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Understanding Anesthesia for Your Pet: What You Need to Know

Have you been considering a surgical or dental procedure for your pet, but are nervous about the risks associated with anesthesia? You are not alone. While there is no such thing as “zero risk” when it comes to surgery, our staff takes every measure to make the procedure as safe as possible for your pet, before, during, and after their procedure.

Surgical suite at Prosper Trail Animal Hospital
PTAH Surgical Suite


Why is anesthesia worth the risk?

Surgery does not only help pets in emergency situations. There are a number of procedures involving anesthesia, such as dental cleanings, that can have a drastic impact on your pet’s health and longevity. Over the course of your pet’s life, your veterinarian may recommend such procedures at times when the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risk associated with anesthesia.

How does anesthesia work?

For most surgical and dental procedures, an inhaled gas is used, which is administered via an endotracheal tube. A sedative is given before the endotracheal tube is placed to ensure that your pet is safely and calmly induced. The gas works by interrupting nerve signals in the body which keeps pets in a temporary unconscious state, which slows everything down: breathing, heart rate, temperature, etc. While under anesthesia, your pet will not experience any distress, pain, or discomfort, allowing your veterinarian and staff to work safely and efficiently on the procedure. Just like when humans go under for surgery, your pet will have no recollection of going under or any pain their body might have experienced during the procedure.

What safety measures are in place to protect my pet while under anesthesia?

Safety measures start well before the procedure begins. Prior to your pet’s procedure, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam, review your pet’s medical history, check their vitals (heart rate, temperature, respiration rate), and check your pet’s blood work. Checking these things allow your veterinarian to identify whether or not there are any contraindications for surgery. Once your pet is given the all-clear, they will be prepped for surgery.

Surgical prep involves placing an IV catheter to administer fluids throughout the procedure, placing monitors on your pet to track their vitals, and your experienced veterinary staff keeping a close eye on things to ensure everything goes smoothly from start to finish.

What are the main factors that influence anesthetic risk level?

Pets who are in good health with no underlying or pre-existing medical conditions will always have the highest chance of a positive outcome involving surgery. However, that is not to say that pets with existing medical conditions cannot safely undergo surgery - just that special accommodations and considerations may need to be taken to keep your pet safe! Always give your veterinarian as much detail regarding your pet’s medical history as possible.

While senior or geriatric pets are more likely to experience one or more existing medical conditions than younger pets, it is safe for older pets to undergo procedures involving anesthesia, contrary to popular misconception. In fact, preventative care procedures such as dental cleanings can actually prolong a pet’s life significantly and should not be avoided just because of your pet’s age!

Another important consideration is to make sure you follow your pet’s pre-operative protocols, including no food or water the morning of surgery and avoiding certain medications as indicated by your veterinarian that may have adverse reactions to the drugs used in surgery.

If you feel that your pet’s quality of life would benefit from a surgical procedure but have concerns, reach out to your veterinarian to discuss the benefits and risks of surgery. Your veterinarian will always make recommendations with your pet’s best interest in mind and help you make an informed decision regarding their care.

To schedule a consult with one of our veterinarians, please give us a call at 972-347-6100.

For additional questions please contact us at 972-347-6100.

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