The need for anesthesia still evokes a strong fear response from most pet owners despite considerable advances in the safety of the anesthetic agents commonly used today. A pre-anesthetic evaluation, including an examination of the patient and blood tests of the kidneys and liver, is performed on every pet to determine if it is safe to give anesthesia.

Advanced monitoring equipment is used to track the oxygen concentration in the blood stream, the heart rate and rhythm, the body temperature and even the blood pressure after your pet has been anesthetized. In many cases, once the procedure has been completed, your pet can go home within several hours. The doctors and staff form a team that is both experienced and compassionate. Safety always comes first followed by comfort. We all know you worry and that’s why I will try and explain the anesthetic procedure.

Assuming your pet needs anesthesia and that the physical exam and blood values are all within the normal limits, the next step is to determine what if any medication needs to be given before the anesthetic is administered. In many cases a sedative and/or possibly pain medication will be given to reduce the total amount of anesthetic that is necessary for the procedure. The philosophy is that by using smaller doses of many compatible drugs the safety margin for anesthesia is significantly increased. Another objective is to provide an enriched oxygen supply while under anesthesia by using an endotracheal tube. Initially, an intravenous anesthetic that minimally suppresses the cardiovascular system (e.g. dissociative anesthetics) is used to induce a state of unconsciousness. This immobilizes your pet so that he/she can then be maintained on a gas anesthetic.

All anesthetics are given to effect. The goal is to give just enough anesthetic to result in a light plane of unconsciousness. There are always variables to consider when calculating how much anesthesia to administer, such as the physiological stress from a disease, individual sensitivities, blood values that indicate a relative state of dehydration, etc. This is where preparation, experience, and teamwork become valuable tools to the art of anesthetic science. While I will never be able to guarantee an uneventful anesthetic experience the balance of risk for anesthesia is becoming considerably less than the consequences of the disease. Age is not a disease. If your pet has healthy kidneys and liver age is not an anesthetic issue.

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