On Saying Goodbye
A few years ago, I had to say goodbye to my beloved Great Dane “Jolie” after she was diagnosed with bone cancer. I adopted her at 8 yrs old knowing from the start that I wouldn’t have that long with her. The life span of Great Danes are typically 8-10 years, and I only was able to spend 3 wonderful months with her. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye so quickly, and it took me a while to move on from the loss.
Looking back at my memories with her, I still tear up knowing how happy I was those last months with her. It’s never easy having to say goodbye to a pet whether they’ve been your life long companion or only with you for a few months. Our pets become such a major part of our families that it’s hard to deal with the loss of a loved pet. Even though there is no right or wrong way to get over the loss, here are a few suggestions that could help you cope if and when you’re faced with such a situation.
For many, a pet is not simply a dog, cat, or reptile. Our pets are beloved members of the family, and when they pass away, you can feel traumatic loss. Much like when dealing with human loss, everyone grieves in their own, sometimes deeply personal way. Some find that grief comes in stages where they experience a series of feelings like denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves or a series of highs and lows. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months, but for others, the grieving process can be measured in years.
Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the healing process to naturally unfold. Reaching out to others who have lost their pets can also help. Expressing your feelings with someone who truly understands what you’re going through can be a great alternative to holding feelings inside. It’s ok to cry or not to cry, but it’s also ok to laugh and find moments of joy.
If your friends or family members do not work well with the grief of pet loss, you can try other resources such as online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and grieving support groups. Other helpful alternatives include expressing your feelings in a poem or letter, telling a story about your pet, or rearranging photos and making a memorial collage.
Pet owners may ask the question, “Will my pets grieve?” Pets observe every change in a household and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. They often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor may grieve for its companion. You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this time. Maintaining their daily routine or even increasing exercise and play time will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help elevate your own outlook too.
I hope this has provided some useful techniques for helping cope with the loss of a pet. I still miss Jolie, but I now celebrate her life and the joy she brought to me and others.
Dogs and Cats Get Diabetes Too!
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month for humans but also for our furry friends too! Many people are not aware that dogs and cats can have diabetes just like their human counterparts. While the disease process can be slightly different in pets, there are many similarities too. This article will provide a brief simplistic overview of canine and feline diabetes. Remember, if you suspect there may be an illness in one of your pets, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your family veterinarian!
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a disease that results in persistently elevated blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. In humans, this is caused by either a lack of insulin production from the pancreas (Type 1) or a developed insulin resistance (Type 2). Type 2 is the one typically linked with obesity, other disease process, decreased activity, and poor diet. Diabetes mellitus in a cat is more similar to human Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes of the dog is more similar to human Type 1 diabetes.
The most common symptoms in a pet with diabetes are excessive drinking and urination, weight loss and increased appetite. A complication of diabetes is a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a very serious condition that may have symptoms such as depression, lethargy, anorexia and vomiting. This is most commonly seen in newly diagnosed diabetics or those with concurrent disease processes. As always, if you notice any abnormal symptoms in your pet, have them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your vet will first perform a physical examination on your pet and get a detailed history from you. They may want to run blood tests such as a blood glucose level and perhaps a full lab panel including a CBC, blood chemistry, electrolyte panel and urinalysis. They may also recommend a blood test called a fructosamine, which looks at the average blood glucose level over time. This is done to try to rule out influences such as stress that can artificially raise the blood glucose level as many patients are stressed at the vet clinic. They may recommend doing radiographs (x-rays), abdominal ultrasound, urine culture or other specialized tests. You and your doctor will come up with a plan specific to fit your pets and your family’s needs.
Once a diagnosis of diabetes is obtained, your doctor will likely recommend starting your pet on insulin therapy. This typically consists of twice daily subcutaneous injections of insulin, given after your pet eats a meal. Your veterinarian or their staff will show you how to give these injections and how to make it a positive experience for your furry friend! It is important to note that if your pet is not eating, you do not want to give them insulin as they may develop low blood sugar. If your pet is not eating, call your veterinarian right away for help. It is also important to make sure that the type of insulin syringe you are using, matches the type of insulin you are giving. Be sure to ask your doctor to explain the difference to you. There will be other details for them to teach you such as how to store and mix up insulin. Lifestyle and diet changes may also need to be made depending upon your pets case.
When your pet is first diagnosed there will likely be frequent visits to the vet to make sure they are on an appropriate dosage of insulin and are responding favorably. The majority of diabetic patients are easily managed by your family veterinarian. If they are having trouble regulating the blood glucose or your pet is still showing signs of illness, they may refer you to a specialist, such as an Internal Medicine Specialist.
When pets have difficult to manage diabetes, they often have concurrent underlying diseases that a specialist can help to uncover and treat. Controlling this underlying disease process can then help to control the diabetes in the long run. Occasionally, patients may go into remission and no longer insulin therapy. This is seen more commonly seen in cats. The majority of patients however will need lifelong insulin therapy and veterinary management.
Your dog or cat with diabetes can live a long and happy life with proper management from your veterinarian and of course, dedication from you!
Cheers to National Diabetes Awareness Month!
A Thank You to the awesome team at Sunstone Veterinary Specialists:
Lupe first met Dr Su this summer when she developed a perineal hernia and was uncomfortable both peeing and pooping. Dr Su helped us put together a plan for two staged surgeries to get her back to health. The team members at Sunstone were always so kind and gentle with Lupe. They always made her feel safe and pampered, which is really how she likes things! Dr Su, Alicia, Sarah and the entire team at Sunstone always made me and my husband always feel cared for too. The professionalism, kindness, patience and compassion extended to us through this whole journey has been top notch. We are so thankful.
Lupe healed beautifully from her procedures and is back to being the queen of our household. She goes on walks to check her pee-mail and even goes to work several days a week to supervise or act as a greeter at the front desk. She is healthy, happy and sassy – all thanks to Dr Su and the team at Sunstone!
Katy Felton DVM and Alex Simpson CST
Why Adopt a Senior Pet?
Puppies and kittens are the best, right? They’re cute, cuddly, full of energy. Even just looking at a kitten makes my day a brighter and better day. Who wouldn’t want one? There’s another population of pet potentials that gets overlooked though and it’s unfortunate that every day in our communities, beautiful loving pets are being euthanized. Why? They’re older, and because they’re older, they’re not considered adoptable. They’re passed over for those cute and cuddly puppies and kittens.
Most often, older animals are left behind in shelters as prospective adopters want a pet that they can raise and have for a long time. This means that older canines and felines have higher euthanasia rates than the younger ones, or are left to live the rest of their lives out in a shelter kennel. It’s a sad fact, but one that needs to be discussed.
November is a great month to bring awareness to this issue; it is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month! Any dog and cat 7 years or older is considered “senior.” Walking into a shelter, you’re bound to see older dogs and cats sitting patiently awaiting a soft voice, a kind hand, or even a friendly glance, a glimmer of hope that maybe this is their day that they get chosen to be a part of a loving family. They sit and wait, often scared, depressed, and almost always overlooked by potential adopters. Yet, ironically, they are often the perfect candidates for adopters; quiet, calm, housebroken, good with kids, affectionate and easily acclimated to a new home. They sit there patiently, waiting for someone to love them, until many times, it’s too late. I know this is a depressing topic, but it’s a topic that has become more and more important to me.
There are definitely pros and cons to adopting an older pet, but the same goes with puppies and kittens. One hesitation for a lot of people is that they don’t want to get attached to an older animal because they’ll have fewer years to live out. But turn that around. Think about it. You can give that older sweet lab, or that geriatric skinny black cat or even the Chihuahua with the overbite who’s so ugly that he’s cute the best life for their remaining days. That could be one year, it could be five or even ten. The point is, these animals are just looking for love and a forever home. You would be saving a life that someone else threw away. You would be a hero to that animal.
Here are a few other reasons you should adopt an older pet:
-Older pets tend to be calmer than younger ones, which often make them easier to train. They are more mellow and relaxed and ready for a new home. Most senior pets are just happy sitting at your feet or curled up next to you on the couch, just happy to finally have a place to belong. This brings me to reason number two:
-Senior pets are great company for senior citizens. Many elderly people find the calm presence of an older pet very comforting. They don’t mind hearing the same stories over and over again and are content to move through life at a slower speed. The perfect pairing!
-Senior pets are typically less demanding. Older animals have their routines and, while they still love to play, they love to relax, cuddle, and nap as well. As a result, they tend to fit in more easily into your daily routine. Senior pets also take the guess work out of a dog’s potential size, the nature of a cat’s adult personality, or the energy level of an adult. You get what you currently observe!
-Senior pets demand no huge lifestyle change. You don’t need to worry about kitten and puppy proofing your house and constantly training them. And older pets let you get a good night’s sleep! They don’t demand the time and attention that a younger dog and cat does and are satisfied with casual walks, cuddling, and a short play time. Many senior pets will snooze the day away inside while you’re at work and are waiting calmly at the door for you when you return.
-Senior pets are stress relievers. Life can be hectic and studies have shown that animal guardianship can decrease blood pressure levels and reduce stress. Senior pets enjoy leisurely walks and gentle play, which will encourage you to take a nice stroll through the neighborhood even just for a few minutes on your busiest days.
-Adopted senior pets are grateful. Somehow, older pets seem to know you gave them a second chance, when no one else would. Many new owners form a close bond very quickly with their senior dog or cat, because the pet shows them a level of attention and loyalty that is unique in adopted animals. You have become that animal’s saving grace.
Those are just a few reasons why everyone should look into adopting a senior pet. Kittens and puppies are fun, but don’t overlook the senior pets; they need love just like puppies and kittens do. Love has no age limit. Why not give them the best life possible? Adopting a senior pet changes not only their life for the better, but yours as well.
We are on the brink of the holiday season. What better time to provide a loving home for a shelter pet? Help one less animal spend the holiday season in a shelter. Be their Christmas miracle. You will be their forever hero.
Alicia, AA, AAS, LVT
We had so much fun blogging for Veterinary Technician Week, and the response from our friends and family was so warm, we’ve decided to make it a weekly event!
Every Tuesday, one of our amazing support staff members will post a short blog, giving us a glimpse into their jobs and life as technicians and assistants in the world of specialty veterinary medicine.
Our support staff has an especially amazing ability to connect and engage with our clients and patients, and we’d like to share that with you, our readers!
Why I Chose to be a Veterinary Technician
Often when I meet people for the first time and they discover that I am a Certified Veterinary Technician, the first question they ask upon hearing my job is: Do I plan on becoming a veterinarian? Or, did I want to be a vet? The short answer is: Nope.
I know that people are well intentioned in their interest of my job, but I wonder if they understand that by assuming I want to be a veterinarian they are discrediting my career choice (and I bet that I am not the only CVT who feels this way). I also wonder if our human counterparts in the medical world (i.e., nurses) get this type of question when discussing their career with new people? I would imagine that they get that question far less than veterinary technicians, who are essentially animal nurses.
My choice to become a vet tech was an educated one. I wanted a job that kept me busy and challenged me on a daily basis. I’ve always loved animals and have great empathy for them and their well-being, but it takes more than a fondness of furry creatures to be a career veterinary technician. I say ‘career’ because the sad truth is that most graduates of a veterinary technology program do not stay in the field for long (the average time working as a CVT is 5 years). In addition to my love of animals, I loved science, biology, anatomy and physiology. For me, those interests put me on the path for a career in veterinary medicine.
But WHY wouldn’t I want to become a veterinarian you ask? It seems like if you love animals you should WANT to be a DVM, but I did not have that desire. I wanted to provide the nursing care, collect the blood samples, run the lab work, use the microscope, place the IV catheters, monitor anesthesia, perform the ‘hands-on’ tasks with the patients. My job keeps me engaged and my duties can change daily depending on the needs of the animals I am caring for.
Another aspect of my job that I enjoy is connecting with the clients; addressing their concerns, answering questions, demonstrating how to give medications, or providing reassurances when their pet is ill or injured. When you first start out as a vet tech you do not realize initially how much of your job is actually working directly with people and not just the cats and dogs.
In summary, I love being a veterinary technician. Would I love my job if I was a veterinarian? I don’t know. DVMs and CVTs are complimentary, we work toward the common goal of increasing the well-being of our patients, there are times when our responsibilities overlap but we are not interchangeable. Veterinarians examine, diagnose, prognose, prescribe and perform surgery; all things that a CVT cannot do. But that does not mean that being a technician is ‘less than.’ It is a different job with a different skill set. I have heard some CVTs refer to themselves as ‘just’ a technician. But we are not ‘just a technician,’ we are a vital part of the veterinary medical team and we should be proud of our career choice.
Katie, BS, AAS, LVT
Patient Care Technician
Step Into Change Not Away From It
“Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.” –Mandy Hale
The process of change can be hard and challenging. Leaving your comfort zone is scary, especially for someone like me who loves their comfort zone
In my career as a CVT, I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in an amazing general day practice for the past 8 years. I then transitioned to Sunstone Veterinary Specialists, an incredible specialty clinic, earlier this year. That was a hard and scary change for me for multiple reasons. It may seem like a small change to some people, but for me it was huge.
I have always been a general practice technician and I loved where I was. It was a super small clinic with 1 doctor, 1 technician, 1 receptionist, and 1 very spoiled clinic cat. Working at such a small clinic, they became my family. I developed a really special bond with the clinic cat, and that clinic became my life. You also develop friendships with clients and their animals, and when they come in as puppies and kittens, you get to see them grow up! That was something I was going to miss; the relationships I made along the way.
So when this opportunity presented itself to me, I was hesitant, and here’s why: Being a general practice technician was all I knew. As a GP tech, you deal with wellness exams, sick patients, vaccines, spays/neuters, ultrasonic scalings (dentals), mass removals, and emergencies here and there with more in depth surgeries sporadically thrown in. No day was ever the same and that was great. I loved it, but it also became a huge comfort zone crutch for me. I had a routine and I liked it that way.
But, I also knew I had so much room to learn and grow as a technician, which is another reason why I was hesitant to switch to a specialty practice. I’ve never worked at a specialty practice before. Would I catch on quickly? Would I fit in? What if I don’t do well? A lot of “what ifs” went through my mind. It was fear, fear of the unknown and we all experience this throughout life. A lot of the time, fear stops us from taking that chance and seeing what else is out there.
After thinking through everything, I did decide to take that leap of faith, and as hard as it was, I don’t regret it. I definitely miss my old co-workers and that crazy spoiled clinic cat, but life is about learning and growing. You need to change and step out of your comfort zone in order to grow in every aspect of your life.
I have learned so much already being at a specialty clinic, working in the surgery department, and have had some amazing surgery cases that I wouldn’t have had at a general practice. I have been able to expand my knowledge and skills as a technician, and I’m excited to see what else I can do to keep sharpening my skills. I’m developing new client relationships and I absolutely love my surgery patients! I am also very lucky to have gone from one amazing clinic to another. Everyone at Sunstone has been so welcoming and I am extremely grateful they gave me this opportunity. They have been nothing but kind, caring, and supportive throughout my transition.
Each and every day, I am learning to step out of my comfort zone and I encourage you to as well. It’s not easy, but you need to take chances. “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” Choose the option to step forward into growth – you never know where that may lead you!
Alicia, AA, AAS, LVT
What Does the Internal Medicine Assistant Do?
My name is Colleen, and I am the internal medicine assistant here at Sunstone. One of the questions I am most often asked about my job, right after “what is the weirdest animal you see?”, is what I do as a part of the Internal Medicine team. As a client, you spend most of your time with the doctor, so you may not see much of what Katie, the Internal Medicine technician, and I do every day. As Dr. Elliott’s team, we do everything we can to let him focus on figuring out what is going on with your pet and making them feel better.
Before each appointment, we sort through the medical history, making sure he has all of the puzzle pieces at his disposal. Katie or I then meet with you, the client, to hear the full story from the person who has been by the patient’s side at every step. This gives Dr. Elliott a more complete picture to base his conversation with you off of.
Once his exam is complete and a treatment plan has been decided on, Katie and I jump into gear. We take X-Rays for Dr. Elliott to evaluate, administer medications and draw blood, which we may test ourselves in our clinic or we may send out to a lab. Some patients need more advanced imaging or procedures which require Dr. Elliott to be involved. In these cases, we set up everything Dr. Elliott will need. One of my favorite parts of my job is mentally rehearsing each procedure to think through anything that could possibly be useful to have on hand. We also prepare the patient, sometimes setting an IV catheter, giving sedation, or fully anesthetizing the animal. Once all the testing is done, we fill any prescriptions, give demonstrations you may need to continue their care, and send them home with you.
Once your fuzzy friend is at home, there are often questions that arise. We hope that you will not hesitate to call us for answers. Katie and I are always happy to chat, sort out any confusion or get an update on the progress being made. We pass these messages on to Dr. Elliott to make sure the pet is responding the way he expected. The Internal Medicine team does not often see simple cases, and treatment changes may be necessary along the way. Good communication with our team is key to making sure your pet is getting the best care possible.
Now that you know a bit about what I do, you should also know that I really, really love my job. I have been told that this is somewhat unusual, but I can’t seem to help myself. I am happy when Monday morning rolls around and, my husband will attest, it took some convincing to get me to agree to a week-long vacation away from Sunstone this summer. There are lots of reasons why I am lucky enough to feel this way, but one of the biggest is that I am blessed to be a member of an amazing team of people. I have worked with Dr. Elliott and Katie for about two and a half years now, and I could not admire them more. When Dr. Elliott decided to start his own practice, I was more than happy to follow my fearless leader. This practice, Sunstone, has been a wonderful place to work, with staff who respect each other immensely, and who care deeply about both pets and their people. It’s hard not to love your job when you are surrounded by this environment day in and day out, and I hope that passion is clear every time you walk through our door.
Internal Medicine Assistant
My love letter to our clients
I had a hard time deciding what to write about for this Vet Tech week blog post. It got me thinking about my last 10 years in the field and what has stood out to me the most. I thought about writing about the unique position that technicians are in right now given the tech shortage and the state of the veterinary field. I thought about discussing my new ventures as Head Technician and all that has come along with that. I thought about all of the interesting medical cases that I have had the pleasure of being a part of, but none of these things felt quite right to me.
I finally realized that I wanted to write about the thing that keeps me coming to work every single day; the thing that drives me even when I get peed on, bitten or scratched, lose a patient I love, barely have a chance to eat all day, or get told by a scared, worried client that all we want is their money. That thing is YOU, dear client, and the bond you share with your beloved pet. This human animal bond is what keeps me in love with this job.
I love getting a chance to know you and hear your stories. I love hearing about how you got your old dog as a puppy and all of the adventures you have shared. I love being able to be there for you in your time of need. In my line of work (Internal Medicine) we don’t see any healthy patients which means when you come to see us, you are probably worried, stressed and scared. I love that I get to talk with you and even hold your hand or hug you at times while we try to figure out what is going on with your beloved friend. I love when you come back to see us and your pet is doing better on their new food or medication or treatment. I love celebrating when the cat with intestinal disease finally gains weight! I love when the chronic respiratory patient gets on treatment and starts to breathe easier. I love the few times we actually get to completely fix something, like the time we pulled a sewing pin out of a puppy’s stomach.
And finally, I want you to know that when you leave your pet with us, whether for a short period of time to take x rays or to do an ultrasound, or whether they stay for a few days with us while they recover, they are treated like family. We are the “stand-in family” for them and yes we baby talk them, carry them around if we can, make sure they go potty when they need to, and make sure they have a fluffy bed, or something to perch on or hide under. We warm their food up to try to get them to eat and even hand feed them. We try to get the medical things done with the least amount of stress possible for your pet. We try to handle them in the gentlest way possible and use tools like sedation if needed. We know that we are no substitute for being at home with you, the person they love, but we do everything in our power to make their time with us as easy as possible.
I am lucky enough to work with a group of people who feel the same as I do and who consider you and your pets to be family. In fact, one of our owners just put up our company vision on our wall. It says “Work is love made manifest.” I think I speak for all of us in the veterinary field when I say that this is a job we do because we love it, because we all know it ain’t for the money! This love for you and for your pets is what being a Veterinary Technician is all about and I am PROUD to call myself a Vet tech. Cheers to all of you working hard every day to provide the best care possible and for keeping the love alive.
Katie, BS, AAS, LVT
Internal Medicine Technician
One of my dogs had extensive dental work recently, including the extraction of two canine teeth. With major extractions, veterinarians frequently use incisions in the gums to gain access to the bone surrounding the roots of the teeth. This usually allows for better exposure and makes it easier to remove the whole tooth. This also frees up gum tissue to use to close over large open sockets after the tooth is removed. While the mouth and gums typically heal well, it is an area of the body that is under constant motion and use which can put a lot of strain on healing incisions. Unfortunately, one of my dog’s incisions came apart a few days after his extractions. Luckily, this complication was easily resolved by sedating him and re-suturing the incision.
Complications are a regrettable, yet inevitable part of working in a medical field. Everything we do, everything we learn, everything we train for is to be able to provide the best of care while minimizing complications. While I wish I could give clients my guarantee their pet’s diagnostic work up, anesthesia, or surgical procedures will be complication free; and that with treatment their pet has a 100% chance of an ideal outcome, unfortunately that would not be true. Even the simplest of medical procedures, such as a fine needle aspirate or an injection of medication, procedures that are performed thousands of times daily across the country, carry some risk of complications.
While we cannot make these guarantees of zero complications or perfect outcomes, what we can do, and what we strive to do here at Sunstone, is to ensure we are well prepared, trained, and equipped for the procedures we offer our clients. We communicate with our clients so they are aware of the procedure(s) we recommend for their pet, what the procedure involves, any common complications which might occur from undergoing such a procedure, and the likelihood of complications occurring based on the research available and our clinical experience. We want our clients to have a realistic understanding of their pet’s disease process, diagnostic and treatment options, and what risks might be involved in order to make the best decision for their pet and their family.
When evaluating risk for my surgical patients, I tend to look at complications based broadly on a few categories.
(1) Anesthetic complications:
While we use safe anesthetic practices and tailor each patient’s anesthetic plan individually, any patient undergoing general anesthesia (or even heavy sedation) is at risk for potential complications. Most complications associated with general anesthesia are mild and easily managed (i.e. decreases in respiratory rate, decreases in body temperature, decreases in blood pressure). However, with any anesthetic event, more serious complications (up to and including death) can occur. The reported peri-anesthetic mortality rate in dogs and cats is pretty low (0.1-2%) but a patient’s individual anesthetic risk is dependent on their overall health status (i.e. do they have concurrent disease, are they systemically ill), why they are undergoing anesthesia (i.e. is this an elective or emergency procedure), and how they as an individual handle and process their anesthetic drugs.
Anesthetic complications can occur at any point in time starting with sedation/premedication, at induction of general anesthesia, during maintenance of anesthesia, and within 24 hours after recovery of anesthesia. Late onset effects of anesthesia such as airway irritation, aspiration pneumonia, or esophageal stricture can also occur.
To maintain individuals under anesthesia safely, it is important that patients undergoing general anesthesia are closely monitored during and after their anesthetic event and recovery. For that reason, animals undergoing anesthesia at Sunstone are under the direct care of a certified veterinary technician whose primary job is anesthesia monitoring. Almost all patients having surgery at Sunstone will spend the night after their procedures in hospital under the care and supervision of an experienced, certified veterinary technician.
If a patient is deemed to be at significant risk for anesthetic complications, we might recommend bringing a board certified anesthesiologist in to work with us in managing the anesthesia aspects of the case.
(2) Surgical complications:
Any time an animal or individual has surgery, there is the potential for complications with the procedure. These can typically be broken down into surgical complications, early post-surgical complications, or late post-surgical complications.
With every surgery comes the risk of bleeding, focal tissue trauma, nerve trauma, or complications associated with the specific procedure. The type of procedure and exact body region will influence the likelihood of certain complications. Having surgery performed by someone who is knowledgeable, trained, and experienced in the specific procedure your pet is having can decrease surgical risks.
(3) Post-surgical complications:
Complications that occur within two weeks of surgery are considered early post-surgical complications and are often related to the incision, such as infection, seroma formation (fluid accumulation under the incision), dehiscence (separation of the incision / failure of the incision to heal). However, early complications may also be more serious or require additional intervention, such as post-operative bleeding or early implant failure / fracture after orthopedic surgery.
Most early complications following routine, elective procedures can be avoided with appropriate post-operative care and monitoring; thankfully, most complications are mild and easily managed. However, the nature of complications is that even if we and our clients do everything right with their pet’s procedure and post-op care, complications may still occur. And unfortunately, some complications can be more severe.
Late surgical complications are problems that arise multiple weeks, months, or sometimes years, following a surgical procedure. The types of complications which can occur later include delayed healing, implant complications, or late surgical site infection.
At the end of the day, my expectation in talking with clients about the potential for surgical complications is not to scare them away from choosing to pursue treatment, but instead to educate and prepare them for what could happen, should complications occur. I always tell my clients if I don’t feel we can anesthetize a pet or perform a procedure safely, then I would not recommend it. Additionally, my desired outcome with any surgical procedure is to ‘first, do no harm’ and ideally to improve some aspect of that animal’s life. Whether the goal of surgery is to provide a diagnosis, resolve a problem, or to relieve pain, I strive to provide a realistic assessment to my clients about whether or not surgery will benefit their animal and what risks may be involved. This way, we can work as a team to come up with the best plan for everyone involved.