If your pet is scheduled for an anesthetic procedure, you may have some concerns about the process. While most pets experience no problems during anesthesia, we understand that you probably want to know more about how we prioritize your pet’s safety. Our Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center team wants to help by answering some frequently asked questions about pet anesthesia.

Question: Is my pet at risk during anesthesia?

Answer: Some risk is always involved when a pet undergoes anesthesia, but only about 1 in 100,000 pets react unfavorably to an anesthetic agent. These reactions can range from a mild injection site swelling to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, but your pet is at less risk than when you drive to the veterinary hospital for their procedure. However, certain pets are at increased risk when undergoing anesthesia. These include:

  • Senior pets — Healthy, older pets can safely be anesthetized, but senior pets are at higher risk because they more likely have underlying health conditions.
  • Brachycephalic breeds — The facial structure of brachycephalic pets (e.g., pugs, Boston terriers, bulldogs, and Persian cats) compromises their ability to breathe, putting them at higher risk for airway-related complications.
  • Obese pets — Anesthetic dosages are calculated based on lean body weight, so determining an obese pet’s dose can be difficult. 
  • Small pets — Toy-breed pets, puppies, and kittens are more prone to hypothermia, putting them at higher risk. 
  • Unfasted pets — If your pet has food in their stomach, they can vomit and aspirate the fluid, leading to pneumonia.

Q: What steps are performed before anesthesia to reduce my pet’s risk?

A: Your pet’s safety is our top priority, and we take numerous precautions to reduce their anesthetic risk. These include:

  • Weighing your pet — We weigh your pet and assess their body conditioning score so we can accurately calculate their anesthetic dose.
  • Examining your pet — We perform a thorough physical examination, evaluating your pet’s mucous membranes, body temperature, heart, and lungs, to determine if any abnormalities are present.
  • Screening your pet — We perform a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile to assess your pet’s overall health and ensure they are healthy enough to be anesthetized.

Q: How is my pet monitored during anesthesia to keep them safe?

A: A veterinary professional is responsible for closely monitoring your pet throughout anesthesia until they are fully recovered. They adjust the anesthetic levels as needed to ensure your pet remains stable throughout the procedure. Monitoring devices include:

  • Heart rate monitor — Elevations in heart rate can indicate your pet’s anesthetic plane is too light, and decreases can indicate their plane is too deep. A heart rate monitor is used to continuously record your pet’s heart rate to ensure any changes are detected immediately.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) — An ECG monitors your pet’s heart rhythm and can detect abnormal heart beats (i.e., arrhythmias). 
  • Thermometer — Excessive elevations or decreases in your pet’s body temperature can be detrimental. We closely monitor your pet to ensure their core body temperature remains within normal limits.
  • Respirometer — We monitor your pet’s breaths per minute.
  • Blood pressure monitor — We monitor your pet’s blood pressure during anesthesia to help evaluate their cardiovascular status.
  • Pulse oximetry — A pulse oximetry, which measures the amount of oxygen in your pet’s blood, is used in conjunction with an end-tidal CO₂ monitor to ensure your pet receives enough oxygen during anesthesia.

Q: What happens after my pet’s procedure?

A: Your pet is taken to a quiet recovery area, and a veterinary professional remains with them, closely monitoring their vitals, until they are fully recovered. A reversal agent may be administered to help hasten recovery time.

Q: What steps can I take to decrease my pet’s anesthetic risk?

A: Not all anesthetic complications can be prevented, but steps you can take to decrease your pet’s risk include:

  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight — Obesity puts your pet at increased anesthetic risk. Monitor your pet’s weight, accurately calculate their daily energy requirements, and feed them appropriately to ensure they remain at a healthy weight.
  • Ensure your pet receives regular wellness visits — Underlying health problems put your pet at increased risk. Your pet should be evaluated at least once a year by a veterinary professional so health issues will be detected in the early stages when they are easier to manage.
  • Notify your veterinarian — Notify our veterinary professionals if your pet has reacted to a medication or anesthetic, and ensure they know your pet’s medical history and medications they are receiving.
  • Follow instructions — You will receive specific instructions, such as withholding food and water and administering medication, before your pet undergoes anesthesia. You must follow these recommendations to keep your pet safe.

No one wants their pet to undergo anesthesia, but sometimes anesthesia is necessary for their procedure. If your pet needs a procedure that requires anesthesia, contact our Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Clinic teams at our central location or east side location, and we will keep them safe from induction to recovery.