By Dr. Amanda Gillen
Placing animals under general anesthesia is one of the riskiest, and most common, procedures we perform on pets daily. Even routine procedures, such as spaying and neutering, require the placement of your pet under full, general anesthesia. General anesthesia carries its own risk, regardless of whether your pet is anesthetized for 10 minutes, or for three hours.
You want to reduce the risk of complications with anesthesia, so become an educated consumer of veterinary medicine before you make any decisions. Ask your vet, call around, and inform yourself, before making the decision to place your pet under anesthesia.
There are fewer risks of complications for surgery if the following precautions are taken. Prior to the procedure:
Your pet is fully examined by your veterinarian and evaluated as to level of anesthetic risk. A repeat of this evaluation by your veterinarian, not an assistant or technician, must be done within 12 hours of anesthesia, as required by law. This repeat evaluation is performed right before anesthetic drugs are administered to your pet.
Any necessary pre-anesthetic work-up (blood-work, radiographs, EKG, etc.) is done as close to the procedure as possible. If too much time has lapsed, it may need to be repeated. This work-up is vital to determine if additional precautions are necessary. It helps us determine which anesthetic protocol and drugs are most appropriate for your pet.
A pre-anesthetic blood panel is required on all pets. The older the pet, the more parameters that need to be checked. Peri-operative IV fluids are required on all pets.
Pre-emptive pain control greatly helps speed up the recovery process. It is easier to manage pain before it begins than to catch up with treating it after. Make sure some type of pain control is used (butorphenol, morphine, fentenyl, buprenex, metacam, etc.).
One of the biggest risks to anesthesia is a drop in blood pressure to the kidneys. This can be avoided by using peri-operative IV fluids via an intravenous catheter and monitoring blood pressure every few minutes. Often the effects of low blood pressure during anesthesia are not immediately obvious, but show up later in life as early kidney, or liver disease, seizures, etc.
Advanced Care Animal Hospital staff calls you the day before to remind you about your scheduled drop-off time and to fast your pet (not applicable to young puppies or kittens) beginning that night.
During the procedure:
Newer inhaled gas anesthetic agents (isoflurane or sevoflurane) are used. Separate, sterile surgical packs, fresh scalpel blades, needles, and suture are used for each individual patient. Everyone in the surgical suite is capped and masked, and anyone moving in the surgical field is gowned in a sterile cap and gown.
At Advanced Care Animal Hospital, your pet is monitored at all times by someone other than the surgeon and that person is skilled in monitoring anesthetic depth via respiration, heart rate, pulse strength, oxygen saturation, jaw tone, eye position, etc. State-of-the-art surgical monitors are placed on every patient while anesthetized, and a Registered Veterinary Technician monitors the patient, and the monitors. The surgical suite has a higher pressure in its ventilation system, compared with the rest of the hospital, to keep “bad air” out.
Anesthetic drug protocols are tailored to each individual patient, and to each individual procedure. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to anesthesia is a recipe for disaster. Make sure your vet has different anesthetic drugs available, and anesthetic protocols are being used for different patients and procedures.
After the procedure:
Your pet is monitored through its post-anesthetic recovery. The immediate post anesthetic recovery is when most anesthetic complications can occur. At Advanced Care Animal Hospital, an experienced, registered, anesthetic technician is dedicated to your pet, to ensure a smooth, problem-free, recovery, until your pet is fully awake. A circulating warm air blanket, and comfortable bedding, is provided for your pet’s recovery. As soon as your pet is stable enough to go home, we encourage our pet owners to pick them up, as pets do better with recovery at home, whenever possible. Post operative pain medications, plus antibiotics as needed, are administered. Upon discharge, you receive instructions for at home care as well as how to administer medications. Plus, a re-check appointment is made for staple/suture removal and to evaluate the recovery status of your pet.
We encourage you to call at any time following surgery with questions or concerns (or to leave a message out of hours).
Our hospital has a staff member call the following day to make sure your pet’s first night post-surgery was acceptable. Talk with the doctor performing the surgery about the procedure as well as follow-up care. Also, help your pet recover faster and more comfortably by giving it properly prescribed pain medication for a few days after surgery.
While low cost spay/neuter clinics abound, and these clinics are able to provide surgical services at lower cost, this is only achievable by not following most, if any, of the precautions above. At Advanced Care Animal Hospital, the safety, and well-being of your pet, are paramount.
Dr. Amanda Gillen is the owner and veterinarian at Advanced Care Animal Hospital, 19406 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Contact ACAH at (661) 263-4334 or visit www.advancedcareanimalhospital.com.