Vet chat #4 Anaesthesia

One of the challenges I find at the veterinary clinic is being mindful that routine daily procedures for our team are often once or twice in a lifetime events for our patients and their owners. In particular, surgery and anaesthetic procedures which for us are everyday, are nevertheless complex procedures that demand focus, attention and, I’m going to say it, considerable skill and expertise on the part of all staff involved, from the pre-operative check to the post-operative cuddles. So what should you know about your pet’s anaesthesia?

Here is a list of questions to ask us before you go ahead and book a procedure:

  1. What pre-anaesthetic assessment is going to be carried out? Apart from a full physical examination, a thorough assessment includes taking blood to assess renal function, liver function, blood glucose, and full haematology. Abnormalities are rare in young healthy animals but may alert us to problems that make anaesthesia unadvisable at the time, or may mean we need to modify anaesthetic protocols.
  2. Will my pet have an intravenous cannula inserted in case emergency drugs are required during the procedure? –very important!
  3. Will my pet receive intravenous fluids while he is anaesthetised, to prevent the low blood pressure that is associated with most anaesthetic agents?
  4. Will my pet receive pre-operative pain relief which has the effect of reducing the level of anaesthetic required?
  5. Will there be an anaesthetic tube passed down the trachea for oxygen and anaesthetic delivery during the procedure?
  6. What monitoring will be carried during the procedure? At the very least, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen levels should be recorded at intervals during the procedure. Sometimes a running ECG is performed. Capnography, or the measurement of CO2 in exhaled air, is the most accurate indicator of respiratory efficiency.
  7. How will my pet stay warm during the procedure?

Although there is an element of risk in every anaesthetic, these days the drugs we use make pet anaesthesia safer than ever. One thing in which I take huge local pride: the anaesthetic that we vets in Australia and overseas use most commonly and in almost every species from amphibians to dogs and cats was developed by a small family run company in Rutherford. Yay Hunter!

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