We understand your concerns when your pet requires an anesthetic procedure. You likely have many questions about your pet’s health risks before, during, and after anesthesia, and our All Creatures Animal Hospital team wants to put your mind at ease by describing the steps we take to keep your pet safe and comfortable.
Which pets are more likely to experience adverse anesthetic effects?
Anesthetic complications are rare, but it is important to understand the factors that may increase your pet’s risk. When complications do occur, they are often related to the surgical procedure your pet is undergoing. For example, if your pet’s surgical procedure is complex or extensive—and they will be anesthetized for several hours—their adverse reaction risk is higher than for an uncomplicated, quick procedure.
Certain health conditions can also increase your pet’s potential for an adverse anesthetic reaction. Rest assured that we always formulate your pet’s anesthesia protocol carefully, and especially if they have one of the following adverse health conditions:
- Organ disease (e.g., heart, liver, kidney)
- Respiratory disorders (e.g., collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome)
- Unregulated endocrine conditions (e.g., hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, diabetes, Cushing’s disease)
- Illness or injury
What safety precautions are taken before my pet undergoes anesthesia?
We take every precaution to ensure your pet’s safety during any veterinary procedure. Before administering your pet’s anesthesia, we follow these safety protocols:
- Physical exam — During your pet’s preanesthetic physical exam, we listen to their heart and lungs for abnormalities, check their gum color for signs of anemia and dehydration, and evaluate their overall health status.
- Preanesthetic blood work — Before your pet’s surgical procedure, we perform basic blood work panels—complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry profile—to get the inside scoop on their health status, determining whether your pet has anemia, infection, dehydration, or organ dysfunction, which weigh heavily on our anesthetic protocol.
To ensure we determine your pet’s most appropriate anesthetic formulation, we may require them to undergo additional preanesthetic testing, such as urinalysis, X-rays, and specialized blood tests.
Before administering any anesthesia medication to your pet, we record their baseline vital signs—heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature—so that while they are anesthetized, we can closely monitor for significant changes, and adjust their anesthesia protocol if complications arise.
How is my pet kept safe while under anesthesia?
After administering your pet’s anesthesia, we closely monitor them throughout the procedure for vital sign and health status changes. We help keep your pet safe, and their body systems functioning normally by providing:
- Intravenous (IV) catheter placement — By placing your pet’s IV catheter, we can easily administer anesthetic agents, pain medications, antibiotics, and—especially—lifesaving drugs if your pet experiences an emergency. Drugs administered directly to a vein take effect most quickly, and every second counts if your pet’s heart rate or blood pressure drops. When we have an IV catheter in place, we avoid trying to establish venous access during a critical time. IV fluid administration helps your pet’s body flush out anesthetic agents and bolsters their blood pressure while anesthetized.
- Endotracheal tube placement — Once your pet is unconscious, we place an endotracheal (i.e., breathing) tube down their trachea to supply pure oxygen and anesthetic gas. An endotracheal tube also protects your pet’s airway in case they vomit, or bleed excessively from oral surgery.
- Monitoring equipment — We monitor your anesthetized pet’s vital signs—heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, blood pressure, temperature, and more—using state-of-the-art equipment. By knowing your pet’s baseline normal, we can quickly spot subtle changes that may indicate they are experiencing a complication.
- Skilled staff — No equipment is more valuable than our skilled team’s hands and eyes. While monitoring equipment alerts us if your pet is experiencing a problem, our anesthesia team closely watches them every second during their procedure, judging your pet’s response to the anesthesia and surgery. If your anesthetized pet shows any indication of a problem, our team’s combined experience, knowledge, and training gear up, and we immediately take action to correct the issue.
How is my pet monitored during the recovery period?
After your pet’s procedure, we turn off the anesthetic gas, and give them time to recover fully from the injectable anesthetic agents. During this critical time, our team is always at your pet’s side, monitoring their vital signs to ensure they are normal for a pet recovering from anesthesia, and keeping them warm and comfortable. As your pet regains consciousness, we evaluate their pain level, and administer more medication if needed. We leave the endotracheal tube in place until your pet is able to swallow, and has regained airway control. Once your pet’s anesthesia has completely worn off—and they can stand and walk—we release them to your care.
If you have questions about your pet’s upcoming surgical procedure and our anesthetic safety protocols, contact our All Creatures Animal Hospital team.
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