What to know if your pet needs anesthesia

Rachelle Jarvis

Rachelle Jarvis

A lot of advances have been made in veterinary medicine over the last 10 to 15 years to make anesthesia safer for pets. It is always stressful when your pet has to receive anesthesia; as most pets at some point in their life have to undergo anesthesia, this article will discuss the basics and what is done to make it safer.

I always recommend approaching anesthetic procedures with a risk versus benefit ideology. If the procedure’s benefits don’t outweigh the risk of the anesthesia then the procedure should not be done. Prior to anesthesia, the pet should receive a thorough physical exam and blood work.

The blood work should include a complete blood cell count and chemistry panel to ensure that they can metabolize off the anesthesia and there aren’t any underlying issues.

All pets having anesthesia should have an intravenous catheter placed. The purpose of the intravenous catheter is twofold: first, intravenous fluids can be administered during the procedure to help maintain hydration and blood pressure. Second, if there is a reaction or complication the intravenous catheter allows for quick access for medications to be administered.

The physical exam is done and the blood work is normal and an intravenous catheter is placed, what comes next?

Once the pet is under anesthesia their vitals will be monitored closely to identify any issues. A pulse oximeter is used to monitor the oxygen saturation of the blood. A capnograph is used to measure the CO2 levels to know how well the pet is ventilating.

A continuous ECG is used to spot arrhythmias and track heart rate. The pet’s blood pressure will be checked every 3 to 5 minutes to ensure it is not too low which can result in organ damage or too high.

The body temperature will be monitored as it is common for pets to become cold while under anesthesia.

Active warming with a warm water blanket or heat lamp is commonly used during the procedure to maintain appropriate body temperatures.

Anesthesia requires a variety of medications to be administered, in addition to the inhaled gas. This process is always stressful for the pet owner, but it is also stressful for veterinarians.

Our goal is to have the anesthetic procedure be a success and provide the pet with improved quality of life. If you have a pet that will need have anesthesia, I hope this article gives you a better understanding of what is involved and helps answer any questions you may have.


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