Several times a day we receive questions regarding the safety or necessity of using anesthesia on dog and cats. These questions are often related to a bad experience in the past or misconceptions. Much has changed in veterinary medicine regarding the safety and appropriateness of anesthesia. These improvements need to be understood by those who love their pets.
Anesthesia is the term used for the unconscious, pain-free state that allows veterinarians to perform surgery, dental work, or other procedures. Most veterinarians perform anesthesia daily, but it is not something to take lightly.
A pre-anesthetic work-up is extremely important to the completion of a successful anesthetic procedure. A pre-anesthetic exam and bloodwork allows the veterinarian to access the organ function of the pet. This permits the veterinarian to properly prepare the patient for anesthesia by using medications that are indicated for that specific pet. Using pre-anesthetic bloodwork has saved countless lives and many more close calls.
Another addition to the procedure that saves lives is the placement of an intravenous catheter before anesthesia. This allows the veterinarian to provide fluid therapy which supports the cardiovascular system and also provide immediate access for intravenous medications in case of an emergency.
Next, the medications used for pre-medication, induction and maintenance of anesthesia have dramatically advanced over the past several years. The newer medications often parallel those used in human hospitals and allow doctors more precise control of the anesthetic procedure. Using combinations of medication at lower dosages also provides for a “balanced” anesthesia, ultimately making the procedure safer and more comfortable for the pet.
Anesthetic monitoring equipment has also dramatically evolved. In modern veterinary medicine, it is not uncommon for a pet to have multi-parameter monitoring such as pulse oximetery, electrocardiogram, blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate via electronic monitoring. This allows the veterinarian and veterinary team to detect small changes in the status of the patient and adjust accordingly, before a problem has a chance to develop.
With the introduction of high-tech monitoring equipment veterinarians and technicians need to be trained in the use and understanding of the equipment and its meaning on the patient. Just as important is the understanding of the medications needed to intervene and improve patient status.
If you have a pet you love and are concerned with their safety under anesthesia, please ask your veterinarian to explain the risks and benefits. Anesthesia does carry risks, but those risks can be mitigated if the proper precautions are taken.
If you are considering elective surgery for your pets and would like a consultation, please call the Animal Medical Center of Woodland Park. We would love to meet you and your pet!