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A Pet Parent's Guide to Dog Anesthesia

A Pet Parent's Guide to Dog Anesthesia

If your four-legged friend is scheduled to have surgery, anesthesia will be required in order to keep your pup still and free from pain during the procedure. But what are the risks of anesthesia for dogs, and are there any side effects?  Our Santa Clarita vets are here to answer these questions and more.

When Is Anesthesia Used For Dogs?

There are a number of veterinary treatments that must be performed while your pet is sedated, such as dentistry, spaying and neutering, and the vast majority of other surgeries. 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 older dogs and cats, have no problems with anesthesia, and the risks involved are generally tied to the treatment being performed and the pet's overall health rather than the anesthetic itself.

What Are the Risks Associated With Anesthesia For Dogs?

Any anesthetic drug, whether for people or pets, comes with the risk of an unpleasant reaction. Once sedated, patients lose their normal swallowing reflex. If there is food in the stomach, your dog may vomit while under anesthesia or shortly afterward.

Your dog's risk level regarding anesthesia is determined by a number of different factors including their breed, size, overall health, and age. Because of changes in or immaturity of some of their body's organs or systems, very old dogs and very young dogs are often 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.

How Can I Reduce My Dog's Risk of Anesthesia-Related Complications?

If you are concerned about your dog's risk of anesthesia-related complications there are some steps you can take:

  • Let your veterinarian know if your dog has ever reacted to sedation or anesthesia in the past.
  • Make sure your veterinarian knows of all medications and supplements (including over-the-counter products) your dog takes.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s instructions before anesthesia, especially with regard to withholding food, water, and medications.

Your veterinarian will perform a number of diagnostic tests before the procedure begins in order to help reduce your pup's risk of anesthesia-related complications. Those tests may include:

  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
  • A 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

As well as blood tests, your veterinarian 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 to 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 Do I Need to Sign an Anesthetic Consent Form?

It is critical that as a responsible pet parent you understand what will happen to your pet and be aware of the possible hazards involved with an anesthetic. You will be required to sign a consent form before your pet undergoes anesthesia.

The form will include consent to perform surgery or another specified procedure or diagnostic test, as well as an estimate of the treatments' projected costs. Before undertaking any procedure that requires anesthetic, in many places the veterinarian is required by law in many places to seek written agreement from the owner. 

Will the Vet Monitor My Anesthetized Dog?

Yes, your dog's safety and well being are our number one priority! Several practices are 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 her 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 Does Anesthesia Last In Dogs?

Many dogs feel sleepy or lethargic for 12 to 24 hours after anesthesia, and most will also lose their appetite for the rest of the day. Apart from a little laziness and loss of appetite, your dog should be pretty much back to normal by the time they are discharged from the veterinary clinic. If you feel that your dog is acting weird after anesthesia, or you are unable to rouse them quickly, contact the hospital right away for specific guidance.

To ensure that your dog recovers as quickly as possible following their procedure be sure to follow any post-surgery instruction provided to you by your veterinarian. Following your dog's post-surgical instructions closely can help them to recover quickly and with a reduced chance of complications.

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.

Do you have questions about surgery at Valencia Veterinary Center? Contact our Santa Clarita veterinary hospital today to speak with one of our staff or to book an appointment for your dog.

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