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Anesthesia for Dogs: What You Need to Know

Anesthesia for Dogs: What You Need to Know

Anesthesia is given to dogs during certain surgeries to limit pain and discomfort. If your pup is undergoing a procedure that requires anesthesia for the first time, you might be a little concerned. Here, our Seattle vets tell you everything you need to know about general anesthesia for dogs.

When is anesthesia used for dogs?

Some veterinary services such as dental surgery, spaying and neutering procedures, and general surgery, require sedation for your pet. Anesthesia is regulated unconsciousness controlled by the vet in order to eliminate pain during the procedure.

Most healthy dogs, including senior ones, present no issues after being administered anesthesia. More often than not, the only dangers are related to the procedure itself, not the anesthesia. Still, if you are a dog owner and your pooch is going to be put under for the first time, it is understandably scary the first time. Here is everything you need to know to put your mind at ease.

Is anesthesia safe for dogs?

When any anesthetic drug is used, there is always the possibility for some sort of negative reaction in the dog. Sedated patients usually lose their reflex capacity to swallow. If there is food in the stomach, the dog may vomit while under anesthesia or shortly afterward, which is why your vet will tell you to not allow your dog to eat or drink for a few hours to a day prior to surgery.

Some dogs have higher anesthetic risk depending on their breed, age, size, and genetic makeup. Puppies and senior dogs in particular are more susceptible to negative response while under anesthesia, which is why your vet will alter the dose or administration method accordingly.

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.

Are there ways to reduce my 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:

  • Inform your vet if your dog has ever reacted to anesthesia or sedation before.
  • Tell your vet about all medications, supplements and vitamins your dog takes, including over-the-counter.
  • Closely follow all instructions before anesthesia, especially with regards to withholding food, water, and medications.

Your vet will normally perform diagnostic tests prior to administering anesthesia. These tests 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:

  • 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.

These steps are designed to maximize your pet's safety and success during anesthetic treatment.

Why do I need to sign an anesthetic consent form?

It is important for owners to understand the benefits and risks to general anesthesia. Like most basic procedures, the vet will require your consent to treat your dog with the best care possible. Your veterinarian receiving written consent is required by law.

The form will typically include consent to perform veterinary surgery, possible diagnostic testing, and an estimate of the treatments' projected costs. 

Will the veterinary team monitor my anesthetized dog?

Of course! These are just a few necessary practices that your veterinarian team will employ while your furry friend is under anesthesia:

  • 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 do the effects of anesthesia last in dogs?

You'll likely notice grogginess or sleepiness in your dog 12 to 24 hours after they received anesthesia. Other than that, they should be pretty much the same once they're discharged from the animal hospital. If you notice new or odd behaviors following surgery, or your pup seems dazed or out of it, contact your vet right away for guidance.

After the procedure, always make sure to carefully follow all post-op instructions given to you by your veterinarian.

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.

More questions about anesthesia for your pup? Contact our Seattle vets today.

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