Pre-Anesthetic Testing

We can never have too much information about your pet before we begin surgery.

What Decisions Are Important as You Prepare My Pet for Surgery?

Of paramount concern as we prepare to perform surgery on your pet is the general health of the animal. Most surgeries require at least sedation, but more likely full anesthesia.

The selection of the level of incapacitation and type of anesthesia lies with the surgeon, but is selected based on:

  • The age of the animal
  • The health of the animal
  • The anticipated length of the surgery
  • The invasiveness of the surgery—for example, small tumor removal on the skin or extensive abdominal surgery.

What Happens When My Pet Arrives on the Day of Surgery?

A pre-surgical exam will be performed on the morning of surgery. At this time, we are especially interested in listening to the heart and lungs. For your pet to do well under anesthesia a healthy heart and lungs are necessary. For your pet to wake up well from anesthesia, a health liver and kidney are necessary. To properly asses these organs, we highly recommend a pre-operative blood screen.

Why Should My Pet Receive a Blood Test?

Just as your doctor would not perform surgery on you, even minor surgery, without a preoperative exam and blood test, we prefer to do the same. The more information we have, the better we can proceed.

The top five reasons to test your pet before anesthesia:

  • Testing can significantly reduce anesthetic risk.
  • Detect hidden illness. 20% of healthy-looking animals have concerns evident on their bloodwork.
  • Reduce risks. If the pre-operative testing results are normal, we can proceed with normal anesthetic protocols. If not, we can alter the anesthetic protocol and proceed, or delay surgery until a more appropriate time.
  • Protect your pet’s future health. These test become part of your pet’s medical record, providing a baseline for future reference.
  • Peace of mind. When all tests and exams are within normal limits, we can proceed with confidence and are able to pass an assurance on to you.

How Are These Tests Interpreted?

Two areas of the blood panel are most helpful.

First of all we are looking at the CBC (Complete Blood Count) to assess the red and white blood cell counts. A low red blood cell count indicates anemia. Because a red blood cell is an oxygen carrier, a low count renders the body less able to carry oxygen. This creates anesthetic risk. Elevated white counts can indicate infection and surgery is best delayed.

We are also wanting to look at the CBC for any indication of insufficient clotting ability which could endanger the animal during and after surgery.

The second part of the blood screen is the Chemistry profile. Through the results of this test we are able to determine especially if the liver and kidneys are healthy enough to effectively eliminate the anesthetic from the body. We are also looking for any alert of other organ dysfunction, dehydration, low glucose reserves or anything that may predispose your pet to anesthetic or surgical complications. Concerns here may postpone surgery or require intravenous fluids during surgery.

What if My Pet Is Older?

If your pet is over 7 years of age, we recommend that your pet have a more advanced blood test. This test gets more specific in the areas of liver and kidney function.

So Testing Is the Best Option?

Though not 100%, pre-operative testing gives us considerable insight into a lot of potential issues, and anesthesia is administered day in and day out with seldom a problem. Surgical anesthesia always has inherent risks, even with healthy animals undergoing routine procedures. Medical technology, though, has given us excellent anesthetic medications and the risks are minimal.

Author: Diane Noll, D.V.M.

Copyright 2010. Updated 9/2012.