Anesthesia + Your Pet

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Something that I have observed over the past several years is how uncomfortable my clients get when our topic of conversation deals with sedation or general anesthesia for their furry companions.  So in this week’s blog post, our goal is to help you will feel better educated about anesthesia in our veterinary practice, and hopefully less anxious about the entire process.

First off, I think it is perfectly natural to be apprehensive or nervous about putting our dogs and/or cats under any form of anesthesia.  Anesthesia is scary!

There I said it.

But now that we have said it out loud, let's look into why it is such a vital tool in the medical field and how it actually allows us to provide not only safer, but also better medical care to our pawed companions.  

The first question to ask ourselves is:

Why do we need sedation or general anesthesia?  

As a general rule, sedation and/or general anesthesia are used to provide a safer environment for our patients undergoing certain procedures or diagnostics, as well as minimizing any pain or discomfort that may be associated with the procedure.  I know that may sound counter intuitive, but the simple truth is anesthesia gives us greater control of our patients while reducing the stress and pain that accompanies common procedures.

It is important to discuss the benefits that a procedure will have for our dogs and cats.  I encourage all of our clients to talk with their veterinarians about recommended procedures.  Anesthetic procedures that we may recommend range from life-saving surgery, elective surgery, diagnostics and even behavioral, to reduce stress and anxiety associated with a wellness exam.  At Southpoint Animal Hospital, we all feel strongly that you as the pet owner should fully understand why we may recommend sedation or anesthesia for your individual pets. Our clients are our patient’s biggest advocates and it is crucial that you understand what to expect before, during and following an anesthetic event. 

We cannot have a conversation about anesthesia without touching upon the risks associated.  Yes, there are risks associated with any and all anesthetic procedures, however we do everything we can to minimize that risk at every step.  If you are a numbers person, the mortality rate associated with healthy pets undergoing anesthesia is 0.005%, which is the same to say 1 in 20,000.  The most common adverse effects from anesthesia we see at SPAH are mild gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Most of my owners note some dysphoria and lack of coordination the night of a procedure, both of which we expect to happen to some degree.  It is our mission to minimize these common adverse effects through modern anesthetic protocols and educating our owners on what signs and symptoms they should be on the look out for.

To achieve the best possible outcomes, it is best to break anesthetic procedures, no matter how major or minor, into 4 main stages.  

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  1. The time leading up to our pets’ appointment at home: this may include some form of fasting, administration of medication, or a stress reducing measure. Our staff will make sure that you are well-educated on any details that you need to know well in advance of the procedure.

  2. The pre-medication or sedation administration performed at Southpoint Animal Hospital

  3. During the anesthetic procedure at Southpoint Animal Hospital

  4. Recovery both at Southpoint Animal Hospital and the hours/days following once the pet has returned home.

All four phases are equally important in ensuring the best possible outcome, and it is extremely important that you as a pet owner feel educated and comfortable with each stage.  It is not only empowering when you know what to expect throughout each stage, but it also improves the cooperation between Southpoint Animal Hospital and home. Please do not hesitate to discuss each stage with your veterinarian (which would be specific to your procedure).  We want you to be a part of the process; it only improves the outcome for our patients which at the end of the day is our main goal.

If you have specific questions about anesthesia, your pet's procedures, or the process as a whole, please feel free to reach out to your Southpoint Animal Hospital DVM for more details!