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What You Need To Know About Anesthesia And Your Pet

One of the most common concerns for pet owners when our doctors recommend a procedure is,”What about anesthesia?” Anesthesia is understandably a scary prospect for many owners, scary enough to lead to owners declining needed procedures. At Boston Street Animal Hospital, we understand that the first thought in your mind is, “What if something goes wrong?”

Read on to learn more about anesthesia to set your mind at ease.

There Are Risks…
…but those risks are small. The risk of anesthetic death is less than one percent for both cats and dogs and that number drops further for pets categorized as healthy. The most common complications are intraoperative hypotension (low blood pressure), post-op vomiting and aspiration, aspiration pneumonia, heartbeat irregularities, disorientation, and, in cats, deafness or blindness.

Certain breeds are at a higher risk for complications…
Breeds with shortened snouts, such as pugs, bulldogs, and Persian cats, are prone to airway problems. Some breed have specific needs in terms of anesthetic agents.

…And age and weight matters too.
Obese pets, and those weighing less than ten pounds are at an increased risk, as well as pets over the age of 12 (this age may be younger for large and giant breed dogs).

…As well as your pet’s general health.
Conditions such as heart disease, metabolic disease, diabetes, liver or kidney disease all require special considerations.

There are different kinds of anesthesia…
…and the kind used on your pet will depend on a number of factors, including his health history, results of diagnostics and what kind of procedure he is having. Induction agents are given via IV catheter or into the muscle and provide short term sedation, and gas anesthesia, delivered via mask or endotracheal tube, is used to prolong sedation until the procedure is finished.

Anesthesia can have side effects…
…and just like in people, every pet will respond differently. Side effects can include vomiting or nausea, grogginess, and unsteadiness that lasts for several hours to several days.

So what can you do to minimize anesthetic complications in your pet?

Ask questions before the procedure so you understand exactly what is happening. Is there an item on your estimate that you don’t understand? Please ask. We’re happy to explain exactly what we do and why.

Speak up. Has your pet had new symptoms recently? Did he have a bad reaction to a sedative in the past, or a complication with surgery? Let us know, even if you think it’s not important. Knowing these details is important to our doctors and technicians so we can tailor your pet’s procedure to his individual needs.

Perform all recommended diagnostic testing. Outwardly healthy pets can still have health problems that we can’t see on physical exam. Bloodwork is important even for routine procedures, even for young patients. Other patients might need radiographs or other imaging. Diagnostics won’t prevent all complications, but it helps a lot.

Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Overweight pets are harder to draw blood from, harder to place catheters on, harder to x-ray, harder to restrain, harder to operate on. Extra body fat makes dosing anesthetic agents more complicated and can contribute to breathing issues. If you’re not sure what weight is best for your pet, ask us about the body condition score we use to rate a pet’s weight.

Other things to know about your pet’s procedure at Boston Street Animal Hospital:

All patients hospitalized for anesthetic procedures, be it a routine spay or sedated x-rays, receive a pre-op exam that morning. This allows our doctors to look for any health concerns that may have developed since the last exam. This is also when the doctor will make decisions about what anesthesia and pain relief to use, and if your pet needs any special considerations, such as placing an endotracheal tube for breathing on a pet with a shortened nose to protect the airway.

BSAH also maintains an in-house lab for diagnostics. Our analyzers give us CBC, chemistry, and electrolyte results in as little as 15 minutes. In addition, we can also test for heartworm disease, Lyme and other tickborne disease, feline heart health, and thyroid function, as well as urinalysis, in our in-house lab. Access to these machines means we have real time results on your pet’s health.

All procedures have a dedicated technician for monitoring vital signs. Capillary refill time, body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, mucus membranes and level of blood oxygen, IV fluid rate and degree of sedation are all continuously monitored.

A technician and veterinarian are also with your pet after the procedure until he wakes up and is conscious enough to finish recovery in a cage. Our hospital technician continues to monitor vital signs on a regular basis until your pet goes home.

BSAH uses the bairhugger forced-air system during and after surgery, and a heated water pad during surgery to maintain proper body temperature. Surgical related hypothermia is something we want to avoid, so we have invested in technology that allows us to keep your pet warm.

As always, the doctors and technicians at BSAH want your pet to be comfortable, happy and safe while under our care. If you have questions about your pet’s procedure, please ask, so that we can take the time to answer and address any concerns you may have.


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