Veterinary professionals’ anesthesia use is common and important—and critical before, during, and after every surgical procedure. We understand your concern about your pet going under anesthesia, and our Town & Country Animal Hospital PC team would like to ease your mind by giving you an in-depth explanation of how we protect your pet through our anesthesia safety protocols.

Why do we use anesthesia on pets?

Veterinarians anesthetize pets for many reasons, the most important being that anesthesia allows them to keep your pet pain free during surgery and other medical procedures. When your pet is free of pain, they remain calm and still, and the veterinarian can complete the procedure without incident. Your veterinarian may also anesthetize your pet during an examination or diagnostic test such as an X-ray, which—for accuracy—requires your pet to remain still. Finally, anesthesia helps your pet recover from surgery and other procedures by reducing their pain. 

What are pets’ anesthetic complication risks?

Anesthetic complication risks to pets are minimal, with the overall anesthetic death risk for dogs at 0.17% and for cats at 0.24%, and lower for healthy dogs at 0.05% and for healthy cats at 0.11%. Pets’ common anesthesia complication risks include allergic reactions, heart or lung problems, and seizures. While anesthesia complication risks are low in pets, adverse reactions can be serious and life-threatening. Your veterinarian should discuss your pet’s anesthesia complication risks with you before surgery and medical procedures that require them to be anesthetized. Many factors can influence your pet’s anesthesia risk, including:

  • Age — Senior and extremely young pets’ complication risks under anesthesia are higher than for pets of other ages.
  • Breed — Some breeds are more sensitive to anesthesia. Breeds with a higher anesthesia complication risk include:
    • Greyhounds 
    • Cavalier King Charles spaniels
    • Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers
  • Size —Toy breeds can be more difficult to intubate and monitor, and—along with giant breeds and overweight pets—are at an increased anesthetic complication risk. If your pet is overweight, and the procedure is not an emergency, your veterinarian may ask you to help your pet lose weight before undergoing anesthesia.
  • Health –  Pets with a history of heart, lung, metabolic, kidney, or liver disease may have an increased anesthetic complication risk. Your pet’s preanesthesia screenings should determine whether they have any of these conditions. 

What are pet anesthesia safety protocols?

Before your pet has their medical procedure under anesthesia, your veterinarian will perform your pet’s preanesthetic exam, which includes a stethoscopic heart exam, blood work, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to ensure your pet is healthy enough to be anesthetized. Your veterinarian will then formulate your pet’s personalized anesthesia plan based on their age, breed, pre-existing conditions, and any preanesthetic testing abnormalities.  

On the day of your pet’s procedure, your veterinary professional will give them a stress-reducing preanesthetic sedative, and place your pet’s intravenous catheter (IV) to administer fluids and medications. Your pet’s anesthesia may be delivered via gas inhalation, intravenous infusion, or a combination of both. A dedicated veterinary technician cares for your pet from anesthesia induction to recovery, continuously monitoring their safety and comfort, and informing the veterinarian if an adverse condition arises.  

What do pets need after anesthesia?

After your pet’s anesthetic procedure, your veterinarian will explain your pet’s postoperative care, which may include:

  • Activity restriction
  • A special diet
  • Medication administration

Your veterinary professional will discharge your pet after they have completely recovered. Your pet will be tired, and you should ensure they remain calm and quiet. Lingering anesthesia effects, such as grogginess and constipation, should subside in 24 to 48 hours.

If you have questions about your pet’s upcoming anesthetic procedure, contact our Town & Country Animal Hospital PC team, and we can put your mind at ease by describing our strict anesthesia safety protocols.