Understanding Pre-Op Testing for Pets

A common question that arises is what are the pre-op tests that are recommended for pets and why does my pet need them? Understand pre-op testing for pets is a key part of scheduling any surgical procedure, including pet dentals, as they include anesthesia. We’re here to help answer these questions so you can understand why your veterinarian is recommending them and what information they can tell you before your pet goes under for surgery that can pose risks for your pet. 

Common Pre-op Blood Testing for Pets

Common pre-surgery testing includes routine bloodwork such as a CBC (complete blood count) as well as checking a chem panel (blood chemistry panel). These tests can help detect any underlying issues your dog or cat may have that may not yet be apparent via outward symptoms. Anemia, kidney or liver issues, and other such health concerns can be detected via blood work often before any symptoms are even present in your pet. 

This is helpful as a pet with kidney or liver issues, or with anemia, may not be a good candidate for surgery, or may need a different type of anesthesia or pre-surgical medication. Without getting this blood work done in advance, you and your veterinarian would have no way of knowing about any underlying issues which could pose risks for your dog or get during their procedure.

Other tests that may be done for cats could include a SNAP Feline Triple Test test for Feline Leukemia (FeLV),  FIV, and feline heartworm infection. For dogs, the SNAP 4Dx Plus Test checks for heartworm disease, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and anaplasmosis – all serious diseases that may indicate challenges for your pet under anesthesia or during and after surgery. 

safe anesthesia for pet surgery

We use the safest anesthesia for pets that is available today, but pre-op testing for pets can give us even more information before the surgery even starts.


When Does My Pet Need Pre-Op Testing?

The good news is that all of these above tests can be done in house here at the Animal Hospital of Sussex County which means that we can do your pre-op testing same day if needed. Though please note we always recommend a full pre-op appointment before scheduling your pet’s surgery to be safe. 

Whenever possible it’s always best to schedule a full pre-operative examination and testing for your pet. This will allow us to check your pet’s weight against any past records and see if anything is amiss. We examine your pet’s physical health, listen to their heart and breathing, and make sure that everything is as expected. We can also do the blood work in house at that time, and have results quickly so that if there are any issues that arise, we can address them before you’ve scheduled surgery for your cat or dog. 

While pre-op testing for pets is not required, it’s strongly recommended as without it, any number of issues can arise that become critical if they occur while the pet is under anesthesia during their surgical procedure. We use the safest anesthesia available for your pet and have state of the art monitors connected at all times so that both the veterinarian working on your dog or cat, as well as the vet techs assisting the vet are all able to keep a close eye on all of their vitals. However, undetected issues can arise, and pre-op testing including blood work is key in finding information in advance, and making any of the necessary adjustments for your pet’s safety!

the importance of pre-op testing for pets

Dr. Spinks performs a CCL tightrope surgery on a dog while techs assist and monitor the pet’s vitals.

veterinary vital monitors for your pet during surgery

Tools such as this one allow the team to closely monitor your pet’s vitals during any procedure requiring anesthesia.


What Does My Pet Need Before Getting A Dental?

What about dentals for pets? Is pre-op testing needed there? The answer here is also, yes. That is because dental procedures in pets – even cleanings – are considered a form of surgery since your pet needs to be anesthetized for the cleaning. By doing this, the veterinarian is able to thoroughly clean your pet’s teeth, as well as check for any issues such as broken, damaged, or rotted teeth, and address them while the pet is already under. 

Because of this, we recommend both pre-op blood work along with dental x-rays. In this one example (pictured below), the dog’s teeth looked normal upon physical examination. However the dental radiographs showed a completely different picture. One tooth was rotted with no crown and the dead root was just going nowhere into the jaw. Had this not been caught via dental x-rays, the dog would have recovered from her standard pet dental and sent home with a future problem brewing. That future problem could have turned out to be a dental abscess, or even worse. Damaged teeth are an open path for infection that can spread far beyond just the mouth of the dog or cat and eventually lead to much more severe systemic issues.

dental x-rays are important for pets

The damaged tooth is not apparent on visual examination without a dental x-ray for this dog.

dental x-rays for pets

Upon reviewing the dental x-ray for this pet, it became apparent that there was an issue with a tooth just below the surface that could have lead to serious issues later on.


The Importance of Pre-Op Testing and Dental X-Rays

Overall you can see why it’s important to have a pre-operative examination, including pre-op testing and especially dental x-rays for any surgical procedure. While there may be a slightly larger cost to have this done before your pet’s scheduled surgery or dental, the cost-savings in avoiding major issues after the fact – not to mention the benefit to your pet’s health – makes it well worth the investment. 

Whenever you’re considering a surgical procedure or dental for your pet, we encourage you to look beyond just the price tag and any specials the veterinarian may offer to ensure you’re getting the full service you and your pet deserves. That’s why even when we have specials on surgeries such as dentals, or spay or neuter procedures, we still encourage all of our customers to have pre-op testing done for the safety and peace of mind it offers. 

We know your pets are family and that’s why we treat them like they are our family, too. If you have any questions on what your specific pet needs, please contact us and we’re happy to help answer your questions and schedule your appointment today! 



Our Certifications

AAHA: The Animal Hospital of Sussex County is a certified hospital in the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). To achieve this distinction, our hospital has passed regular comprehensive inspections of our facilities, medical equipment, veterinary practice methods and management. If you are traveling or relocating anywhere, finding an AAHA hospital will ensure the best medical care for your pet. The AAHA is recognized as the world’s leading association of small animal practitioners.

AAFP: We are also a cat friendly practice, certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners. This means that the Animal Hospital of Sussex County is specifically set up to decrease stress and provide a more calming environment for your cat. Our staff has also been trained in feline-friendly handling and understanding cat behavior in order to increase the quality of care for your cat.

Call Us Text Us
Skip to content