Pre and Post Surgical Instructions

Catalina Veterinary Specialists

[email protected]

(520) 312-0003

Michael Singer, DVM, Diplomate ACVS

Pre-Surgical Instructions to Owners

Fast your pet from 10pm the day before surgery. Small amounts of water are OK until 6am the day of surgery. Failure to adhere to feeding restrictions may result in postponing or canceling your pet’s surgery and anesthesia. Please try to have your pet at the hospital between 8:30 am and 9:30am or check with your veterinarian for more specific drop-off instructions. Admissions are done at this time regardless of the time that the surgery is performed.

Have all appropriate pre-anesthetic lab tests done the week before the surgery if possible. Tell your veterinarian that you need a CBC and serum chemistry done. If possible, have the report is faxed to us to avoid delays.

Report any unrelated illness (e.g. lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, upper respiratory problems) or change in your pet’s condition to the admitting technician when you come in. It is important to report any drug or food allergy or epilepsy to the admitting technician.

Please understand that proper medical protocol dictates that we shave the fur over the surgical site, catheter site and fentanyl patch site (if used). If this is unacceptable you must discuss this issue directly with the surgeon.

Bathe/Groom your pet prior to surgery, if possible. Bathing and grooming will not be allowed for several weeks/months after surgery depending on the procedure performed.

Please take all personal items, collars, leashes, and blankets home with you. Personal items for your pet are allowed, provided they do not present a safety hazard for your pet. You must understand that we cannot guarantee the return of these items. If they become soiled they will go into general laundry, which is bleached, and if they get damaged they will be discarded.

What to Expect the Day of Surgery

We know that this is going to be a stressful day for you. Probably more so for you than your pet! But please try to be patient; our first obligation is to the health and safety of your pet. You will be called after your pet has recovered from anesthesia. It is not possible to know exactly what time your pet will go into surgery. We have many patients and the decision as to the order in which patients go into the operating room is based on numerous factors such as the nature of their problem, any anticipated post-operative complications, equipment needed and last but not least, emergencies. Failure to have preoperative testing completed prior to the day of surgery will result in delays.

It is not unusual that we are confronted with a patient that requires urgent life-saving surgery. This delays surgery for all other patients and occasionally means that a procedure has to be delayed until the next day. These situations are unpredictable and are just a part of a “normal” day in a large hospital. Every effort will be made to expedite your pet’s surgery. If there are delays, we appreciate your understanding.

Please feel free to call later in the day to check on your pet’s progress but PLEASE…select one family member to make the calls. Limit the frequency of these calls. We understand your concerns but time spent on the phone is time taken away from attending to the care of our patients.

You must understand that there is risk involved with EVERY anesthesia and EVERY surgery. The type and degree of risk varies with the patient and the surgical procedure. DO NOT consent to surgery if you do not understand the procedure and risks involved. If you feel this has not been properly explained to you, just ask the surgeon to go over it with you again.

Discharging Your Pet from the Hospital

Discharges can take up to 30 minutes.

At discharge, make sure you understand the discharge instructions you are given and make sure you have all of the appropriate medications and understand the dosing schedule.

While you are still at the hospital, make a recheck appointment. These appointments fill up quickly so don’t delay.

If you have questions at home, call and speak to your veterinarian’s office or Catalina Veterinary Specialists. You will likely get a faster response if you ask to speak to a technician rather than a doctor. They are trained to answer most of your questions and will consult with the doctor if need be.

On weekends, if it is an urgent matter that must be handled during that time you should call or proceed to a local 24-hour emergency facility. Please check with your veterinarian as to which 24-hour facility they prefer.

Post-Operative Care

Watch post-operative orthopedic instructions video here.

Exercise restrictions are very important after surgery. You will be given detailed instructions at discharge. The following is an abridged version of the orthopedic instructions so you know what will be expected:

  • In general, walking is good, anything else is bad. You must have control over your pet AT ALL TIMES. To do this, use a cage and a leash. When you are busy or not around, keep your pet in a cage for his/her own safety. When able, take him/her out of the cage but only with a leash. Make the walks SLOW to encourage weight bearing. Do NOT allow running, jumping, playing or slipping/falling. Sit with him/her on the floor, NOT on furniture. Attach the leash to your arm or belt so you will be aware if he/she moves.
  • Do NOT allow your pet on beds and do NOT allow free access to stairs. You will be given a sling for use on stairs and slippery surfaces, or at any time your dog may be unsteady. You don’t have to lift your dog with the sling, but you should use it to “catch” and support your dog if he/she slips.
  • Days 1-10: Limit walks to 5-10 minutes, 3 times daily. Make them slow and controlled. If your dog is holding up the leg, this doesn’t count. The walks need to be slow and deliberate to encourage limb usage.
  • Weeks 2-8: Gradually increase walks to 20 minutes, 3 times daily. Do this by adding 3-5 minutes every 7-10 days to the walks. Do not increase the lengths of the walks unless your pet is using the leg. You can gradually increase the pace…but walking only! X-rays are usually taken at the 8 weeks recheck (there is a charge for the x-rays).
  • 2 months to 4 months: As long as your pet is progressing, at this time we start unlimited walking. It is still important to use a leash at all times and to prevent any running or jumping.
  • 4 months to 6 months: At this point you can start a gradual return to normal function. A good idea is to purchase an extendable leash to allow your dog to jog a little while still maintaining control and preventing uncontrolled running. Slowly add more activity gradually during this period.
  • Crates can be purchased at any pet store, or you can try EBay and search for “fold-up crates.”

Post-Operative Care Preparation


  • Have all crates and baby gates assembled before you bring your pet home.
  • Be sure all crates and other areas your pet will be using have non-slip mats and/or rugs.
  • Be sure all stairs/doorways are blocked by baby gates.
  • Please remove all furniture (couches, chairs, etc…anything they can jump to or from) from rooms your pet may be restricted to or will frequently use.
  • Please bring a second person or crate to pick up your pet (and for routine rechecks) to restrain him/her while in your vehicle.
  • Be sure you have a non-retractable leash, maximum of 4 feet long.
  • If your pet is very active and has a tendency to pull when walked, a Gentle leader may be a good alternative. Please feel free to ask for more information.
  • If your pet has had neck or airway surgery, please purchase a harness for walking.
  • While your pet is being crated you may want to purchase toys such as a Kong to keep him/her busy and help prevent boredom. Feel free to ask a technician if you would like other suggestions.


  • Please confine your cat to a crate or small room with no furniture or other items they can jump on/off.
  • If using a crate, please be sure it is large enough to include, food, water, a litter box and bed with room for comfortable movement.
  • Please be sure all exercise is supervised and controlled, preferably in a small, unfurnished room +/- with a harness and leash.
  • To help keep bandages/incisions clean and dry we recommend “Yesterdays’ News” cat litter or shredded newspaper.
  • Depending on the type of bandage, your cat may have difficulty accessing the litter box. A litter pan is an alternative option that can help with this.

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