Sara monitors a patient during anesthesia.

Sara monitors a patient during anesthesia.

Like humans, animals often need general anesthesia for surgical or diagnostic procedures. And, just like in human medicine, in veterinary medicine we first use sedatives to make sure that your pet is calm, and then we produce anesthesia using injectable drugs. For short procedures, this may be all that is necessary, but for longer procedures we use inhalant anesthesia delivered through a special tube (‘endotracheal tube’) in your pet’s airway (or ‘trachea). At Riverview Animal Clinic we use oxygen, IV fluids, anesthetic monitoring, patient warming and pain control to make sure that anesthesia is as safe, and that your pet is as comfortable, as possible.

Why is general anesthesia required for some procedures, like dentistry, that do not require anesthesia in humans?

Because our pets don’t understand that a procedure that might be uncomfortable is being done to improve their health, they are often scared or even aggressive during the procedure. To make sure that they stay calm and comfortable, it is generally best for them – and safest for us – to do those procedures under general anesthesia.

What should I anticipate if my pet needs general anesthesia?

The doctors and staff at Riverview Animal Clinic will discuss the procedure with you and you should feel free to ask any questions that you have. You should also be prepared to provide the doctors and staff with a complete history of your pet’s health, including medications that the pet might be on that were not prescribed by the doctors at our clinic (don’t forget to tell them if your pet is on over-the-counter drugs like aspirin or on any kind of herbal supplement). The doctors may also recommend diagnostic tests like blood work, x-rays (‘radiographs’), ultrasound, or other tests. The information provided in the history and by the diagnostic tests will allow the doctors and staff tailor the anesthetic protocol to your pet’s specific needs, which improves the safety of anesthesia for pet.

The night before the anesthetic protocol we will ask you to withhold food (but not water) from your pet after the evening meal. This insures that the pet has an empty stomach at anesthesia time and decreases the likelihood that the pet will vomit or feel nauseous.

What should I anticipate following my pet’s anesthesia?

Most animals tolerate anesthesia very well, especially when the protocol is tailored to your pet’s needs. Animals generally regain consciousness rapidly and are ready to return home with you by the end of the day. Your pet may still be a little sleepy the night of the procedure and may not want to eat a large meal. We recommend keeping your pet quiet and allowing it to sleep. Offer it a small meal of something it really likes to eat. If your pet is still sleepy or not wanting to eat the following day, it might be normal depending on the procedure, but please give us a call at Riverview Animal Clinic (509-758-5022). For other things to watch for after a procedure, see our surgical discharge page.

Is there a risk of complications with general anesthesia?

Like most medical procedures, there is a slight risk that anesthesia could make your pet worse or even cause death. We know that this can be a very scary process for pet owners and at Riverview Animal Clinic we do everything we can to decrease anesthetic risk and to keep your pet as safe as possible. We use the latest anesthetic drugs, patient support (like IV fluids), pain control and monitoring equipment. In addition, our staff have received extra training in anesthesia. Your pet will have a staff member dedicated to monitoring the pet’s vital signs throughout the entire anesthetic period and into the recovery period.

For more information about anesthesia and pain management for your pet, please call us at Riverview Animal Clinic (509-758-5022).

You can also learn more from the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) at http://www.acvaa.org/Owners, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) at https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Whenyourpetneedsanesthesia.aspxf and Washington State University at http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/ClientED/anesthesia.aspx