Pre- and Post-Operative Care

Exploratory Laparotomy Surgery

Black lab

What will the vet do if my pet ate something bad?

Learning that your pet needs surgery can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are unsure of what the procedure entails. At Anicira, we work with pet parents to ensure that you are well informed before your pet’s surgery. Our veterinary team provides compassionate care before, during, and after surgery to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable.

What is Exploratory Surgery? Why does my pet need it?

Exploratory surgery is performed to examine the organs within the abdomen. It is most commonly done to remove foreign materials from the stomach or intestines. When a pet ingests a substance or item that they cannot digest, it can become stuck making it difficult or impossible to eat or digest food. This is an emergency lifesaving procedure.

Signs that your pet may have ingested a foreign body include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Your veterinary team will perform bloodwork and radiographs to rule out other possible causes and to see if the foreign object is detectable.

What if the surgeon does not locate a foreign body?

There is a possibility that the surgeon will not find a foreign body during surgery. If this occurs, the veterinary team will explore other options to treat your pet’s symptoms.

Pre-Surgical Instructions for dogs and cats

Admission Time – Bring your pet to Anicira at 7 am.
Pre-surgical exam – Your pet must be in good health and show no signs of sickness such as coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, or diarrhea.
Medical records – Please bring proof of rabies vaccination if this has not already been provided. If your cat or dog has not been previously vaccinated or lacks proof of vaccination, we will administer a rabies vaccine on the day of surgery.  If you have not already sent your medical records, please bring all relevant medical records.

Feeding Instructions
Adult Dogs over 1 year Withhold food for all adult dogs after midnight the evening before surgery. Please ensure water is available at all times.
Adult Cats under 1 year Adult cats can have food without restriction of amount up until 6am the morning of surgery. Please ensure water is available at all times.
Puppies and Kittens under 1 year Feed a small meal (¼ of their typical breakfast) to all puppies and kittens on the morning of surgery. Please ensure water is available at all times.

Does my pet need exploratory surgery?

Before surgery, our veterinary team will perform a thorough pre-surgical examination to ensure that your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia. It is strongly recommended and may be required depending on the circumstances that your pet receives pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that no health concerns go undetected.

The surgical team will prepare the surgical site by shaving then cleaning the area to remove bacteria and decrease the chance of potential infection.

The veterinarian will make an incision in your pet’s abdomen, perform a complete evaluation of all abominable organs including the stomach and intestines. After issues have been identified the veterinarian will remove foreign material and/or take biopsies of abnormal tissue.

If your pet has ingested foreign material the veterinarian will have to remove the material by cutting into the stomach or intestines. Sometimes if the ingested material has damaged the intestines during transit the veterinarian may have to remove a portion of the intestines. If a section of the intestines is removed there is a greater chance of dehiscence of the surgery site which could lead to leaking of intestinal contents, peritonitis, and possibly a second surgery.

Caring for Your Pet After Exploratory Surgery

Anesthesia takes 24 to 48 hours to wear off.

  • Your pet will be groggy during this time period.
  • Keep your pet confined in a secure, quiet, and comfortable space. We recommend a crate or a small room.
  • Isolate them from other pets and children during this time

Make sure your pet wears their Elizabethan Collar (E Collar / Cone)

  • Your pet’s surgical site will take 10 to 14 days to heal. During this period, they should wear an e collar at all times.
  • Allowing your pet to lick their incision can lead to infection and scarring.

Post-surgical feeding

  • Offer ½ of their usual amount of food the evening after surgery
  • Canned food or moistened kibble is recommended for the first 5-7 days after surgery
  • If your pet is not interested in commercial diets within 24 hours of surgery, please offer a bland diet of 75% cooked white rice and 25% lean protein (chicken breast or lean hamburger meat). Other foods to help regain appetite may include meat baby food (ham or turkey is popular), canned chicken (found in grocery stores by canned tuna), or scrambled eggs (avoid butter or any seasoning).
  • For the first week please divide the daily amount of food into 3-4 meals spaced throughout the day.
  • If your pet is doing well after 5-7 days you may gradually transition back to your normal feeding routine.

Bowel movements

  • It is common for pets to have diarrhea after an intestinal obstruction is removed. This will resolve on its own, but you may try adding cooked white rice to your pets food and/or adding a probiotic supplement.
  • It may take up to 48 hours to see stool after surgery depending on how long your pet has been ill. Please monitor bowel movements and ensure that your pet passes stool at least once a day and that the color and consistency is continually improving.

For the first 24 hours, offer water in small increments to help prevent vomiting

Give all medications as directed

  • Your pet is being sent home with oral pain medication. Please follow the instructions on the label.
    If possible, please give the pain medication with food. If your pet has no appetite please ensure that they still take the pain medication.
  • OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil are toxic to pets. Please do not give these to your pet.

Check the incision daily for the first week for signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or excessive pain or heat.

  • Your pet’s surgical site will be healing for 10-14 days.
  • What you see on the day of surgery is what we consider normal
  • There may be moderate bruising.
  • If your pet is trying to scratch at the incision with back feet your may need to have your pet wear a cotton t-shirt or bodysuit to prevent self-trauma of the surgery site.

Limit your pet’s activity and keep them clean, dry, and warm for 10 days after surgery.

  • Keep your pet away from all potential hazards (including stairs) when unsupervised.
  • Pets should be kept indoors so they can stay clean, dry, and warm.
  • No running, jumping, playing, swimming, or other strenuous activity.
  • Do not bathe your pet or have it groomed during the recovery period.
  • Dogs should be walked on a leash during the entire recovery period. Absolutely no off-leash activity outside to prevent the possibility of sudden movements that may damage either the external or internal incisions.

How effective is exploratory surgery?

Foreign body removal surgery is a highly effective lifesaving procedure. However, all procedures come with risks. There is an increased risk for a negative outcome if a pet has previously undergone a foreign body removal surgery and the risk increases the longer the obstruction is in place.

Rare, but serious surgical complications

  • Intestinal dehiscence (breakdown of internal incisions)
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to the stomach, bowels, or other organs

Please contact Anicira, your primary care veterinarian, or an emergency clinic if any of the following occur:

  • No urine passed for more than 24 hours
  • Pale gums
  • Severe pain, depression or weakness
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy lasting more than 24 hours
  • Abdominal pain and swelling