Un­der the knife

From hunt­ing dogs to fer­rets, sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures are likely to oc­cur ei­ther through ac­ci­dent or ne­ces­sity. Ve­teri­nar­ian Dr Karen Davies says even rou­tine surgery can be stress­ful for own­ers and their an­i­mals but ex­cept in rare cases there is lit­tle to wo

Field and Game - - VET ADVIICE - With Dr Karen Davies Karen can be con­sulted at Di­rect Vet Ser­vices, 8/22–30 Wal­lace Ave, Point Cook, VIC; Email: di­rectvet­ser­vices@big­pond.com or Tel: (03) 9369 1822.

With hunt­ing dogs the most com­mon things we see are de­sex­ing surg­eries and in­juries.

With some of your older dogs it may be that we need to take x-rays chas­ing arthri­tis or den­tal is­sues but that is gen­er­ally not un­til af­ter a dog has fin­ished its work­ing life.

With a rou­tine de­sex­ing, we will do a health check prior to op­er­at­ing to make sure the an­i­mal is fit and well enough for surgery. We might ask you to con­sider run­ning a ba­sic blood panel to make sure the an­i­mal’s kid­neys and liver are func­tion­ing nor­mally to en­sure they can metabolise the anaes­thetic and wake up well from it.

Some­times we do find lit­tle red her­rings but that doesn’t mean we can’t per­form the pro­ce­dure, it might be as sim­ple as chang­ing the anaes­thetic choice.

As­sum­ing ev­ery­thing is well on the gen­eral health check, we like the an­i­mals to be as clean as pos­si­ble be­cause we don’t want to make an in­ci­sion through the skin, par­tic­u­larly with bitch spays into the ab­domen, if there is a risk of in­fec­tion.

We can scrub the gen­eral area but it is bet­ter for us and for the pa­tient if the an­i­mal comes in prop­erly cleaned.

An­i­mals need to be fasted to re­duce the risk of vom­it­ing and re­gur­gi­ta­tion while ei­ther un­der the anaes­thetic or at the time of wak­ing up from the anaes­thetic. If they vomit up food, there is a risk of chok­ing and some­times they can ac­tu­ally in­hale, which can lead to pneu­mo­nia.

Don’t think that be­cause the an­i­mal needs to go in with an empty stom­ach you need to give them a big feed the night be­fore; this causes a de­lay in the di­ges­tive process and they will still have a belly full of food in the morn­ing.

Nor­mal food 12 hours be­fore and wa­ter up un­til they come in is fine.

De­sex­ing is a com­mon and rou­tine pro­ce­dure; you can opt for a hor­mone im­plant, how­ever, they come with their own is­sues.

There is an im­plant for male dogs that in­vokes steril­ity for 12 months but the cost of the im­plant is gen­er­ally around the same cost as the sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure, which ob­vi­ously pro­vides life­long steril­ity.

If a hunter wants to use the dog at stud in the fu­ture but wants its mind on the job in the in­terim, then an im­plant is an op­tion.

We can use hor­mones to chem­i­cally ster­ilise a range of an­i­mals, in­clud­ing fer­rets.

Re­cov­ery is dif­fer­ent for an­i­mals. Af­ter surgery peo­ple are con­fined and im­mo­bilised for at least the first few days but a dog will wake from surgery and im­me­di­ately want to sit, stand and move about, plac­ing pres­sure on the wound site.

It is im­por­tant to try to keep an­i­mals quiet to al­low the wound to heal with­out the risk of sep­a­ra­tion. We can do our best to tell them not to pull the su­tures out but they don’t un­der­stand that lan­guage so we have to in­ter­vene to make sure they can’t trau­ma­tise the wound. That is why we use El­iz­a­bethan col­lars or jack­ets or what­ever is nec­es­sary to keep it safe.

For more com­pli­cated pro­ce­dures like lig­a­ment re­pair or a frac­ture, it might be sev­eral weeks that you have to keep the pa­tient quiet — your vet will pro­vide strate­gies to achieve that.

On the in­jury front, mi­nor lac­er­a­tions can be treated with a sur­gi­cal an­ti­sep­tic, then sta­pled or sur­gi­cally glued to­gether but nei­ther is as sta­ble as su­tur­ing. If you carry a sur­gi­cal sta­pler in your med­i­cal kit, you can clean and sta­bilise the wound in the field be­fore seek­ing ve­teri­nary treat­ment.

Even rou­tine pro­ce­dures are not with­out risk. Anaes­thetic is a risk at any time and that ap­plies across the species, but it can be man­aged so long as we iden­tify any un­der­ly­ing health is­sues.

The com­pli­ca­tions you have are usu­ally when you don’t know of an un­der­ly­ing prob­lem and it catches you by sur­prise. It is ex­tremely rare; if an­i­mals came in with a neon sign over their head so we could iden­tify them that would be great but they don’t. Vets will al­ways do their best but they are not gods.

We all carry drugs to kick-start the sys­tems again if some­thing does go wrong.

Surgery of any kind comes at a cost but pet in­sur­ance is still a bit of a mine­field. Es­sen­tially, there are only two un­der­writ­ers: Lloyds of Lon­don for all the pet plan poli­cies, which are like your car in­sur­ance, they have a ba­sic ex­cess and then they will pay out the bal­ance of any claim.

Hol­lard In­sur­ance un­der­writes the rest of the poli­cies, which are what I term a shared care pol­icy (sim­i­lar to health in­sur­ance) where there is a fixed per­cent­age of the pro­ce­dure cov­ered and the in­surer pays the bal­ance.

It re­ally is im­por­tant to do your re­search. Even the com­par­i­son web­sites can be dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate be­cause of the range of poli­cies like ac­ci­dent only, ac­ci­dent and ill­ness and pre­mium cov­er­age.

Ve­teri­nar­ian Dr Karen Davies owns and uses hunt­ing dogs and has broad­ened her ex­per­tise to in­clude an­i­mal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, an­i­mal phys­io­ther­apy and an­i­mal hy­drother­apy ser­vices. Read­ers of Field & Game Mag­a­zine can draw on her ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise by sub­mit­ting ques­tions to ed­i­tor@fiel­dandgame.com.au

Dr Karen Davies

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