PE Or Not PE? It’s Not Even a Question!

Every day, we get calls from loving pet owners wanting to have their rabbit, guinea pig, rat, or other pet spayed or neutered. We tell every one that we HIGHLY recommend every pet be given a physical exam prior to surgery. They always ask why.

Surgery involves anesthesia. Anesthesia carries risk. Patients who have underlying illness or other conditions may not breathe well under anesthesia, may have rapid drops in blood pressure, or may face other intrasurgical complications. Patients with undiagnosed health conditions may require CPR and other medical intervention to save their lives, which incurs unanticipated fees for the owner. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, these lifesaving measures fail, and a beloved pet is lost. A simple physical examination of the pet prior to surgery can make all the difference.

A human doctor would never perform surgery on a patient who has not been previously examined, had blood drawn and analyzed, and possibly even had x-rays and other presurgical diagnostics. Our pets are no different, and in fact are more vulnerable because they are so skilled at hiding illness and weakness, and rather than complain as humans do when we don’t feel well, they stoically behave as if they are fine for as long as they can. As your pet’s caretaker, it is your responsibility to make sure you are doing everything possible to ensure your pet’s the health and longevity, and a presurgical exam is definitely part of the best medicine.

This young guinea pig had his presurgical physical exam and neuter today and is recovering well!

During the physical exam, the doctor will check your pet’s respiration, heart rate, temperature, body condition, and other factors that can reveal underlying conditions. This will enable the doctor to determine that your pet is healthy enough to undergo the surgical procedure. Simply because your pet appears healthy does not guarantee there is nothing lurking under the surface. For example, 80% or more of apparently healthy lop-eared rabbits presented for wellness exams have preexisting middle and inner ear infections, which can increase surgical risk.

Presurgical bloodwork is another highly recommended diagnostic for patients facing surgery, as it reveals the function of the internal organs. A patient with dysfunctional kidneys or liver may not yet be showing signs, but may not do well under anesthesia. Diagnostics show us things we cannot see with our eyes and are incredibly valuable in guiding our patient care. Without them, we are flying blind and hoping for the best. We want to provide you and your pet the best care, the safest procedures, and the most comfortable and stress-free recovery. As the owner, you dictate what you want for your pet. We are here to serve you, and we will always advocate for your pet’s well-being.

Ideally and with few exceptions, we want every pet to be spayed or neutered and we do not force owners to perform a physical exam, though if the pet is obviously ill on admission we will not be able to perform the surgical procedure and instead call the owner to recommend the appropriate diagnostics and treatments. What would have been the surgical fees become the exam, diagnostic, treatment, and medication fees, and surgery must be rescheduled. A physical exam and bloodwork scheduled prior to surgery (it can be done the same morning to avoid repeated trips to the vet) eliminates the mystery and provides the comfort of knowing you have done the best for your pet.


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