Anesthetic safety is a valid concern for all pet owners. However steps can be taken to minimize
risks. Anesthesia has advanced over time and all anesthetic protocols used by hospitals are
not equal. Today, with the proper protocol, most patients are awake within 10 minutes of the
procedure. When approving anesthesia for your pet, use a hospital that conducts an appropriate
pre-anesthetic preparation, utilizes the safest anesthetics available and has state-of-the-art
monitoring equipment. Choosing an “AHAA Certified” hospital assures adherence to strict standards.
Pre-Anesthetic Blood Work: Assesses organ function for proper processing and elimination
of anesthesia, detects anemia and dehydration and serves as a baseline for future reference.
Pre-Anesthetic ECG: (For senior patients, high-risk breeds (Boxers or Dobermans) and those
with heart conditions, e.g. murmur) The ECG can be transmitted live to a board-certified
cardiologist to evaluate cardiac function, assess the chosen anesthetic protocol and make recommendations for additional medications.
IV Catheter: Ensures sterile access to a vein for delivering anesthetics and fluid therapy,
and provides immediate access to a vein for emergency drugs.
IV Fluids: Maintains blood pressure and hydration, replaces blood loss, and facilitates the
elimination of anesthetics for faster recovery.
Anesthesia Generally Has 4 Phases:
Premedication: (Injectable sedative) Relaxes the patient, eases IV catheter placement, aids
in pain control, smoother induction and recovery phases, and allows the use of less anesthesia.
Induction: (Usually injectable) Takes pet to a deeper state of sedation so an endotracheal
(breathing) tube can be placed for the delivery of general anesthesia. One of the safest induction
agents for routine surgery is Propofol – the same as in human medicine.
General Anesthesia/Maintenance: (Gas) Maintains patient at a plane of unconsciousness
appropriate for the procedure. The two safest inhalant gases are Isoflurane and Sevoflurane.
Recovery: Time from stopping anesthesia until fully awake can be remarkably fast with
the high-end anesthetics.
Anesthetic monitoring should parallel that of human hospitals. This includes machines
to monitor the patient and alert the staff of any abnormalities so medications can be delivered
promptly to bring the abnormalities back to safe range.
ECG: Heart rate and rhythm to detect arrhythmias or developing heart failure.
Respiratory Rate and End-Tidal CO2: Proper ventilation.
Pulse Oximetry: Ensures sufficient oxygen is circulating in the blood.
Blood Pressure: Monitor proper blood flow to organs and brain that is essential to sustain
life. This is one monitor many hospitals will be missing.
Body Temperature: Too high or too low can cause serious complications, including death.
This is especially important for young, small or sick patients.
Private Anesthetist: This is the most important part of anesthesia monitoring- having a trained
individual assigned solely to monitor your pet while under anesthesia. Preferably, a hospital
should use 3 people for surgery -doctor, anesthetist and third assistant to open suture, draw
up drugs, etc. so the anesthetist never has to step away from the patient.
For these reasons, when researching different hospital’s anesthetic protocols, you will find that
cost varies greatly. The expensive part of any surgery is almost always the cost of anesthesia
and the people and monitoring equipment required to do it as safely as possible. Use the
information you have here to minimize your pet’s risk during anesthesia and increase your
assurance of a successful procedure for your pet.
By Dr. Carin C. Corbo, The Animal Medical Hospital of Naples, 239-513-0213
as seen in “Pet Pages”