Pre-Surgical Screening Tests

Contributed by:
Howard A. Mintzer DVM
Mid Hudson and Arlington Animal Hospitals
in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State


The electrocardiogram (EKG) is a device that is used to detect abnormalities in the heart's function. Special wires are secured to your pet's legs. This allow us to measure the electrical activity of the heart. These measurements are transferred to a strip of paper that the veterinarian examines for abnormalities which might cause serious or even fatal problems when your pet is anesthetized.

Your pet can appear healthy and still have underlying heart abnormalities. The findings of a heart abnormality before surgery may compell the veterinarian to change the type of anesthetic used or postpone the surgery until the heart can be medicated so that the procedure can be performed safely.


The pre-surgical blood screen consists of a complete blood count (CBC), and tests for kidney and liver function. The CBC gives the veterinarian considerable information regarding the state of your pet's health that may affect the success of surgery. Among these are the presence or absence of infection, and whether your pet is anemic or not.

Proper function of the liver and kidney are necessary for your pet to be able to rid his body of the anesthetic once surgery is finished. The liver must change the anesthetic into a new chemical which the kidney can then excrete into the urine. Failure of either organ to function properly can prolong the length of time your pet remains asleep or in more extreme cases cause death.

If tests reveal anemia or infection those conditions will have to be treated before surgery is performed. Abnormalities in liver or kidney function might preclude surgery altogether or more commonly makes the veterinarian change the amount or type of anesthetic before proceeding with the operation.


In human medicine an EKG and blood screen are standard procedures whenever a person is anesthetized. This has helped make surgery much less risky than it was years ago. With your consent we too can lower the risks in veterinary surgery. Your pet deserves the very best care. Please consider this when signing the estimate sheet.