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When Your Pet Needs Anesthesia

Choosing Specialty Anesthetic Care for Your Pet

Surgical risk and anesthetic risk are different. Some patients have a higher anesthetic risk due to their body size, age, or physical condition even though the surgical risk for a procedure may be minimal. In contrast, certain surgical and diagnostic procedures carry an increased anesthetic risk in all patients due to the nature of the procedure.

In some hospitals, you may request that a Board Certified Specialist in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia anesthetize your pet. They will provide the highest possible standard of care available for your pet.

The anesthesiologist's main task is to provide safe, optimal anesthesia, specifically tailored to your pet. They are trained to anticipate, recognize, and care for any concerns associated with anesthesia. The anesthesiologist will monitor your pet thoroughly during surgery and throughout anesthetic recovery. They will be constantly on guard for changes in breathing, heart function, blood pressure and any other complication that may occur. The anesthesiologist's sole responsibility is the safety of your pet during anesthesia.

The anesthesiologist is responsible for a pre-anesthetic evaluation of your pet, care of your pet while under general anesthesia, recovery from anesthesia, pain management and the direction of any non-veterinarian staff who assist in the technical aspects of your pet's anesthetic care.

Apart from assuring the optimal safety of your pet during surgery, anesthesiologists know how to make the operative procedure as comfortable as possible for your pet. An anesthesiologist knows how animals react to hospitals, surgery, and pain. The anesthesiologist will work with your pet's surgeon to improve the quality of your pet's recovery and entire hospital stay.

What is the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA)?

The ACVAA is the American Veterinary Medical Association's specialty board which sets the standards for advanced professionalism in veterinary anesthesiology and pain management. In 2015, the ACVAA included 254 Diplomates. Many ACVAA Diplomates practice anesthesiology at veterinary medical teaching hospitals across North America and in other locations around the world. The others are in private specialty practices, zoos, the pharmaceutical industry, or practice as consultants who travel to various locations within their region. The ACVAA defines the standards of anesthesia and analgesia excellence for the veterinary profession, promotes advancements in veterinary anesthesiology and pain management, and provides the latest in educational programs. Only veterinarians who have successfully completed the certification requirements of the ACVAA are Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia and have earned the right to be called specialists in veterinary anesthesiology. By fostering the highest standards of excellence in veterinary anesthesiology, the ACVAA is helping the veterinary profession achieve its goals of providing outstanding care to animals and service to the public.

What will the Anesthesiologist Need to Know?

You will be asked important questions about your pet's general health, if he or she has had difficulties with anesthesia in the past, or has trouble exercising. The internal organs of greatest concern are the brain, liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Blood tests may be ordered before anesthesia to evaluate how well these systems are functioning prior to anesthesia and surgery. Knowing how well a patient's internal organs are functioning will help the anesthesiologist plan your pet's anesthesia. Anesthesiologists are trained to administer anesthetics safely to patients who are sick, injured, pediatric, geriatric, or healthy.

Will My Pet Receive any Medication before Surgery?

Trips to the hospital, unfamiliar people, smells, and other animals can be quite stressful. Most patients require mild sedation to calm them and decrease stress before surgery. After reviewing your pet's medical history and performing a physical examination on the day of surgery, the anesthesiologist will determine which medications, if any, will be given. After your pet is calm, your pet's leg will be shaved and an intravenous catheter will be placed. Your pet will receive medicines and fluids through this catheter during surgery.

How will My Pet be Given Anesthesia?

Most commonly, general anesthesia is started by an intravenous injection. The choice of drugs used to begin and maintain your pet's anesthesia will be made based on many factors. Different patients awaken from anesthesia at different rates. Some pets may be fully alert when they arrive in the recovery room, others may be groggy for hours after surgery. Although operations are much safer now, they still produce stress on the body and may cause your pet to feel "sick". Vomiting is occasionally a side effect after anesthesia and surgery.

What should I Expect?

Although anesthetics can provide pain relief and loss of consciousness during an operation, they can have side effects. Most commonly, there are changes in circulation and breathing. Veterinary anesthesiologists are specially trained to ensure that these anesthetic effects are minimized so there are no long lasting effects after the surgery.

How is Pain Controlled after Surgery?

The anesthesiologist will be responsible for pain control in the immediate post-operative period. Although "pain-killing" injections are commonly used, other methods of providing analgesia may be used such as epidural or local nerve blocks. Relieving the pain and stress associated with the surgical procedure is a priority for the anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologists are specifically trained to manage pain.