cat seniorIs your pet about to have surgery? 

As a pet owner, you might not know what to expect. Check out our article to learn more about the process.

My pet is having surgery. What does that entail?

If your pet is undergoing anesthesia for either a routine dental cleaning, spay, or a more serious procedure, it can be a nerve-racking experience as an owner. Anesthesia unavoidably has its risks. However, there are many steps that we take to avoid these risks and any associated potential complications. Oftentimes, clients drop their pet off with us for a procedure, and they come back in the afternoon when everything is finished. They are unaware of everything we do behind closed doors and the reasoning behind it all. Therefore, I would like to walk you through each step of an anesthetic procedure and explain the importance of each.

Pre-operative bloodwork

Whether your pet is 6 months or 16 years old, pre-operative bloodwork is always recommended. This allows us to make sure your pet is healthy enough systemically to process the anesthetic medications and remain stable throughout the procedure. Anesthesia requires many medications that need to be processed through the liver, kidneys, and other vital organs. If there is any underlying disease process within these organs, it can be exacerbated by the anesthetic process.


In order for your pet to have a surgical procedure, they need to be placed under anesthesia. This involves using a combination of injectable and inhalant medications in a very controlled manner. Each patient is unique; this requires us to tailor our medications to each individual patient. There are many different combinations of medications that depend on patient age, current health problems, temperament, and type of surgery being performed.


Throughout the anesthetic procedure, your pet will be closely monitored by both a machine and a Certified Veterinary Technician. Monitoring helps to determine the depth of anesthesia and helps to ensure a stable patient throughout a procedure. One machine we used is called a Cardell, which allows us to monitor SPO2 (peripheral capillary oxygen saturation), heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate and temperature. We also use a petMAP that allows us to accurately measure blood pressure with a small cuff placed around either a leg or a tail.
Since you cannot always trust a machine, a Certified Veterinary Technician is always present and constantly taking physical readings. This includes listening to the heart for any murmurs or arrhythmias that may arise, checking heart rate and respiratory rate, taking a temperature and checking mucous membrane color. This allows us to confirm accuracy of the Cardell as well as monitor for any subtle changes that the Cardell may not be able to pick up.


Once the surgical procedure is completed, your pet will slowly wake up from surgery, usually wrapped in a blanket and being held by a technician. A postoperative temperature, respiration rate, and heart rate will be taken. Once sitting upright, your pet will be placed back into their cage to fully recover. Once your pet is stable and fully awake, a doctor will be in contact with you to go over how the procedure went and to explain discharge instructions.

For any other questions, please give us a call at (608) 249-3232.

Dr. Mackenzie Kelling currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin. She received an undergraduate degree from Augustana College and earned a DVM degree from the University of Illinois.