Tuesday, January 29, 2013

6 Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian Before Surgery

Isabel was spayed at our hospital
Isabel was spayed at our hospital
We do hundreds of surgical procedures each year at our hospital.  I have watched our doctors do spays, neuters, C-Sections, dental extractions, foreign body removals, spleenectomies, mass removals, and even orthopedic procedures.  Some procedures take only minutes while others can take hours.  The one thing that I have learned over the years is that there is no such thing as a routine procedure.

When you are talking about anesthetizing your pet for a procedure, you should never take it lightly, and your veterinarian shouldn't either.  

If you have ever called multiple vet offices to compare prices for a spay or some other procedure, you probably heard a pretty wide range of prices.  You have to understand that all spays are not equal, to get a real comparison, you need to ask more questions than "How much for a spay?".

So here are my top 6 questions to ask your veterinarian before scheduling a surgery:

6. What kind of anesthesia do you use?

There are many anesthetic options available to veterinarians, but they fall into two general categories:  Inhalant and Injected.  Inhalant anesthesia like Sevoflurane and Isoflurane are the safest, but more expensive option, while injected anesthetics are less safe, but less expensive.  Hospitals that use inhalant anesthetics have invested in expensive machinery to deliver the agent and can precisely control the amount of agent your pet receives.  On the other hand, hospitals that use injected agents cannot control the amount or effect of the agent once it has been injected.

5. Who does the anesthetic induction?

In California, only a licensed Veterinarian or a licensed Registered Veterinarian Technician is allowed to induce anesthesia.  If the hospital does not have any RVTs then the doctor must do all the inductions.  Induction is the point in your pet's procedure that she is first put under anesthesia.

4. Do you monitor my pet's vital signs?

Does the hospital provide an assistant to monitor your pet's vital signs during the procedure?  If so, which vital signs are monitored and how are they monitored.  Hospitals that monitor your pet during surgery have equipment to monitor blood oxygen levels, CO2 levels, blood pressure.  They have trained personnel to take temperature, pulse and respiration readings at regular intervals.

3. Are the surgical instruments sterilized after each use?

A busy surgical hospital has to maintain a lot of surgical equipment if they are going to use fresh, sterile tools on each patient.  Sterilization of a surgical pack can take more than a hour in an autoclave.  If you take your pet to a spay clinic that does dozens of surgeries in a day for next to nothing prices, this may be one of the corners they cut.

2. Does the hospital have a dedicated surgery room?

In most cases, vet med law requires surgeries to be performed in a dedicated surgery room that meets some minimum standards.  You can read California's minimum standards here.

1. Can I tour your facility?

Seeing is believing.  Ask if you can tour the facility.  A hospital that will give a client a tour is confident that they are providing the best medicine and are happy to show you how your pet will be cared for.  

I hope this helps you the next time you find yourself in need of surgical care for your pets. Never be embarrassed to ask these kind of questions, it is your job to make sure that you are getting the service you think you are getting for your pet.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pet Dental Month

Wow, is it really that time of year again? 

Pet Dental Month is not exactly a greeting card holiday, but it does serve to get us in the pet health field to talk about something that we should be talking about everyday of the year - your dog's mouth.  If you have ever been to the vet and they didn't look at your pet's mouth, then your vet is not getting the whole picture of your pet's total health.  So much of your pet's health relies on what is going on in her mouth - bad oral health often leads to systemic health problems like (cue scary music) heart, liver and kidney problems - that your pet's mouth should be on your vet's mind every visit.
So in honor of Pet Dental Month, I have put together a list of my top 5 favorite pet dental health questions and my answers for them.

5) Should I be brushing my dog's/cat's teeth?

         Yup.  You should.  Imagine what your mouth would feel like (and smell like) if you never brushed your teeth.  The tartar build up presses on the gums, causing the gums to recede and become inflamed  As the gums continue to recede, the tooth becomes infected and will ultimately have to be extracted.

4) Can I use regular toothpaste?

         No. No. No.  Never use human toothpaste as it is toxic if swallowed.  There are pet toothpastes available at pet stores and at your vet's office that are specially designed for your pet (and they have yummy pet flavors). 

3) How come dentals are so expensive?

        Sometimes your pet needs a lot of dental work.  If you went your  entire life without brushing, I'd imagine your dental bill would be much higher.  But seriously  pet dentals, when done thoroughly, require a lot of time to complete.  In our hospital we have a room and a technician dedicated to dental work and still can only do 2-3 procedures in a day.

2) Do we have to extract those teeth?

     There are many things that can cause a tooth to need extraction.  Besides that fact that infected and broken teeth are painful, bacteria from the mouth can gain access to the tooth pulp and infect the tooth. Eventually, the tooth will die and become a bacterial haven. The bacteria can then leak out through the  bottom of the tooth, and infect the bone in that area, eventually causing bone destruction around the root tip. Next, the blood vessels in the area will pick up the bacteria and spread it to other areas of the body, causing other health problems.

1) I take my dog to the groomer and they do non-anesthetic cleanings.

        Not technically a question, still I have something to say.  Non-anesthetic cleanings are a short term remedy for bad breath.  They do very little to address the  underlying problems that are causing your pet pain or other symptoms.  If you are concerned about the anesthetic aspect of a dental procedure, you should talk to your vet about the risks for your individual pet. 
(oh yeah, and non-anesthetic dentals are illegal in CA and most other states if not supervised by a licensed veterinarian.)

Happy Pet Dental Month.  Don't forget to brush!