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Anesthesia in Pets 2021

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Anesthesia in Pets



Many pet owners worry unnecessarily about anesthesia in their pets. Although anesthesia can never be completely free of risk, today's modern anesthetics make that risk very small. The same anesthetics that allow complicated surgeries such as heart and kidney transplants to be done on humans are used in pets as well. Even very frail animals can usually be anesthetized safely. In general, the risks from NOT performing a needed procedure, such as dental cleaning or tumor removal, are much higher than the risk from the anesthesia.

Safety begins with screening tests

We use preoperative examination, blood testing, ECG heart screening and radiographs (X-rays) to help us determine whether a procedure will be safe for your pet before it is performed. Even young and apparently healthy animals can have serious organ dysfunctions which are not evident without such testing.

Blood testing is done prior to anesthesia to insure that the kidneys and liver are functioning properly. These are the organs that have to process anesthetic drugs. It is rare for blood testing to prompt us to cancel a procedure but it is common for us to adjust the drugs used or the type and rate of IV fluids in order to make anesthesia safer.

An ECG (electrocardiogram) before anesthesia is recommended to diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm, which could affect the safety of a procedure. The most common reason for death under anesthesia is an undiagnosed heart problem. Although we have all our patients on ECG monitors during their procedures, the goal is to find heart abnormalities before we administer the anesthesia. We postpone or cancel half a dozen procedures every year because of unexpected findings on ECG. Many people assume that young animals are at low risk for heart abnormalities. Some forms of heart rhythm disturbance become more common with age but it’s actually young patients with genetic forms of heart disease that are at highest risk, especially in cats. Like the teenager who collapses on


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