Anesthesia and Your Dog
As is the case for us, our four-legged friends may require anesthesia as part of a surgery or procedure. Puppies 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 dog’s nerve response. During general anesthesia, your dog is in an unconscious state, so she 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.
How risky is anesthesia for your dog?
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 dog 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 dog’s risk!
Fasting for several hours prior to anesthesia, as directed by your veterinarian, is important to reduce your dog’s risk. If your dog has not fasted prior to anesthesia, she could vomit and possibly aspirate food or fluid into her 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 dog
Make sure your veterinarian knows your dog’s complete history before the anesthetic event. Her vaccine history, lifestyle, and any medications she takes all influence how she 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 dog undergoes anesthesia.
Recommended diagnostic tests usually include:
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
- A 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