the patient during surgery and the recovery period.

5-How long should I wait before taking my pet home after surgery? This depends on the procedure. Most procedures require that the pet rest after surgery. Going home causes a lot of excitement. Additional rest after surgery is beneficial to your pet’s recovery. Keeping your pet over-night after surgery enables us to ensure proper eating, urination and normal bowel movements. This also helps ensure your pet does not disrupt the sutures or disturb the surgical site.

6-Is my pet in any pain? Although many patients do not show obvious signs of pain following surgery, studies have shown that surgery will cause pain or at the very least some discomfort. There are new surgical technologies that will decrease the amount of pain and provide faster recovery times compared to conventional surgical procedures. Laser surgery is used for many procedures and produces minimal bleeding and minimal pain, however, we still provide pain medication before or after every surgical procedure to minimize discomfort to your pet.

7- What about the cost? Not all veterinary hospitals are alike. It costs more for a well-trained staff, advanced equipment, continuing education, sterile materials and safe anesthesia. Good medical care takes great effort and is impossible to provide cheaply.

Therefore, the next time your pet is in need of care or a surgical procedure, remember that the least expensive alternative may not be in your pet’s best interest. Should complications arise, the cost could be the life of your pet. By Dr. Jim Antunano, D.V.M. , Animal Medical Center, 1102 E. Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, 813-654-6222.


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