Anesthetic Risks

It is well-known that every anesthetic episode poses the risk of complications. The risks that are faced by some veterinary patients undergoing general anesthesia can be similar to those encountered by human patients: pain, stress, low blood pressure, decreased respiration, hypothermia, and cardiac arrhythmias.

Other topics of particular concern to veterinarians regarding their patients include the recognition of pain and breed- or species-specific differences. Animals with brachycephalic facial and upper-respiratory structure are especially prone to airway obstruction post-operatively. Breeds of dog such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston Terriers, Pekignese and cats such as Himalayans or Persians, are examples of some of the more susceptible breeds.

SVRC veterinarians carefully consider pre-existing conditions (such as heart and kidney disease) for all patients who may be anesthetized. Equipped with the knowledge of the pet’s medical history, and physical exam, the anesthetic protocol is carefully tailored to that patient.

Preparation for Procedures

In order to address these concerns, all veterinary patients must undergo the following preparations:

  • Generally a patch of fur on the front leg is shaved, and the veterinary technicians place an intravenous (IV) catheter. The IV catheter can be used to administer medications and/or fluids before, during, and after the procedure.
  • During general anesthesia, the airway of the patient is maintained through the introduction of an endotracheal tube. Patients are provided with oxygen and an inhaled gas anesthetic agent for the duration of the procedure. Patients’ vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, blood-oxygen level, and respiration rate) are monitored throughout the anesthetic episode.
  • It typically takes a few minutes for a patient to recover from general anesthesia, however clinical recovery from the surgical procedure requires hours or days. As the patient “wakes up” from anesthesia, and recovers in the hospital, it is necessary to monitor the patient closely and make sure the patient does not aspirate anything into its lungs. The presence of foreign substances in the lungs can provide conditions where pneumonia can develop (and flourish).
  • All patients undergoing general anesthesia and some other procedures are asked to fast. Generally, owners are asked to withhold food from midnight the evening before a procedure. Water is generally permitted until the morning of the procedure.