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Surgery & Dog Anesthesia

Anesthesia is required in the vast majority of surgical procedures our Memphis vets perform on dogs. But what are the risks involved in dog anesthesia, how long does anesthesia last and what are the side effects? Find out below.

When Is Anesthesia Used For Dogs?

Some veterinary treatments, such as dentistry, spay and neutering procedures, and surgery, must be performed while your pet is sedated. Anesthesia is regulated unconsciousness, where your pet's degree of consciousness is controlled so that they do not feel pain or move.

Most healthy pets, including older dogs and cats, have no problems with anesthesia, and the risks involved are generally tied to the treatment being performed and the pet's overall health rather than the anesthetic itself.

What Are the Risks Associated With Anesthesia For Dogs?

Any anesthetic drug comes with the risk of an unpleasant reaction, this is true for people and pets alike. Once sedated, patients lose their normal swallowing reflex. If there is food in the stomach, your dog may vomit while under anesthesia or shortly afterward.

Because of breed, size, health, or age, some dogs have a higher anesthetic risk. Because of changes in or immaturity of some of their body's organs or systems, very old 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.

How Can I Reduce My Dog's Risk of Anesthesia-Related Complications?

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of anesthesia-related complications:

  • 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 regard to withholding food, water, and medications.

The following diagnostic tests before undergoing anesthesia normally 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

In addition to blood tests, your vet might also recommend the following:

  • 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 critical that you completely comprehend what will happen to your dog and that you are aware of the hazards involved with an anesthetic.

The form will include consent to perform 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 Vet Monitor My Anesthetized Dog?

Yes, we do! Several practices are 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 Does Anesthesia Last In Dogs?

Many dogs feel sleepy or tired for 12 to 24 hours after anesthesia, and many dogs will also lose their appetite for the rest of the day. Apart from a little laziness and loss of appetite, your dog should be virtually normal by the time they are discharged. If your dog is acting weird after anesthesia, or you are unable to rouse them quickly, contact the hospital right away for specific guidance.

Always make sure to follow any post-surgery instructions provided to you by your veterinarian. Following your dog's post-surgical instructions closely can help them to recover quickly and with a reduced chance of complications.

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. 

Our Memphis vets regularly perform a variety of surgeries on dogs using anesthesia. If you'd like to learn more about surgery at Southwind Animal Hospital contact our Memphis vets today.

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