Just as we do in human hospitals, requiring pre-surgical bloodwork is an attempt to find subclinical problems before they cause problems during surgery. In pets, a pre-anesthetic blood screen usually looks at blood glucose, and a few tests to evaluate liver and kidney function. Well-functioning liver and kidneys are needed to remove the by-products of anesthesia from the body. Another test, that only some veterinary offices perform before surgery, evaluates clotting times – if your pet cannot clot its blood during surgery, it may bleed to death. This is an exceptionally uncommon risk during surgery, unless your dog is a Doberman, or a few other breeds, or ate rat poison 2 weeks ago.
So, if you do not do bloodwork before surgery and there is a sub-clinical liver, kidney or clotting problem, you will not know, and there may be problems. These problems can range from having a hard time recovering from anesthesia to not waking up at all. However, just as they have discovered in human hospitals, bloodwork is not definitive for possible problems – the bloodwork can be completely normal but there can still be surgical complications. Conducting pre-anesthetic bloodwork helps reassure us surgery is more likely to be safe, but it’s not a free ticket.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com