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Why does my pet need Anesthesia?

Some veterinary procedures need to be performed with your pet under anesthesia (for example: dentistry, surgery, and some diagnostic imaging). Simply put, anesthesia is a controlled unconsciousness, where your pet’s level of consciousness is controlled so they don’t feel pain and don’t move. We certainly don’t want our pets to feel pain whenever possible, and it’s important that they don’t move because precision is required during these procedures and movement could lead to complications. Most healthy pets don’t have any problems with anesthesia and, in general, the risks are more closely related to the procedure being done and your pet’s general health than to the anesthesia itself.

 We use the safest, non hallucinogenic general anesthetic called Sevoflurane, which is so gentle; they use it in pediatric medicine. It also allows your pet to wake and recover very quickly, usually 20-60 minutes!

Before Anesthesia

Prior to receiving anesthesia, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your pet, review your pet’s medical history and discuss any risk factors. Your veterinarian may also perform blood tests on your pet to check for any indications of a developing medical problem or anesthetic risk. If you have any questions about your pet’s health or his or her anesthetic risk, ask your veterinarian for an explanation that will help you make an educated decision.

Prior to anesthesia, your pet will likely be given a pre-anesthetic sedative to reduce his or her stress and ease the process. An intravenous catheter is placed to allow administration of fluids and medications. The anesthetic may be delivered by gas inhalation (using a gas anesthesia machine), intravenous infusion, or a combination of the two.

During Anesthesia

While under anesthesia, your pet will receive monitoring and care comparable to what you’d receive if you underwent anesthesia. This will  include intravenous fluids and/or medications to support your pet’s circulation and blood pressure; an endotracheal tube inserted into your pet’s trachea (windpipe) to deliver the anesthetic gas and provide oxygen to your pet’s lungs; pulse oximetry to measure the oxygenation of your pet’s blood; blood pressure monitoring; temperature monitoring and a convection warming device to prevent hypothermia (low body temperature); and electrocardiography (ECG, also called EKG) to monitor your pet’s heart.

After Anesthesia

Once the procedure is done and it’s time for your pet to wake up from the anesthesia, your pet will be placed in a quiet, semi-dark cage or kennel to recover. Pets are closely monitored during this time to make sure that they are recovering normally and that care is provided quickly if there are any problems. Pads, convection warming devices and blankets are used to keep your pet warm during the recovery, but it’s not uncommon to see a pet shivering while they recover from anesthesia; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean your pet is cold. Some pets may also vocalize (whine, bark or meow) during recovery. The endotracheal tube is removed when your pet is awake enough to swallow normally. Fluids and/or medications may be continued through recovery, depending on your pet’s condition.

 Depending on the procedure and your pet’s medical condition, he or she may be sent home later in the day (once adequately recovered from anesthesia) or he or she may need to remain in the hospital.