Is anaesthesia safe in pets at the veterinary clinic

By: Abbotts Way Vet  05-Apr-2012
Keywords: Dogs, Dog, Pet

Is Anaesthesia safe?

Veterinarians anaesthetize animals on a daily basis. At least once per week in any clinic, a pet owner expresses concern about anaesthesia: is it safe? Will my pet survive the procedure?

Modern anaesthesia is very safe. The risk of a pet dying under anaesthesia is less than 0.01%. The rare patients that are lost under anaesthesia are generally emergency surgeries, when the patient’s condition is extremely critical. The risk of a pet dying under anaesthesia while undergoing a routine spay, neuter, dental or mass removal is extremely low, but this risk can be affected by the anaesthetic drugs used and the monitoring of the patient.

Can you imagine an anaesthesiologist in a human hospital using Ether or Chloroform in the 21st century? Of course not. But, unfortunately (and surprisingly,) there are no standards of care for veterinary anaesthesia, and some clinics are still using out-of-date techniques. Here is a list of questions to ask your veterinarian the next time your pet is scheduled for an anaesthetic event:

1. Is pre-anaesthetic blood work run?

All patients , not just the old or sick, should have basic pre-anaesthetic blood test performed checking the blood sugar, kidney and live values, and red blood cell count. Many animals will require more extensive pre-anaesthetic blood work. Even in animals under one year old, blood work will occasionally detect abnormalities that could affect anaesthesia.

2. Are intravenous fluids administered during anaesthesia?

Many drugs used for general anaesthesia tend to cause blood pressure to decrease. Intravenous fluids will combat this decrease. In addition, if there are any adverse reactions under anaesthesia, an intravenous catheter allows immediate administration of emergency drugs.

3. Is the pet’s body temperature maintained during and after anaesthesia?

All animals, especially cats and small dogs, lose a lot of body heat under anaesthesia. The resulting hypothermia can slow the anaesthetic recovery. Anesthetized pets should be placed on a recirculating warm water pad and/or under a warm air blanket. Conventional heating pads are risky because they can cause burns.

4. Is the pet intubated, and what anaesthetic gas is used?

Intubation means that the patient has an endotracheal tube placed through the mouth and into the trachea, through which gas anaesthetic is administrated. The endotracheal tube allows controlled respirations if the patient is not breathing well on his or her own, and prevents accidental inhalation of stomach contents if the pet vomits under anaesthesia. The modern gas anaesthetics are Halothane, Isoflurane and Sevoflurane. Methoxyflurane is out-of-date.

5. What pain control is used?

Surgery hurts! It doesn’t matter if the patient is a human, a dog or a guinea pig. Analgesia is the relief of pain, and in modern anaesthetic protocols we strive for pre-emptive analgesia (blocking the pain pathways from as many directions as possible).

6. What monitoring techniques are used?

It is critical to monitor the patient’s vitals while under anaesthesia to ensure that the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are functioning well, and to ensure that the patient is not under too lightly or too deeply. Most important is that someone besides the surgeon (who is occupied) is monitoring the heart rate, respiratory rate, and anaesthetic depth.

Additional commonly used monitoring techniques include:

- An electrocardiogram (EKG) to monitor the heart rhythm for arrhythmias.

- A pulse oximeter to monitor the percentage oxygenation of the blood, which should be close to 100%.

- A machine to monitor the blood pressure.

- A machine (apnoea monitor or capnograph) to monitor the respiratory rate and carbon dioxide level.

Another concern many pet owners have is the cost of anaesthesia: Why is it so expensive? Why does Dr. X charge $300 for a dental while Dr. Y down the street only charges $100? As you can see, modern anaesthesia involves a lot of equipment and expertise, and this unfortunately costs money. Cutting corners by not intubating patients, not keeping patients warm or skimping on pain medications and monitoring can save money, but the price is decreased comfort and safety for your pet.

The information in this article was current at 27 Mar 2012

Keywords: Animal Hospital, Cat, Cats, Dog, Dogs, Pet, Pulse Oximeter, Veterinarian, Veterinary Clinic

Other products and services from Abbotts Way Vet



Abbotts Way Veterinary Clinic is a full service veterinary clinic for small animals, which includes dogs, cats, and pocket pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and. This guarantee is not limited to our own clients, we will see any pet that is sick on the day that you call us. Probably of most importance is that if your pet is sick we will never make you wait until tomorrow to be seen.


Preanaesthetic blood testing at Abbotts Way Veterinary Clinic

We will perform a complete physical examination to look for any existing medical conditions that might complicate the procedure or compromise your pet’s health. We perform pre-anaesthetic testing for companion animals for the same reasons your doctor would run tests on you before you underwent anaesthesia.


Pet Dentistry

At Abbotts Way Veterinary Clinic we grade your pets teeth at every visit and if prophylactic cleaning is required we will advise you accordingly. Tooth resorption is the most common dental problem in cats, with studies worldwide showing a prevalence rate of up to 75%. Resorptions of permanent teeth in cats have commonly been referred to as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions.


Dental Cleaning at Abbotts Way Veterinary Clinic

At best tooth and gum disease causes discomfort so please call our receptionist to schedule an appointment to insure your special pet has healthy. You will be given the option to waive these tests when you sign the anaesthetic consent form when your pet is admitted for surgery. This may consist of teeth brushing, the use of the Hills t/d prescription food or various dental treats and chews such as Greenies.