vet tech
| |

Medicine Versus Mom: When Dogs Undergo Surgery

vet tech
Rachel Marie Sheppard, left, and Carol Bryant, right

What exactly happens when dogs undergo surgery?  Is my dog okay? Does he miss me? Is he being monitored?  These are the things that run through my mind when I’m trying to fall asleep. Taking your dog to the veterinarian and leaving without him or her is one of the lowest, emptiest feelings a dog parent experiences. If your dog has ever needed surgery, teeth cleaning, or any other type of under-anesthesia procedure, leaving your dog at the veterinarian for a day (or more) will happen to most pet parents at some point.

But it plain sucks not to know what happened, the things your dog experienced, and if everyone your dog encountered was kind to the dog. I am not alone in this thought process: When I informally polled Fidose of Reality fans across social media earlier this year, “what really happens when I drop my dog off at the vet” was a major concern for over 40 percent of you.

Going Behind the Front Desk

While each veterinary practice and facility differs, what happens at a typical veterinary practice when a dog is dropped off kept nagging at me.

Enter Rachel Marie Sheppard. Rachel is a fellow pet blogger, and is the founder of My Kid Has Paws. She is the proud dog mom to Rooney and is a smart cookie: She has three years of veterinary technician experience and is currently pursuing her MBA in Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.

At a conference for Women in the Pet Industry this summer, Rachel and I connected with an idea: Medicine Versus Mom. Every few weeks, we’ll be focusing on a topic and presenting it from a veterinary “medicine” perspective with Rachel and the perspective from the dog mom, courtesy yours truly.

dog ACL brace
Dexter at a vet visit appointment for his ACL injury.

A Typical Drop Off Day

If your dog is having same-day surgery or a procedure, chances are, this is how your day goes:

  • Evening before surgery: Extra hugs, kisses, and snuggling with your dog because the big day is coming up.
  • Midnight: Remove any food, treats, bones, etc from the floor since no food is allowed after midnight
  • Morning Of Surgery: Try your best to ignore Fido’s pleading eyes as he reminds you with extended stares that breakfast should be served.
  • Drop Off: Depending on what type of procedure your dog is undergoing, you may or may not see the surgeon before handing your dog off. Whether or not you see the surgeon before the drop off, it is in your best interest and that of your dog to have ALL questions you have answered before walking out of the facility. Never walk away wondering what’s going to happen and what the procedure entails. There is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to your dog’s health.

During every surgery any dog in my life has undergone, my spouse and I have waited at the vet’s office in the waiting room: From spay surgery with my first Cocker Spaniel back in 1994 to the latest surgery, repair of a rupture cruciate ligament in my dog’s knee.


For Vets and Vet Techs

It is one of the most harrowing feelings a pet parent experiences when we hand our babies over to you and have no clue what they are going through. Dogs cannot talk and we worry. We are either in the waiting room, or in most cases, at work or home and waiting for the phone to ring.

We want to call, and in fact, some of us probably do call and ask how things are going. We know you are busy and we know you have a lot of clients to help, so we ask you forgive us if we seem like we are pestering you.

Pet parents reading this: Respect that the professionals need to do their job and have many pets they are caring for, so avoid calling repeatedly.

We go beyond the front desk at the vet’s office.

What Really Happens

The way this dog mom of over 20 years understands it, this is what happens on surgery day:

A vet tech or the vet will do a physical exam and any additional tests will be performed. If everything appears normal on the tests, the process will continue.

Most times, a pet will be given a sedative to relax prior to surgery. For Dexter’s ACL surgery, we stayed with him in the waiting room while the sedative took hold. We felt better about being with him and not having him in a kennel. Some practices are not fond of this, but discuss your individual preferences with the veterinarian.

Question: What kind of dog parent are you when it comes to leaving your dog at the veterinarian without you?

For a blow-by-blow of what takes place next, Rachel Sheppard will take it from here, so jump over to My Kid Has Paws.

The next episode of “Medicine Versus Mom” will be live on November 3rd. We’ll be tackling a variety of topics, all designed to help Fidose of Reality readers make better, more well informed decisions for their dogs.

Similar Posts


  1. Before the procedure, I’m nervous, but I try not to telegraph it to my dog (or cat). While they’re gone, I’m a nervous nellie, waiting for the call to say he or she’s ok. I think that’s the worst part. I know sometimes things can go awfully wrong while anyone–animal or human–is under anesthesia. And once I pick them up from the vet, it’s all about my baby and what I can do to help him or her recover.

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.

  2. I love this idea that the two of you had – brilliant! It’s so weird being on the “dog mom” end of things after just taking my dog to work with me for 5 years. I already know what’s going on from experience, but I’m not actually there so it’s just weird now.

  3. We had been lucky in our first 3 years of dog ownership and had only had to drop our pups off at the vet’s for their respective spaying & neutering surgeries UNTIL the other day when our girl Missy needed to stay for the day to have an ultrasound & CT scan done. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last week, and needed to be seen by an oncologist this week to rule out any metastases. Thankfully, the tumor hasn’t spread and we will now be able to schedule her surgery to have the tumor removed.

    I made sure to stick as closely to our morning routine the day of the CT scans, and took both pups for their morning walk, then had them play in the backyard for a little while. I delayed breakfast a bit as my plan was to feed our boy Buzz when Missy & I walked into the garage to take off. Although I did my best to stay as calm as possible, I couldn’t help experiencing a slight feeling of guilt when Missy looked at me with her big brown eyes, wondering where her breakfast was…I was incredibly relieved when Dr. Ruslander called in the afternoon to let me know that everything went well, and that Missy could be picked up in a few hours.

    My husband Ian & I will probably both be fairly nervous when our little girl will have to stay the night at the vet specialty hospital after her tumor removal surgery. I would give a lot to be a fly on the wall that night!!

  4. My golden just came home from acl tear surgery. My biggest fear is that i am overlooking something. It looks so sore. It was good to read your info

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.