Anesthetic Facts

What You Need to Know Before Your Pet’s Upcoming Surgery

Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet’s surgery, and we hope this information will help. It also explains the decisions you will need to make before your pet’s upcoming surgery.

Is the anesthetic safe?

It is only natural to worry when your pet needs an anesthetic. Most people have some concerns when their pet is faced with this procedure. Every day advances are made in veterinary medicine. This is especially true in the field of anesthesia.

As new drugs and monitoring equipment have become available, the risks with anesthesia have been diminished over the past 10 to 15 years. At McGilvray Veterinary Hospital, we believe we offer the best monitoring techniques and most recent and effective drugs to provide the safest anesthesia for your pet.

We are going to take a look at the real risks involved with general anesthesia, the new drugs and protocols available, and what we do at McGilvray Veterianry Hospital to minimize the risks when any pet is anesthetized.

The risk of general anesthesia

Anesthesia is controlled, reversible “intoxication” with carefully chosen drugs. It is not sleep. The risk to an individual pet depends on a number of factors, including the physical health of the pet, the type of surgery or other procedure being performed, the experience of the personnel administering the anesthesia, the equipment available at the hospital, and the choice of anesthetic agents.

Most problems associated with anesthesia are rare. They are not life threatening in most cases, though they can result in harm to your pet. Some anesthetic drugs cause hypotension (low blood pressure) during anesthesia.

Safe anesthesia means accounting for all of these potential problems and doing everything possible to eliminate or minimize their occurrence. The most catastrophic risk associated with general anesthesia is sudden unexpected death.

There is always a reason for these deaths. Sometimes pets have underlying disease that is undetectable. Some pets, just like people, have acute allergic responses to the drugs that are used. These unpredictable reactions are, thankfully extremely rare. Some veterinarians never see a single case in their entire careers.

What we do to provide your pet with safe anesthesia

1. We review your pet’s medical history. As your pet’s advocate you are the first line of safety. Inform the hospital personnel of any medication and supplements that your pet is receiving. If your pet has had an anesthetic before at a different hospital, let us know ahead of time so we can get a copy of the anesthetic report from your previous veterinarian.

2. We examine your pet. All pets need to have a physical examination “in a timely manner” before they are anesthetized. In order to pick up any potential problems, we have to check your pet.

If the veterinarian advises that an examination is needed before anesthesia, there is a good reason – we want to make sure it is safe to proceed. If we are unable to examine a pet with whom we are unfamiliar or who has not been examined in a few months, we may be unable to proceed with the anesthetic.

3. We only have qualified staff administer and monitor anesthesia.
All anesthesias at our hospital are overseen by veterinarians and/or registered animal health technicians (RAHTs). RAHTs have completed a two or three year college program in veterinary nursing and are fully trained in anesthesia administration, monitoring and response to emergencies.

4. We place an intravenous catheter in all all pets undergoing general anesthesia. We place an IV catheter in your pet’s leg and run IV fluids throughout the anesthetic period. This counters the hypotensive effects of some of the medications we use. It also gives us a way to administer medications directly into the bloodstream should the need arise. We feel this is a vital component in providing safe anesthesia for your pet.

5. All pets are given appropritate pre-anesthetic medications, including drugs for pain control. Sedatives are part of the pre-anesthetic treatment of all pets. A sedative increases anesthetic safety. Your pet will be calmer when the time comes to induse anesthesia, which means that we will need to use less of the injectable drugs. It makes recovery smoother as well, greatly decreasing or even eliminating the disorientation and anxiety as your friend wakes up.

We now know that giving pain medication before surgery starts (called preemptive analgesia) means that your pet will be more comfortable and experience less pain after surgery. All pre-anesthetic medications that we give contain analgesics. Again, this means that we will be able to use less anesthetic agent and thus increase the safety of your pet’s anesthetic period.

6. We use modern drugs and protocols for all of our patients. All anesthesias are induced using new, ultra fast acting intravenous drugs. These drugs are eliminated from the system within a few minutes. An endotracheal tube is placed in your pet’s airway to deliver gas anesthetics and to protect against aspiration of fluids into the lungs.

All pets are maintained on gas anesthetics and oxygen for the duration of the anesthetic period. Our gas anesthetics are the safest available for small animals. These anesthetics are very rapidly expelled by breathing, so once the flow is stopped your pet recovers within minutes.

7. We have the equipment and expertise to monitor pulse, respiration, and blood pressure throughout the anesthetic period. Our modern equipment allows us to monitor the heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, respiration, and oxygen content of the blood.

If any problems occur we know it immediately and we have the medications and technology required to correct it. Special equipment will keep your pet’s body temperature normal throughout the procedure as well as during recovery.

8. We have the experience and knowledge to deal with most anesthetic situations. At McGilvray’s we do a lot of procedures, from routine dental cleaning to major surgery. The majority of these procedures are done on older pets. We have a wide array of safe reliable anesthetic protocols that we can use on our elderly patients.

Each pet is an individual and we adjust our anesthesia based on your pet’s health. Knowing the risks and safety precautions taken is an important part of being an advocate for your pet’s health. We hope that you feel more comfortable about your pet’s general anesthetic after reading this.

As you can see, much is involved in providing modern anesthesia for your pet. Trained staff, modern drugs for anesthesia and pain control as well as intricate equipment for continuous monitoring all contribute to the cost associated with anesthetic safety.

If you still have questions, please call the hospital. One of our veterinarians will be happy to discuss our protocols and safety record with you.

Meet Our Team

Mcgilvray Veterinary Hospital provides the ideal mix of modern veterinary medical expertise and personalized service.

Whether your pet is due for a routine wellness exam or requires extensive care for illness or injury.


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Location Hours
Monday8:00am – 6:00pm
Tuesday8:00am – 6:00pm
Wednesday8:00am – 6:00pm
Thursday8:00am – 6:00pm
Friday8:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday8:00am – 1:00pm
SundayClosed

*Monday - Friday out of office 12:00pm - 2:30pm

Our Services

• Vaccines
• Anesthesia
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