To prevent pain and increase comfort, dogs are given anesthesia when they undergo surgery, but there are certainly pros and cons to using general anesthesia. Today, our Echo Park vets share everything you should know about anesthesia for dogs.
When Anesthesia Is Used for Dogs
Some veterinary treatments, including dentistry, spay and neutering procedures, and surgery, must be performed while your pet is sedated. Anesthesia is regulated unconsciousness, where your pet's degree of consciousness is controlled so that they do not feel pain or move.
Most healthy pets, including senior pets, have no problems with anesthesia, and the dangers are generally tied to the treatment being performed rather than the anesthetic itself.
How Safe Anesthesia Is for Dogs
When we employ any anesthetic drug, there is always the possibility of an unpleasant, and unexpected, reaction. Patients who are sedated lose their typical reflex capacity to swallow. If there is food in the stomach, the dog may vomit while under anesthesia or shortly afterward.
Due to differences in breed, size, health, and age, some dogs have a higher anesthetic risk. Because of changes in or immaturity of some of their body's organs or systems, older dogs and very young dogs can also be more vulnerable to anesthesia.
Almost half of all anesthetic-related canine deaths occur within the first few hours after surgery. There are always hazards when administering any anesthetic medication to a patient, regardless of how long the patient remains sedated. Reactions can range from moderate to severe, with a wide range of symptoms including edema at the injection site. Fasting before anesthesia, as recommended by your veterinarian, is critical to lowering your dog's risk.
Reducing Your Dog's Risk of Anesthesia-Related Complications
Here are some steps you can take to help reduce the risk of anesthesia-related complications for your dog:
- Let your veterinarian know if your pet has ever reacted to sedation or anesthesia.
- Make sure your veterinarian knows of all medications and supplements (including over-the-counter products) your pet takes.
- Follow your veterinarian’s instructions before anesthesia, especially about withholding food, water, and medications.
The following diagnostic tests before undergoing anesthesia normally include:
- Chemistry testing to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
- Complete blood count (CBC) to rule out blood-related conditions
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
In addition to blood tests, your vet may also recommend the following:
- A catheter is part of the anesthetic preparation. The catheter can be used to provide anesthetics and intravenous fluids to keep your pet hydrated. Further, if needed, it would serve as a pathway to directly administer life-saving medications, should a crisis arise.
- Intravenous fluids help maintain hydration and blood pressure. IV fluids also help your dog with recovery by aiding the liver and kidneys in clearing the body of anesthetic agents more quickly.
All of these steps are designed to make sure your pet undergoes a successful treatment without any complications arising from the anesthesia.
Why You Need to Sign an Anesthetic Consent Form
It is essential that you understand the risks and benefits of anesthesia for your dog, and that you are aware of the hazards involved with an anesthetic.
The form will include consent to perform surgery or another specified diagnostic testing, as well as an estimate of the treatments' projected costs. Before undertaking anesthetic operations, the veterinarian is required by law in many places to seek written agreement from the owner.
Your Vet Will Monitor Your Anesthetized Dog
Yes! In fact, there are several practices in place to make sure your dog doesn't suffer any complications from anesthesia. These include:
- A technician or assistant is present during the anesthetic event to monitor your dog’s vital signs and to help adjust anesthetic levels, under the direction of the veterinarian.
- A heart rate monitor counts your pet’s heartbeats per minute. Anesthesia and other factors can affect heart rate. By monitoring your dog’s heart rate, your veterinarian can make anesthetic adjustments quickly.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) measures your dog's heart rate and rhythm. It can detect arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats. If an arrhythmia is discovered, your veterinarian can adjust your anesthetic accordingly.
- If your dog is enduring a lengthy surgical treatment, his core body temperature may be monitored. Body temperature fluctuations might lead to serious problems.
- A blood pressure monitor measures the blood pressure of your dog. It provides detailed information on your pet's cardiovascular state when used in conjunction with other monitoring equipment.
- Pulse oximetry may be used to monitor the amount of oxygen in your dog's blood and their pulse rate.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is frequently monitored alongside oxygen because it helps assess if your pet is getting enough oxygen under anesthesia.
How Long the Effects of Anesthesia Lasts in Dogs
Dogs after anesthesia often feel sleepy or groggy for approximately 12 to 24 hours after anesthesia was administered. Your dog should be virtually normal by the time he is discharged. If your dog appears to act particularly weird after anesthesia, or you are unable to rouse them quickly, contact the hospital right away for specific guidance.
After the procedure, always make sure to follow any post-surgery advice your vet gives you for a speedy recovery.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.