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Anesthesia for Dogs: What You Need to Know

During certain surgeries, dogs are given anesthesia to minimize pain and discomfort. If your furry friend is going through a procedure that requires anesthesia for the first time, it's normal to feel worried. Our vets from Pittsboro have compiled 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, and general surgery, require your pet to be sedated. Anesthesia is a state of unconsciousness the veterinarian controls to eliminate pain during the procedure.

Most healthy dogs, including older ones, present no problems after anaesthetization. More often than not, the only dangers are related to the procedure, not the anesthesia. Nevertheless, it's understandably scary if you're a dog owner and your pet is due to be anesthetized for the first time. Here's everything you need to know to put your mind at rest.

Is anesthesia safe for dogs?

When any anesthetic drug is used, there is always the possibility of some 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, so your vet will tell you not to allow your dog to eat or drink for a few hours to a day before surgery.

Certain dog breeds, ages, sizes, and genetic variations may pose a higher risk of negative reactions to anesthesia. Specifically, puppies and senior dogs are more vulnerable, which is why your veterinarian will adjust the dosage or method of administration 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. As your veterinarian recommends, fasting before anesthesia 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 about 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 guidelines aim to enhance the safety and well-being of your pet while receiving anesthetic treatment, ensuring a successful outcome.

Why do I need to sign an anesthetic consent form?

Pet owners must comprehend both the advantages and risks of general anesthesia. Like with most standard procedures, your veterinarian will require your approval to treat your dog to the best of their ability.

The law mandates that your veterinarian receives written consent from you. The form will typically consist of permission to perform veterinary surgery, any diagnostic tests, and an approximation of the expected treatment expenses.

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 help adjust anesthetic levels, under the veterinarian's direction.
  • 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 your dog's blood pressure. 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 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?

After your dog has received anesthesia, it is common for them to feel groggy or sleepy for 12 to 24 hours. However, once they are discharged from the animal hospital, they should return to their normal behavior. If you observe any unusual or new behaviors or if your dog seems confused or disoriented, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance. 

It is crucial to follow all the post-operative instructions your vet provides after the procedure.

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 dog? Contact our Pittsboro vets today.

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