It’s safe to say you can never have too much monitoring of animals in the post-operative period. When patients aren’t continuously and consistently monitored, critical problems can remain undiscovered.
Studies have found that improvements in monitoring and management of patients in the postoperative period could reduce complications substantially. This is even more true when looking during the first 24 hours.
To start with, animals should be in a clean and dry area for observation – in a space where they can be monitored for their own unique recovery needs. And, as we’ve already stated, particular attention should be paid to temperature, pulse and heartbeat.
Hypothermia following surgery with anaesthesia is an incredibly common complication in animal patients. In fact, recent studies document incidence rates as high as 85-97% in cats and dogs – an alarming statistic. One of the reasons hypothermia is so high following surgery is due to the anaesthetic used throughout, which has a holistic effect on an animal’s thermoregulation. An animal’s usual behaviour responses to an altered body temperature is impaired, and the trigger for usual physiological responses is altered.
Essentially, animals are unable to regulate or maintain their body temperature. And when an animal is hypothermic, their recovery can be delayed – which is why it’s so important to assist with their temperature. But what can help?
From study to study, and expert to expert, the answer – unsurprisingly – is warmth. Specifically, what’s called ‘active warming’ – when an external heat source is applied to the patient. For example, heat mats – which our WELLKennels offer – provide precise temperature control, tailored to the individual patient’s needs. Of course, patients still need to be constantly monitored until their temperature is above 37°C.
When we speak of temperature control in post-operative care, it’s not just in terms of hypothermia.
Anaesthesia, and surgery more broadly, can have a profound impact on an animal’s thermoregulatory system. In turn, relatively small changes in a patient’s body temperature may have detrimental effects – on both cellular and tissue function.
Combining temperature control with monitoring is of the utmost importance. The temperature of a patient should be read and recorded as soon as possible once the patient has settled into the recovery area. For patients showing signs of hypothermia, the temperature should be checked every 15 minutes; otherwise, every 30.
Although this is the recommendation, it’s unfortunately not the routine. The Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Small Animal Fatalities found that temperature was measured during the postoperative period in only 11-14% of anaesthetised small animal patients.
Dependent on the patients temperature, a kennel may need to be made warmer or cooler to tailor to the patients requirements. With our WELLKennels, the built-in heat mats allow tailored temperature settings; a heated surface and cool surface exists to find this ideal balance. In addition, and as Dr Sophie Hall from Meadow Hall Vets says, the kennels come with their own ventilation to mitigate the possibility of kennels getting too hot – but they’ve never had any concerns.
For human and animal alike, sleep is a vital process essential for survival. Of course, there is too much – and too little – of a good thing.
If an animal patient does not receive enough sleep in their post-operative recovery, this deprivation can lead to the depletion of glycogen stores and increases in oxidative stress and free radical production. In fact, studies have shown pain is felt more acutely in patients that are sleep-deprived or anxious.
However, uninterrupted rest can result in longer recovery and potential complications in some cases – encouraging movement (where able) can help animal patients recover from anaesthesia.
Providing a calm place to rest is important – as quiet periods are essential to facilitate proper rest and recovery. This, includes periods of dim light or darkness – avoiding disruption to an animal’s circadian rhythm where possible.
This, of course, may be done with natural light – but is wholly dependent on a practice’s layout and window availability. Being able to provide periods of daylight and recovery – like our patented DRC Lighting System – is essential to an animal’s ability to rest. In addition, the recovery setting of DRC – which is red lighting – allows an animal to rest, but also allows veterinary teams the ability to carry out visual observations without interrupting the patient.
We know – and we’ve seen here – just why post-operative monitoring of animals in recovery is so important. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to monitoring – it will vary based on the type of animal; its age, weight and other variables; disease process; pain profile; other medical conditions are more. However, monitoring should be continued until a patient is in a ‘normal’ state, and able to lift their head.
But with so many elements to be considered, it’s helpful to have enclosures that assist you with monitoring. Our WELLKennels offer many solutions without the need for extra devices or clutter – those mentioned throughout, and then some. Features include integrated IV stand and pump holders; illuminated glass whiteboard for recording and viewing of notes, no matter the external lighting; internal ceiling vent and ventilation kit – along with the aforementioned DRC Lighting System and built-in thermostatically controlled heat mats.
At a time of such importance, you want animal housing that offers greater operational efficiency, enhanced safety and streamlined workflows – allowing your team to cater care to the unique needs of each individual patient, and their recovery.