Pet owners are often nervous or reluctant about their furry companions going under anesthesia. As pet lovers ourselves, we can empathize with your concerns, but rest assured—Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek subscribes to the highest anesthesia and surgical safety standards. Let us show you how we care for your pet before, during, and after anesthesia.

What is anesthesia for pets?

Anesthesia is defined as a state of unconsciousness and an insensibility (i.e., unawareness) to pain achieved through medication. General (i.e., full) anesthesia is controllable and reversible and acts on the central nervous system (i.e., brain and spinal cord) to suppress outside stimuli, including pain and physical manipulation, as well as the pet’s memory.  

Anesthetized pets are asleep and physically relaxed, so that appropriate care measures can be safely performed. 

What is sedation for pets?

Sedation is a form of anesthesia and a component of general anesthesia, and is ideal for brief, minor, or non-sterile procedures, such as wound repair, orthopedic imaging (i.e., X-rays), and aggressive or fearful pet exams. Sedatives are generally short-acting and quickly wear off or can be reversed when the procedure is complete. Sedatives are combined with pain relieving (i.e., analgesic) medications to ensure the patient remains comfortable and relaxed.

Why and when is anesthesia necessary for my pet?

Anesthesia protects the pet and the veterinary team. Anesthetized pets experience a stress-free and painless sleep-like rest while veterinarians and technicians perform sterile, painful, or invasive procedures without worrying about the patient moving, reacting, or hurting themselves.

At the Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek, we use anesthesia every day for various patient care tasks, including:

  • Surgery
  • Diagnostic sampling
  • Imaging (e.g., X-rays, ultrasound)
  • Dental procedures
  • Minor procedures (e.g., toenail amputation, wound repair, splint application)

Does anesthesia put pets at any risk?

Like any medical procedure, anesthesia has inherent risks, but advances in anesthetic protocols, medications, and monitoring have significantly reduced the risk for anesthetic complications or death. One study that included more than 98,000 pets determined an overall (i.e., healthy and sick pets) anesthetic death rate of only 0.15% in dogs and 0.23% in cats.

While anesthesia is relatively safe, some risk factors can predispose pets to anesthetic complications. These factors include:

  • Obesity — Overweight pets have reduced cardiac output and respiratory restrictions, and may struggle to maintain oxygen levels during recovery. 
  • Breed — Sighthound breeds are sensitive to anesthesia, while brachycephalic pets may have respiratory challenges. Small pets are at risk for hypoglycemia and hypothermia while under anesthesia.
  • Age — Young and old pets have altered metabolism, immune health, and organ function.
  • Health — Concurrent conditions, especially those involving the heart, kidneys, and nervous system, may affect your pet’s ability to handle anesthesia.

What safety measures protect my pet under anesthesia?

The Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team is dedicated to providing the safest, most advanced veterinary anesthesia. Our veterinarians routinely evaluate their anesthetic protocols based on the most current research to ensure a smooth and safe experience for every pet. Our commitment to anesthetic safety begins before your pet receives any medication, and continues until they are completely recovered. Here’s a glimpse at some of our anesthesia safety measures:

  • Preanesthetic examination and testing — Before the procedure, our team will perform a nose-to-tail examination as well as blood work to ensure your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia, and to determine their best medications. Our veterinarian may also recommend a urinalysis or chest X-rays.
  • Premedication — Our anesthetic protocol begins with a light sedative and analgesic combination to help your pet relax. Premedication ensures your pet won’t feel any pain or discomfort during the induction process and allows us to reduce the doses of other medications. Premedication applies only to general anesthesia.
  • Intubation — Once your pet is sleepy, the technician team will administer the anesthetic medication intravenously and then place an endotracheal tube in your pet’s airway to maintain a steady flow of oxygen and inhalant anesthesia.
  • IV fluid therapy — If needed, we’ll administer IV fluids to support your pet’s blood pressure and kidney function.
  • Dedicated anesthetist — Each patient is assigned their own dedicated technician anesthetist who provides monitoring and nursing support throughout the procedure and recovery.
  • Heat support — Anesthetized pets can’t regulate their body temperature, so we provide gentle heat support with cozy blankets and devices that circulate warm air or water.
  • Monitoring — Your pet’s veterinary technician uses our state-of-the-art monitoring equipment to continuously monitor your pet’s vital signs and to support your pet. They will notify our veterinarian immediately if they detect an abnormality.
  • Recovery — Anesthetic recovery can be a tenuous time for pets—and, unfortunately, when anesthetic death most commonly occurs. Each patient at the Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek receives continuing one-on-one care and monitoring until they are awake, responsive, and can maintain their body temperature. After that, monitoring—including pain assessment—continues, but at longer intervals so the patient can rest.

If you have specific questions about your pet’s anesthesia, talk to the Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team. We strive to ensure you are comfortable and confident about your pet’s veterinary care—and that begins with a thorough understanding of the anesthesia process. Contact us for more information.