Understanding vet hospitals

Hospitals are generally a scary place for many people, and even more so for our pets. All the funny smells and sounds can be overwhelming for them, as well as for the pet parents who may not understand the various departments at a vet hospital. This is the first part of a series that will take a closer look at what happens at vet hospitals.


General veterinary medicine

Most veterinary practices provide general medical services to animals. It is always advisable that pet owners are vigilant and take their pets for regular check-ups. Pets are like humans – they benefit from a good diet, exercise and regular health checks.

Regular vaccinations are required to prevent some of the serious infectious diseases that affect dogs and cats. These vaccination consultations allow the vet to give your pet a full clinical examination and give you the opportunity to ask about anything that may be worrying you. In this way, problems can be caught and attended to before they become serious.

Parasite control is very important as well, because many parasites transmit diseases, such as some ticks that carry Babesia microti (which is responsible for the disease babesiosis – a malaria-like disease). Some parasites are zoonotic, which means that they can infect humans as well; all the more reason to make sure your pet’s parasite control is up to date.

Gastric upsets are common in dogs, with various possible causes: dietary allergy, ingestion of something they should not eat, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and more. Being observant of your pet’s behaviour, appetite and stools can help you catch these in the early stages.

Older pets, like older people, start to experience more problems, such as arthritis, renal failure, heart disease and cognitive decline. Many of these conditions can be managed, and should not just be put down to old age and left unattended. The pet can be supported, so that he can continue to enjoy a happy, pain-free life.

These are the typical medical and health issues that can be treated at a general veterinary medicine practice.


Surgical department

Understanding what happens during the most common types of surgeries performed, and what pre-operative and post-operative care is involved, can help put pet owners’ minds at rest.

The Valley Farm Surgical department deals with an array of interesting cases on a weekly basis and, sometimes, after-hours surgical emergencies. Our usual week consists of sterilisations, lumpectomies, cruciate surgeries, fracture repairs and spinal surgeries. We also see a lot of bladder stone removals, foreign body removals from either the stomach or intestines, and exploratory laparotomies, which can reveal a lot of surprises waiting to be discovered!

Occasionally, intra-thoracic surgeries are done – mostly to reveal pathology of the lungs and rectify these.

All procedures have different post-op care necessities, but post-op care that all surgeries have in common is to manage and protect the surgical wound, keeping it clean and away from inquisitive biting and licking done by the patient himself.

Orthopaedic surgeries require more intensive aftercare, such as hospital rest, physiotherapy and trips to the hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Pet owners also play an important role in managing their pets pre-operatively, by ensuring that their pet is not given food after 10pm the night before the surgery. This reduces the possibility of intra-operative complications such as vomiting, regurgitation and aspiration pneumonia.

Surgery may seem daunting, but as long as every party involved (pet parent, pet and hospital team) does their part, your pet should be out of hospital and ready to be frolicking around very soon after the big day.


In an ideal world, we’d all brush our pets’ teeth every day to keep them clean and healthy but, for most of us, this is not a practical reality. There are other home-care options, such as foods and water supplements, that slow down tartar build-up.


Would you like to read the rest of this interesting article? Get the March/April 2024 edition of Animaltalk magazine now from retailers or order a printed or digital copy from www.coolmags.co.za.


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