Anesthesia – Local and Topical

Local and topical anesthetics are used commonly in veterinary medicine. Anytime it is desirable to numb an area for a short period of time local anesthetics can be used. They are relatively safe, easy to give and have few side effects. They are often combined with tranquilizers.

Topical and local anesthetics all end in the word “caine” i.e. tetracaine or lidocaine or benzocaine. They work by blocking the sensory nerve pathway. Topical anesthetics are most often applied on the skin and in the eye. Local anesthetics are most often delivered by needle under the skin or in the skin in order to perform a minor surgery such as wart removal or to suture a laceration.

The sensation to the tissue returns gradually over approximately 2-4hrs. as the anesthetic wears off. If needed additional topical or local anesthetic can be given repeatedly without undue risk to the other organs because it is concentrated locally. The only real threat comes if the local anesthetic is accidentally injected directly into the vein or artery.

Tranquilizers are frequently given at the same time to quiet or immobilize the pet while the procedure is done. Some tranquilizers are reversible which means a second injection is given so that your pet can walk out of the hospital on its own shortly after the procedure is completed. Normally the combination of tranquilizers and local anesthetics are given to avoid the use of a general anesthetic for minor procedures. This combination is often safer and less expensive than general anesthetic but has limitations as to what procedures can be done with it.

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