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.


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