Your pet may have to undergo anesthesia for some veterinary procedures, and you may be worried about their safety, but our Associated Veterinary Medical Center team is here to calm your fears by explaining anesthesia’s safe and effective use for your pet. 

Anesthesia ensures your pet can safely receive the care they need

Some veterinary care services—certain dental treatments, surgical procedures, or diagnostic imaging—require your pet’s sedation or general anesthesia. Anesthesia is a controlled unconsciousness that prevents pets from feeling pain, and keeps them still so veterinary professionals can safely perform many essential medical procedures. 

Anesthesia is safe for pets of all ages

Current anesthesia medications are safe, and pets’ anesthesia death rate is quite low (e.g., 0.05% for healthy dogs, 0.11% for healthy cats)—much safer than forgoing a procedure to address your pet’s adverse health conditions. We do not want fear of anesthesia to prevent your pet from receiving the care they need.

Veterinarians take every precaution when administering anesthesia to pets

Your pet’s anesthesia safety is our veterinarians’ vital concern, and our veterinary anesthesia team is specially trained to protect each anesthetized pet’s health. To minimize your pet’s health risks when we administer their anesthesia, our veterinarians take the following precautions: 

  • Physical examination — To ensure your pet’s anesthesia safety, our veterinary team performs a complete physical examination before the medical procedure. This allows your veterinarian to identify and minimize any potential health risks that anesthesia could exacerbate. 
  • Blood work — Preanesthetic blood work ensures your pet’s kidneys and liver can safely metabolize anesthesia medications.
  • Balanced anesthesia — Our veterinary team chooses your pet’s anesthetic medications to ensure their appropriate sedation and analgesia (i.e, pain control), and to create a comfortable anesthesia experience. Your veterinarian considers your pet’s age, weight, and overall health status when selecting anesthetic agents.
  • Intravenous catheter — To provide a secure route for medication and fluids, we place an intravenous (IV) catheter in your pet’s vein after we have shaved and cleaned the area—usually a leg. 
  • Intubation — Once your veterinarian has induced your pet’s anesthesia, they will secure your pet’s airway with an endotracheal tube to ensure they receive continuous oxygen and anesthetic gas delivery, and to prevent their airway from accidentally closing or collapsing.
  • Monitoring — Our veterinary team closely monitors your pet’s vitalsheart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure—during and after administering anesthesia. 

You can help ensure your pet’s successful anesthesia experience

You play an integral part in ensuring your pet has a safe and successful anesthesia experience by preparing them according to your veterinarian’s preanesthesia guidelines. Your veterinarian may instruct you to do the following:

  • Withhold food — Your veterinarian will likely tell you to withhold your pet’s food the night before their procedure. An anesthetized pet with food in their stomach has a higher vomiting risk, increasing their aspiration risk.
  • Withhold water — You should withhold your pet’s drinking water a few hours before their procedure. Although your pet’s stomach should be empty before anesthesia, you’ll want to prevent your pet from becoming dehydrated before surgery.
  • Medication — Some medications—prescribed and over-the-counter—can interact with anesthesia medications, and you should avoid administering them to your pet within a specific period before they undergo an anesthesia procedure. Tell your veterinarian about all your pet’s over-the-counter medications and supplements. 

Ensure you strictly follow your veterinarian’s postoperative instructions for your pet’s care. Your pet’s postoperative care may include restricting their activity, feeding them a special diet, and giving them medication. Your veterinarian will give you postanesthesia or postoperative instructions to bring home at the time of your pet’s discharge. At discharge, your pet will be able to stand and walk, but will be tired, and you should keep them calm and quiet for a specified period. Any lingering anesthesia effects—grogginess and constipation—should subside within 24 to 48 hours.   

Anesthesia medication and administration are generally quite safe, and keep your pet’s veterinary procedure as painless as possible. If you have additional questions about your pet’s upcoming anesthetic procedure, contact our Associated Veterinary Medical Center team.