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Answers from vets about your pet:

Questions To Ask Before Your Pet's Surgery

Posted December 22, 2014 in Dog Surgery A-Z

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Chris Longenecker, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Reading, PA, contributed to this article.

It is always surprising to me that some clients are not sure of their pet’s diagnosis, or what risks are involved. This is critical, and you should make sure you understand your pet’s condition so you can be better informed and prepared.  Here are 5 questions to guide your discussion with your family vet or surgeon.

1. What is my pet’s specific diagnosis?

Always ask your family vet or your surgeon for the exact name and spelling of the diagnosis. It is not always easy to understand or remember, so get it in writing. Seriously, who can remember (and spell) “Legg-Perthes disease” (a condition of the hip) or “hepatic microvascular dysplasia” (a liver condition)? If a biopsy has been performed, ask for a copy of the pathologist’s report. 

Now, in some cases, we have to be humble and acknowledge that we are simply not sure about the diagnosis.  That’s OK as long as you understand the possibilities - good or bad. When thereareseveral possibilities, ask your vet to write them down (legibly).

2. What are the treatment options?

It is important that you understand all of your options when it comes to your pet’s treatment. Vets, whether generalists or specialists, will tend to recommend the best solution in their mind. Most of the time, that’s what you should consider doing.

However, there may be a plan B or C or D. What are those options? Why aren’t they as good?

Some treatments are called “medical” or “conservative.” In the case of a fractured bone, this would mean placing a splint or cast. The opposite is called “surgical” treatment. With a fracture, this could mean repairing the broken bone with a metal plate and some screws.  Most of the time, there are fairly clear reasons to choose one versus the other, and you need to understand them.

Another example is a dog with hip dysplasia and arthritis. There are many ways to treat this common condition, medically or surgically.  Your vet’s or your surgeon’s job is to discuss each option with you, along with the pros and the cons, so you can make an informed decision.


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