Anesthesia and Your Cat
As is the case for us, our four-legged friends may require anesthesia as part of a surgery or procedure. Kittens receive anesthesia when they are spayed or neutered, and most pets receive anesthesia at least once more during their lifetimes.
General anesthesia is achieved by administering drugs that suppress your cat’s nerve response. During general anesthesia your cat is in an unconscious state, so he is unable to move and doesn’t feel any pain. Anesthesia can also be administered locally, to numb a specific area or part of the body—such as a tooth, area of the skin, or the spinal column.
Is Anesthesia Risky for Your Cat?
There are always risks when any anesthetic agent is administered to a patient, regardless of the length of time the patient is anesthetized. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 1 in 100,000 animals will have some sort of reaction to an anesthetic agent.* Reactions can range from mild to severe and include a wide variety of symptoms, such as swelling at the injection site to more serious outcomes, such as anaphylactic shock or death. While these statistics seem alarming, your cat is just as much at risk getting into the car to go to the veterinary hospital for the anesthetic event. The good news is there are many things you can do to reduce your cat’s risk!
Fasting for several hours prior to anesthesia, as directed by your veterinarian, is important to reduce your cat’s risk. If your cat has not fasted prior to anesthesia, he could vomit and possibly aspirate food or fluid into his lungs, even with intubation (tube to keep the airway open). This could potentially result in a condition called aspiration pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
How to Minimize the Risks of Anesthesia on Your Cat
Make sure your veterinarian knows your cat’s complete history before the anesthetic event. His vaccine history, lifestyle and any medications he takes all influence how he may respond to anesthesia. Your veterinarian may recommend a presurgical examination and diagnostic tests that help identify any underlying conditions that should be addressed before your cat undergoes anesthesia.
Recommended diagnostic tests usually include:
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function and sugar levels
- A complete blood count (CBC) to rule out blood-related conditions
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your cat isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
Additional tests may