What to Do Before Your Pet Goes Under Anesthesia

It’s an unavoidable reality of pet ownership for most of us: at some point, your pet will need a procedure that requires they be anesthetized. Dental procedures, some imaging procedures, and nearly all surgical procedures require that dogs, cats, and many other types of pets be “put under” for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

This can be troubling for many pet owners. After all, we’re trained as humans to fear the anesthetic more than the surgery itself. But is it the same for our pets and companion animals? Are they in more danger from going under an anesthetic than they are from going under the knife?

Anesthesia does have its risks. It is more like running a marathon, in terms of its effects on the body, than it is like sleeping. But, modern anesthetic drugs and anesthesia techniques have made going under anesthetic safer and less complicated than it has ever been before.

Animals under an anesthetic for various procedures are monitored continuously by trained specialist teams and their anesthetic level is kept at the minimum possible to keep them still and unconscious without pushing them into deeper anesthetic states than necessary.

What to Do Before Your Pet Goes Under Anesthesia

The Use of Modern Anesthetics in Veterinary Medicine

These days, a short-acting IV anesthetic is typically administered to gently put the animal under prior to inserting a breathing tube. This breathing tube is attached to an anesthesia machine, dispersing an inhalant agent that keeps the animal under a steady state of anesthesia.

Modern inhalant anesthetics are considerably gentler on an animal’s organ systems, though they are still potentially lethal, depending on an animal’s general health and whether or not they are over-administered.

What You Can Do to Prepare Your Pet for Anesthesia

Prior to the procedure, your caregiver will have you fill out a complete medical history, including prior procedures, medications, and any existing conditions that your pet or companion animal may have. It is extremely important that you be forthright and thorough in filling out this medical history.

For instance, a history of poor response to exercise can be an indicator that an animal may recover more slowly from heavier doses of anesthetic than another animal without the same history. Also be aware that pre-existing heart, lung, and other conditions, as well as advanced age, can exacerbate the effects of anesthesia and prolong the time it takes for your pet to fully recover.

What You Can Do For Your Pet After Anesthesia

Once the procedure is finished and your pet is awake again and released into your care, the anesthetic can have lasting effects on their behavior for several days.

Animals coming out of anesthesia may not recognize their surroundings, familiar people, and other pets or companion animals. It is important that young children and other pets not be left unattended with animals coming off of general anesthesia until they have fully recovered.

This is because even the most even-tempered, friendly pet on the planet may not behave that way as they are coming back to their reality.

Sometimes Anesthesia Is Necessary for Dogs and Cats

Veterinary surgical procedures, imaging procedures, and dental procedures require precision that would not be possible with a stressed animal that isn’t anesthetized. Thankfully, modern anesthetic techniques and advanced anesthetic drugs have made going under anesthesia less strenuous and less dangerous than ever before.

Remember to be forthright and thorough in communicating your pet’s health history with your veterinarian prior to the procedure, to give your pet plenty of space away from children and other animals so that they can recover, and to follow whatever instructions your veterinarian gives you to the letter.


Author: Giano Panzarella

[Photo via: Flickr]