"Mommy, Daddy, Don't take Max to the CheapoVet?"
Did You Know That the Death Rate is 12 Times Higher for Pet
Surgery Compared to Humans? But Many Veterinary Hospitals Are As Safe As Human
The 4 Veterinary Secrets That You Need To Know Before Your
Pet Has Surgery
According to a study published in the Journal of the
American Veterinary Medical Association in 2008, the estimated risk of
anesthetic-related mortality in dogs was 12 times greater than in humans, but
when anesthesia was done in the same manner as in humans the risk was the same.
Surgery for your pet is more risky than surgery for people, but it does not
have to be that way. Studies done at multiple veterinary schools show that when
veterinarians use the same techniques and protocols as used in humans - the
risks for surgery are reduced to same level or even below human hospitals. As a
pet owner you need to know about the most significant surgical risks to your pet.
When comparing one hospital with another you need the facts to make an informed
1. Type and Method of Anesthesia used by the Veterinarian
makes all the difference in your pet’s safety during surgery
There are many very
different drugs and methods of anesthesia used by veterinarians. The safety and
the cost of these drugs vary greatly. You may wonder why a veterinarian would
choose anything other than the safest technique.
Anesthesia for an ovariohysterectomy (spay) can cost a
veterinarian from $5.00 for cheap injectable anesthetics with no monitoring to
over $220.00 for inhalant anesthesia monitored with EKG, blood pressure, pulse
oximeter, computers that breath for your pet during the anesthesia, and highly
trained anesthesia technicians. That is why low cost providers are so profitable.
In today’s current economy, a veterinarian who does low
quality, high risk anesthesia can actually charge ½ the fee that a veterinarian
doing high quality, safe, low risk anesthesia surgery can charge. On top of
that, the veterinarian offering the less expensive high risk anesthesia can
earn twice as much money from a surgery such as an ovariohysterectomy (spay) or
neuter. Low cost surgery is much more profitable for veterinarians.
Mistakenly, most discount providers do not
explain the shortcuts that they take – using inexpensive but high risk
injectable anesthetics, little to no monitoring, poorly trained low wage staff,
using the same instrument pack for multiple patients, not autoclaving
instrument packs, using discount suture.
Discount low cost providers provide a great
service in providing a low cost alternative for families that have financial
difficulties. At the same time low cost surgical centers reward veterinarians
with a much higher profit. But, rarely do these facilities explain to clients
the shortcuts that they are taking, the lower standards of care and the higher
risk for anesthetic death and infection for the dogs and cats. Like many things
in life you get what you pay for.
A Safer Way
The only way to reduce a pet’s anesthesia risk to the same
or lower than people is to use the same techniques and equipment used by human
anesthesiologists. That is why veterinarians whose primary concern is about
their patient’s safety purchase such expensive anesthetic equipment and use
more expensive anesthetic drugs.
The first step is preanesthetic blood screening and exam to
determine if your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia and if they have any
conditions or problems that could affect anesthesia.
Then an intravenous catheter is placed in the vein with
sterile technique. Then the pet receives pre-anesthetic drugs that reduce
anxiety along with pain medications. Pain medications before surgery are much
more effective than pain medications after surgery.
Then a short acting anesthetic is given so that a tracheal
tube can be placed. This tube prevents aspiration pneumonia and provides a safe
and effective path for oxygen and gas anesthesia.
High tech veterinary anesthesia utilizes very safe gas
anesthetics balanced with intravenous medications such as morphine, lidocaine
and ketamine. Veterinarians providing state of the art safe anesthesia always
give intravenous fluids during surgery.
The pet is monitored with a pulse oximeter, EKG, blood
pressure monitor, body temperature, breathing rate, and attached to a computer
that gives a specific amount of oxygen and anesthetic by body weight
algorithms. In this way the pet’s lungs are safely fully inflated during
surgery reducing anesthetic hypoxia.
Not only is the type of anesthesia critical for the safety
of your pet, but also the skill and level of training of the veterinarian and
anesthesia technician determines the safety of your pet’s procedure.
The type of anesthetic drugs, the surgical equipment, and
level of training of the technicians and veterinarian determines the safety of
your pet’s surgery more than any other factor.
2. Cellular Hypoxia During Anesthesia is what usually what
causes death during anesthesia.
The number one cause
of complications leading to death for a pet is cellular hypoxia. This happens
when cells are starved of oxygen. When the cells of the heart are starved
cardiac complications occur.
Oxygen is transferred to the blood stream through the lungs.
Then the heart is responsible for pumping the oxygenated blood to the cells.
During anesthesia, pets do not expand their lungs and breathe in as much air as
when awake. This combined with lower cardiac output can lead to dangerous
Cellular hypoxia varies greatly with different anesthetic
drugs and anesthetic protocols. Less expensive drugs and techniques greatly
increase the risk of fatal cellular hypoxia. To prevent cellular hypoxia
anesthetized patients need positive ventilation that expands the lungs to get
more oxygen into the body. Close monitoring of both the heart and body oxygen
levels. This requires special anesthesia equipment and highly trained
3. The Importance of Sterility and Quality of Surgical
Equipment and Sutures.
in surgery can come from improperly sterilized surgical instruments. There is
only one acceptable method of sterilizing – extreme heat and pressure created
by an autoclave that kills all bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Quality veterinary
hospitals use a single pack of autoclaved instruments for each surgery, just
like in human hospitals. A common practice in discount veterinary hospitals is
to use one surgical pack for many patients to reduce costs resulting in cross
patient contamination of bacteria and viruses.
A lower and less sanitary option of cleaning is immersion in
a cleaning solution and using the same surgical pack on multiple patients.
Since the late 1800’s, we have known poor sterilization results in sepsis and
the spread of disease.
Also surgical instruments vary greatly in quality. Poor
quality surgical instruments have poor tissue handling resulting in more trauma
and higher complications. Quality veterinary practices purchase expensive instruments, low cost providers purchase low quality cheap instruments made
The most common cause of fatal hemorrhage is poor surgical
technique, often from using inexpensive and inferior instruments and cheap
suture that has poor tissue handling capabilities. Discount providers often purchase second rate products in rolls, just like fishing line.
Rolls do not remain sterile as they become used and frequent handling can
weaken substandard sutures. Quality suture is sold in individual, sterile packs
with an individual needle.
At quality veterinary clinics all routine
surgeries are done with an individual autoclaved surgical pack. The surgeon
wears a sterile surgical gown, cap and gloves exactly like in human hospitals.
4. Your Pet’s Safety Depends On The Surgical Training of
Veterinarians and Staff and This Varies Greatly From One Hospital to Another.
In human medicine
doctors are required to do advance training after medical surgery before doing
surgery in hospitals. In veterinary medicine, no such training is required.
That is why there is such a wide range of surgical abilities and training in
veterinarians as compared with human surgeons.
It is up to each veterinarian to get advanced surgical
training and develop their surgical skill after veterinary school. The skills
of veterinarians vary widely from extremely unskilled to high levels of
mastery. Surgical fees reflect the additional costs of advanced training and
continuing education of veterinarian’s that are highly skilled. Veterinarians
are very aware of their personal level of proficiency and charge according to
their surgical expertise.
The skills of the veterinary technician and anesthetist in
assisting the doctor before, during, and after the surgery are critical in your
pet’s surgery and recovery.
In a quality veterinary practice before one is allowed to assist in surgery, a vet tech needs
to show the ability to follow doctor instruction and also the aptitude to think
ahead and anticipate circumstances, as well as adapt to fast changing
conditions. They become the connection between the doctor, pet, and machines as
the surgery progresses. After surgery, nurses lovingly care for your pet and
vigilantly watch for changes in your pet’s condition, alerting the doctor if
anything seems unusual.
Now that you know the risks how do you know your
pet is receiving the care you expect? Ask to watch the procedure. Hospitals
that take pride in providing care are happy to have you watch your pet’s