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1 posts from November 2007


Safe Anesthesia for Pets

If your pet ever needs anesthesia, it is essential that a modern, safe protocol is used, and that your pet is closely monitored. When evaluating whether your pet will have the most careful and current method of anesthesia, these are three of the most important factors to look for.

1. First, find out the type of anesthesia that is used by the practice. The current standard of care is that most patients undergoing surgery are anesthetized using one of the latest types of gas anesthesia. Only very brief procedures such as a replacing a splint or clipping the hair over a minor wound should be performed under injectable sedation. The two modern types of gas anesthesia commonly used by veterinarians are isoflurane and sevoflurane. Halothane, an older gas anesthetic, is not as safe.

2. Second, any patient under anesthesia should have an IV catheter in place if possible. During an anesthetic emergency, the catheter is used to quickly deliver potentially life-saving drugs and fluids

3. Third, patients should be intubated while under anesthesia. Intubation, which is the placement of a tube in the trachea (windpipe), greatly increases the safety of a patient under anesthesia. The tube delivers oxygen to the patient to keep levels adequate, and if his breathing slows or stops, or his oxygen level drops too low, the tube can be used to assist the animal in breathing. During respiratory or cardiac arrest, the tube can be used for prompt resuscitation. In addition, while the animal is anesthetized and unable to swallow or cough on his own, the tube prevents saliva, blood, or regurgitated food from entering the trachea and lungs.


With current technology, there are many ways to closely monitor a patient under anesthesia. The oxygen level, heart rhythm, and blood pressure can be measured continuously. This type of monitoring is crucial in preventing anesthetic fatalities; by warning the doctor and technician that the patient’s oxygen level or heart rate is falling, it allows intervention to occur before it is too late.

Ideally, the practice should use equipment that allows all three of these vital signs to be followed during anesthesia. At a minimum, the pet’s oxygen level and pulse rate should be monitored during the procedure by a pulse oximeter, which displays the blood oxygen level and heart rate continuously. It is safest if a technician or another doctor monitors anesthesia while the veterinarian performs surgery, as it is difficult to effectively focus on both patient monitoring and the surgical procedure at the same time.

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