Surgery and Anesthesia

Our surgical suite is packed with everything we need to perform a variety of surgeries - everything from a routine spay to removing a blockage from your pet's intestines. We also perform tumor removals and other surgeries as needed. 


Our dental services include teeth cleaning and polishing, digital dental radiography, tooth extractions, and minor oral surgery, all performed under general anesthesia. Because of the unique nature of our patients, they must be anesthetized for dental procedures. We do not offer anesthesia-free dental care (also known as non-anesthesia dentals or NADs), as it has been judged to be below the standard of care by the American Animal Hospital Association, and is not endorsed by the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC).

Here at Ringgold Animal Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics, to ensure that a fever or other illness won't be a problem. We tailor every patient's anesthesia to their individually-assessed risk level. The drugs that we use are the safest available, and our dedicated anesthesia technicians extensively utilize state-of-the-art monitors for every patient's vital signs while they are under anesthesia. Today's modern anesthetic monitors have made surgery much safer than in the past. 


All patients that are anesthetized for procedures longer than 5 minutes receive an intravenous catheter and are given fluids throughout their procedure. The catheter allows us to administer any needed medications directly into your pet's bloodstream, while fluids help to support their blood pressure during the procedure.


For pets 7 years old or older, we require preanesthetic lab work to help evaluate their anesthetic risk class.  This testing allows us to assess the liver and kidneys prior to administering anesthetic. We typically perform the preanesthetic panel a few days before the scheduled surgical or dental procedure to allow processing time at the lab. If there is a problem, it is much better to find it before it causes anesthetic or surgical complications. The blood panel also allows us to tailor our protocol to the specific patient and ensure the lowest risk to your pet. If serious problems are detected, surgery can be postponed until the problem is corrected.


It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia.  You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before your pet is dropped off for an anesthetic procedure.  Water can be left down for the pet until the morning of surgery.


For many surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin.  These will dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed later.  Some surgeries, especially tumor removals, do require skin stitches or staples.  With any incision, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge.  Most dogs and cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but this is an occasional problem you will need to watch for.  If there are skin sutures or staples, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.  You will also need to limit your pet's activity level for a time and no baths are allowed for the first 7 days after surgery, or until sutures or staples are removed.


Dental care is important for maintaining our pet's health, but is often overlooked.


The majority of pets will have some level of dental disease by the time they are three years old. As time goes on, untreated dental disease can cause inflamation of the gums (periodontal disease), pain, and tooth loss, as well as damage to internal organs from the bacteria that is introduced into the bloodstream from the mouth.


The most effective way to prevent dental disease is daily brushing at home using a toothpaste specially formulated for pets (human toothpaste contains fluoride, which can cause digestive upset when swallowed). There are also many brands of dental treats that are marketed to help slow the progression of dental disease. While some can be fairly effective (look for those that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council {VOHC} seal), they are often high-calorie and can cause significant weight gain if the pet's daily ration of food is not adjusted; we will be happy to tailor a feeding plan for your pet to include dental treats.


If your pet already has accumulated tartar, a dental cleaning under general anesthesia will be needed to remove it. As they age, many pets will need annual dental cleanings to keep tartar buildup at bay. Home dental care can often lengthen the interval between professional cleanings, and immediately following a cleaning is the best time to start a new routine. We will be happy to set you up with pet-safe toothpaste, a finger brush, and instructions on how to acclimate your pet to the brushing process.


A typical dental cleaning involves a full oral exam, ultrasonically scaling the tartar from all surfaces of the teeth (including under the gum line), polishing the teeth, and applying fluoride. We also strongly recommend that all pets have full-mouth dental radiography. Dental radiography can reveal periodontal disease that we are unable to visualize, as a large portion of each tooth lies below the gum line.


All of our dental patients receive an intravenous catheter and fluids while under anesthesia, and a dedicated anesthesia technician monitors their vital signs throughout the procedure.


In some cases, a tooth (or teeth) may need to be extracted due to advanced periodontal disease or fracture of the tooth itself. These conditions can be quite painful, however most pets are adept at hiding their discomfort so you may not even be aware anything is wrong. While extracting a tooth will add to the overall cost of the procedure, leaving a rotten or broken tooth can cause your pet further pain and may lead to infection. In some cases, the extent of periodontal disease is too great to handle in a single visit and a second procedure will be scheduled to finish addressing your pet's dental health.  


Some patients require antibiotics prior to or following a dental cleaning. Bacteria from the mouth can potentially enter the bloodstream and cause damage to vital internal structures such as heart valves. If the doctor deems it necessary to prescribe antibiotics for your pet, it is important to follow the instructions, including finishing the full course as directed. 

Spaying and Neutering

There are many benefits to spaying and neutering your pet. We provide spay and neuter services to pets in the Ringgold, Georgia area.


Surgical sterilization (spaying and neutering) of companion animals is a common practice in the United States. It helps to prevent unwanted litters as well as potential health issues related to the reproductive tract. Spaying (or ovariohysterectomy) involves surgically removing the female’s ovaries and uterus. Neutering (or castration) involves surgically removing the male’s testicles. Both procedures result in an infertile animal that cannot produce offspring. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Here at Ringgold Animal Hospital, we also provide multi-modal analgesia (pain control), an IV catheter and IV fluids (except for cat neuters, as they take less than 5 minutes), patient-specific anesthetic protocols, and a dedicated technician to monitor your pet during anesthesia and recovery. Sterilization surgery is generally a low-risk procedure performed on young, healthy pets, but if you have any concerns about the risks you are encouraged to discuss them with your veterinarian.


  • Females: Spayed females don't cycle into estrus (heat), eliminating the chance of an accidental pregnancy and the mess that a heat cycle brings (dogs and cats do experience bleeding during a cycle). Dogs typically cycle twice a year, while cats will cycle every few weeks from early spring through late fall until bred. Females in heat have an intense urge to roam, and will often try to escape in order to find a mate. The scent of a female in heat can draw males from miles away, so you may also end up with unwelcome visitors - and those visitors may fight with each other, dig under your fence, or urine mark your property in their quest to win your female's heart. Spaying your pet also decreases her risk of malignant mammary cancer later in life, especially if done before her first heat cycle. As an intact female ages, her risk of coming down with a condition called pyometra (an infected uterus) also increases. This life-threatening condition turns a routine, low-risk spay surgery into a complicated, emergency surgery that is much harder on your pet (and more expensive for you).


  •      Males: We don’t insist that all male dogs be neutered, however we do insist that intact males be well-behaved gentleman - if they aren’t, they should be neutered immediately. Intact males, as mentioned above, will often roam for miles if they smell a female in heat. This can lead to being hit by a car, getting picked up by the shelter, or becoming a stray if they are unable to find their way home. Should you choose to leave your male dog intact, they must be securely contained at all times and not allowed to roam freely. Many males also exhibit undesirable behaviors including mounting, urine marking, and aggression (directed at other dogs or even people). These behaviors can be difficult to eliminate if allowed to occur for a prolonged period of time, so while neutering an older dog can be helpful, extensive training may also be needed. For this reason, if you leave your dog intact and he begins displaying any undesirable behaviors, he should be neutered immediately. If your male pet has an un-descended testicle (cryptorchidism), he should be neutered prior to puberty to help reduce the risk of testicular cancer in the un-descended testicle (it is also possible for both testicles to be un-descended). Male cats should always be neutered prior to puberty to prevent urine marking behavior.


  • Timing: We typically schedule spay/neuter procedures around 6 months of age for cats and small to medium-sized dogs, and 7-9+ months for large breed dogs (there are a few breeds that get a specific recommendation based on current research into spay/neuter timing). This allows time for vaccinations to be fully finished, and for puppy and kitten teeth (called deciduous teeth) to be replaced by adult (primary) teeth. Any deciduous teeth that remain at 6-7+ months will need to be extracted under anesthesia, and alongside the spay or neuter procedure is the perfect time. Pairing the procedures saves you money in anesthesia costs, as well as being easier on the pet. Retained deciduous teeth are especially common in small breed dogs. These retained teeth need to be extracted, as they are only designed to last 5-6 months and will begin to decay if left in place for extended periods of time. They are usually situated extremely close to the primary teeth and can cause harm and decay to the primary teeth, necessitating their premature removal as well.


If you don't plan to breed your pet, spaying or neutering can help them live a longer, healthier life. A common concern for owners is that their newly spayed or neutered pet will gain weight. While spaying or neutering will change your pet's metabolism a bit, as long as they are fed an appropriate amount of food (and not too many treats!), they can maintain a healthy weight. Another concern (or sometimes hope) is that it will change the pet's personality. This often depends on the age of the pet. If they are spayed or neutered prior to puberty, their personality isn't being influenced by hormones and isn't likely to change. If they are older, however, it may decrease any aggressive tendencies and make the pet more amenable to training and socialization.


  • Breeding: While breeding your pet may sound like a great idea, in reality it is costly and a lot of work when done correctly. Your dog or cat should be up to date on vaccinations and parasite prevention, and be judged in good health by your veterinarian. Certain breeds are prone to genetic conditions that should be screened for in both parents prior to breeding - hip and elbow dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers, eye diseases and patellar luxation in Yorkshire Terriers, cardiac and eye diseases and patellar luxation in Chihuahuas, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Sphynx, polycystic kidney disease in Persians; the list is quite extensive. More information can be found at the Canine Health Information Center's website where you can search by breed (even though it is called the Canine Health Information Center, they also cover cats).

It is also recommended that dogs and cats that are breeding prospects participate in confirmation or other registry-sanctioned events (hunt trials, lure coursing, obedience, rally, agility, etc), where they are judged by a third party against the breed standard and other similar animals.


If everything goes well and you have a successful breeding, you'll want to visit your veterinarian with the female around 45 days into the pregnancy so that an x-ray can be performed. This will allow the veterinarian to assess the size and number of puppies, as well as the relative size of the female's pelvic canal. In some cases, especially if the male is larger than the female, the puppies will be too large to be birthed and must be delivered by Cesarean section. Some breeds are also predisposed to having c-sections, such as English Bulldogs. A routine, scheduled c-section can cost $91,000-1,500+, while an emergency c-section can cost upwards of $3,000.

Soft Tissue

Your pet may require surgery at some point in its life, for a variety of reasons. Soft tissue surgery is any surgery not involving bone, the heart/lungs, or the nervous system. Included in this category is tumors, bladder stones, lacerations, and gastrointestinal surgeries. 


Tumors are quite common in dogs, and do occur in cats. In most cases, the doctor will do diagnostic testing to try and determine what kind of tumor is present, and then make a recommendation as to whether it should be removed surgically. After removal, if the doctor feels the tumor could be malignant (cancerous), we are able to send it to a laboratory for histopathology, where  a pathologist studies the tumor cells in order to classify it.


Bladder stones can form in dogs and cats, and can be life-threatening if they cause a blockage of the urethra. Usually diagnosed with an x-ray, some stones can be dissolved by changing the pet to a prescription diet while others must be surgically removed.


Pets are intensely curious, which often can get them in trouble. In the case of a laceration, the sooner we see your pet, the better. Depending on how much time has elapsed since it occured as well as its location, we may recommend suturing the wound to allow for optimum healing. In their curiosity, they may ingest something they shouldn't, end wind up with an obstruction in their gastrointestinal tract.  Depending on the severity and our availability, we may be able to perform surgery on your pet to relieve the obstruction; if we are unable to accommodate the surgery, we will refer you to one of the local specialty centers.

Pain Management

We believe controlling our patient's pain is important.


Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals.  Pets may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do; they usually don't whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it.  


As they age, some pets begin to slow down due to the aches and pains of arthritis. Using anti-inflammatory medications specifically formulated for pets, we can often make them more comfortable - offering a good quality of life throughout their golden years. There is now a monthly injection available for cats for osteoarthritis pain - it is the first long-term treatment option for cats and we have been very pleased with how well it works.


All of our surgical patients receive pre-operative pain medication. By giving pain medication prior to starting a procedure, we are able to avoid activating much of the body's pain response, making it easier to keep them comfortable after surgery. The pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.  Major procedures require more pain relief than things like minor lacerations.


For dogs, we administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. We also give injectable analgesics prior to surgery.  We use newer medications, which are less likely to cause stomach upset and are tailored specifically for dogs. We do not recommend giving asprin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, or any other over-the-counter pain medication. 


Because cats do not tolerate standard over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, we are limited in what we can give them.  Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before.  Depending on the level of pain expected, we may apply a transdermal opioid medication at least 30 minutes prior to the procedure that will last for four days. All cats receive a pain injection 10 minutes prior to surgery.  After surgery, pain medication is given in an injectable form or by mouth, and if needed, a couple of additional days' worth are sent home. 


Any animal that appears painful following our normal protocol will receive additional pain medication.


We often send home 2-5 days of additional pain control depending on the procedure. 


Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet. All of our surgical estimates will include any needed pain medications, and pain medication is never optional at Ringgold Animal Hospital.