Dogs and Anesthesia

What every dog owner should know about dogs and anesthesia before surgery.

The majority of our nation's companion animals will undergo surgery or some other procedure requiring anesthesia at some point in their lives. There are some points for pet owners to understand and consider before their dog goes under anesthesia.

Dr. Rachael Carpenter, a clinical assistant professor in anesthesia and pain management at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, explains that before a dog’s surgery owners should take time to sit down with their veterinarian and ask questions about the procedure and the steps that will be taken to ensure the pet’s safety while under anesthesia.

"It is important that the owner trusts the veterinarian and is comfortable with the procedure about to be performed," says Dr. Carpenter. Your veterinarian should be able to answer questions about how your dog’s vital signs will be monitored while under anesthesia and who will be responsible for monitoring your dog.

You should also ask about general post-anesthesia care, specifically what signs to look out for at home that would signal that your dog is not recovering normally from anesthesia. Any abnormal behaviors, such as difficulty walking, vomiting, or decreased appetite should be reported immediately to your veterinarian.

As a dog owner you also need to be aware of what services are included in the cost of the procedure. Many veterinarians include services like pain medication, pre-anesthetic blood work, balanced pre-surgery medications, intravenous catheters, fluids during anesthesia, and monitoring during and after the procedure into the general cost of the surgery. If you are finding that there is an extreme price difference between two veterinarians there is usually a reason for that difference.

"While cost is obviously a concern for the majority of pet owners, price shopping is not always the safest thing for your pet when it comes to surgical procedures," explains Dr. Carpenter. "Investigate not only the cost of the surgery, but also the level of care your animal will receive at that clinic."

Unfortunately, even with the highest level of veterinary care with anesthesia comes the risk of serious complications and even death. However, in most cases the benefits of the surgery far outweigh the risks of the anesthesia.

In general the anesthetic mortality rate for the average cat or dog is low, but each animal's risk of complications is different. When scheduling the surgery, if the procedure is elective, the overall health of the animal should also be considered.

Dr. Carpenter advises that if your dog is not feeling well it would be wise to postpone elective procedures until the animal is healthier. Even something as simple as a runny nose or cough can increase the risk of complications under anesthesia as well as a longer post-surgical recovery time.

"You can never take away all risk. The goal is to reduce the amount of anesthetic risk as much as possible by introducing drugs with a wider therapeutic index that are safer for the animal and constantly improving the procedures used for anesthesia monitoring and recovery," Dr. Carpenter explains.

For more information concerning anesthesia for dogs, contact your local veterinarian.

By Sarah Dowling, this article was provided courtesy of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.


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Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on Dogs and Anesthesia

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martin   north hollywood, California

7/5/2015 7:32:02 AM

does anesthesia affect a dogs memory as to owner and home place.

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Carl   Emmaus, Pennsylvania

12/10/2014 7:33:05 PM

Are risks of anesthesia increased for a dog (Rottie) who had a severe case of parvovirus as a
Please email me

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Ann   North Attleborough, Massachusetts

10/4/2014 7:24:27 PM

From another site (written by a vet.

Safest induction agent is propofol.

Its fast acting and effective for intubation

Animals should be maintained on iso or sevoflurane.

Sevo has less side effects than iso.

Always ask about your vets anesthetic protocol.

A more current and likely expensive practice will offer propofol and sevo as anesthetics.

Pre medicating with hydromorphone and acepromazine or midazolam decreases the overall amount of anesthesia needed.

Make sure your vet monitors pulse oximetery,blood pressure,temperature(pets easily become hypothermic under general anesthesia) heart rate and respiratory rate.

It is also beneficial if there is credentialed technicians assisting in the surgery.

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Ann   North Attleborough, Massachusetts

10/4/2014 7:14:42 PM

I wanted this to be a separate post... but it is, sort of, continued from the one I just

My dogs are now considered "seniors" and one is even considered "geriatric'. All are in good health (any problems are controlled with medications). They are active and alert,

In addition to the pre-surgery blood work and the pre-surgery physical exam, for any dog aged 8 or over, I ALWAYS have an echocardiogram done. Just to make sure the heart is fine and can withstand anesthesia. I have one dog who is 11 years of age. He had a dental done just six months ago or so. He also has a heart condition (diagnosed at age 7). He gets one medication twice a day for his heart problem but is doing fabulous. He goes for walks like all the others and appears to be much younger than he is and is happy, active and alert. He had an echocardiogram (his was a little more involved due to his heart condition) and came out with a great report. So his risk for a problem with anesthesia was so minimal, that it really didn't even register. But you must INSIST upon the steps you want. I know I did not go to veterinary school and I am not a veterinarian. But I have been in my breed for over 25 years now and know them inside and out. And I KNOW all about what anesthesia works best for them and will always insist on it. I recently turned down becoming a client at a local animal hospital (10 minutes from my house) because I asked, up front, what they used for anesthesia. They didn't use either isoflorane or sevoflorane and so I decided not to go with them. You can never ask too many questions and you are always better off safe than sorry!

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