Anaesthesia in animal hospitals happens every day and is a very safe procedure. However, it is important to acknowledge that nothing comes without some level of risk. The research shows that the risk of death can be between 0.05 to 0.1% for healthy patients with the most critical time being when they are recovering (or waking up).
What are the factors that can increase the risk for pets?
Risk factors include increasing age (over the age of 7 is considered senior depending upon the breed), physical status (ie: obesity) and breed type (ie: brachycephalics (short or no noses) such as Bostons, Frenchies)
Is death the only risk?
Other complications can include regurgitation, aspiration, corneal ulcers, and blindness. Conditions such as hypothermia (decreased body temperature), hypotension (low blood pressure) and hypoxaemia (low oxygenation) can lead to increased complication rates.
What can be done ahead of time to reduce the risk?
To minimise these risks, we take blood samples from your pet prior to the anaesthesia to assess internal organ function (kidneys, liver, heart, etc) and perform a physical examination to ensure all parameters are normal.
Prior to the day of anaesthesia, we will ask you to withhold food for about 12 hours. If we feel it beneficial, we will prescribe some calming medications so that when arriving at the clinic your pet will not be as anxious when left for the day.
We will administer a pre-anaesthetic agent which will sedate your pet and provide analgesia (pain relief) and then insert an intravenous catheter to administer the anaesthetic agent. General anaesthesia will often be administered using gaseous anaesthesia agent on pure oxygen, through a tube placed into the pet’s trachea (windpipe).
During the time your pet is anaesthetised, we will be monitoring them to ensure that they are receiving appropriate levels of oxygen, that their carbon dioxide levels are not too high and that their blood pressure remains good with normal electrical activity of their heart. Monitoring will continue once the procedure is over and while your pet is recovering before they go home. Once your pet is mobile, and it is safe to do so, your pet will go home. In the rare instance, should your pet require overnight care, transfer to a local overnight emergency clinic will be arranged.
If you have any specific concerns or questions about your pet’s anaesthesia, we will be happy to address them for you beforehand.
Below is a link to a short YouTube video that discusses anaesthesia for small animals from the American Veterinary Medical association.