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Anesthesia for Dogs: What to Expect

Anesthesia for Dogs: What to Expect

To prevent pain and anxiety, dogs are given anesthesia during some surgeries. There are pros and cons to administering anesthesia to your pup during their operation. Our Lincoln vets share what you should expect when your dog receives anesthesia during surgery.

When is anesthesia used for dogs?

Some veterinary treatments, including dentistry, spay and neutering procedures, and surgery, must be performed while your pet is sedated with anesthesia. Most healthy pets, including senior dogs, have no problems with anesthesia, and the dangers are generally tied to the operation being performed rather than the anesthetic itself.

Still, there are some facts about general anesthetic in dogs that all owners should know.

Is anesthesia safe for dogs?

There is always the chance of an unpredictable and unpleasant reaction to anesthesia in dogs. Patients who are sedated lose their typical reflex capacity to swallow. If there is food in the stomach, the dog may vomit while under anesthesia or shortly afterward, which is why veterinarians typically instruct you not to allow your dog to eat pre-op.

Some dogs have a higher risk of reaction to anesthesia due to their size, breed, and age. Because of changes in or immaturity of some of their body's organs or systems, older dogs and very young dogs can also be more vulnerable to anesthesia.

Almost half of all anesthetic-related canine deaths occur within the first few hours after surgery. 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?

Below are some steps you can take to lessen the risk of your dog having a negative reaction to anesthesia:

  • Let your veterinarian know if your pet has ever reacted to sedation or anesthesia.
  • Make sure your veterinarian knows of all medications and supplements (including over-the-counter products) your pet takes.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s instructions before anesthesia, especially with regards to withholding food, water, and medications.

Your veterinarian will typically order the following diagnostic tests and preparations prior to administering anesthesia:

  • 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
  • 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.

All of these steps are designed to make sure your pet undergoes a successful treatment without any complications arising from the anesthesia.

Why do I need to sign an anesthetic consent form?

It is essential that you understand the risks and benefits of anesthesia for your dog, and that you are aware of the hazards involved with an anesthetic.

The form will include consent to perform veterinary surgery or another specified diagnostic testing, as well as an estimate of the treatments' projected costs. Before undertaking anesthetic operations, the veterinarian is required by law in many places to seek written agreement from the owner. 

Will the veterinary team monitor my anesthetized dog?

Yes! In fact, there are several practices in place to make sure your dog doesn't suffer any complications from anesthesia. These include:

  • 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?

Your dog will likely be groggy or slow for 12 to 24 hours following anesthesia. If their different behavior persists past the 24-hour mark, contact your veterinarian.

After the procedure, always make sure to follow any post-surgery advice your vet gives you for a speedy recovery.

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.

Does your dog need surgery that requires anesthesia? Contact Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital today to learn more about our safety practices for dogs under general anesthetic.

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Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of pets in Lincoln and the Greater Sacramento Area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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