Your best friend needs surgery. Your heart is more focused on the immediate needs of your dog, and the surgery itself could be for a variety of reasons. The surgery could be for an injury, illness or even a routine dental cleaning. The experience can be overwhelming, because you can be worried about the safety of the sedation and dog anesthesia that is being used.
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While there are risks involved with both, the risks can be minimized by your veterinarian through careful planning and preparation. With the use of better drugs and safety protocols anesthesia in dogs is relatively safe, as over 99% of patients survive.
As technology has advanced and more research has been done, veterinary anesthesia has become much safer than it was many years ago. Unfortunately, the negative stigma attached to the procedure is still lingering around, and much of this information is not true.
If you're concerned about dog anesthesia, the best thing you can do is talk with your veterinarian. Of course, doing your own research never hurts either.
Your veterinarian would never recommend anything that is going to do harm to your pet. They'll explain the risks of dog anesthesia and help you make a choice about the right option for Fido.
Dog Anesthesia: How Safe Is It?
Sedation vs. Anesthesia
When you talk with your veterinarian, you can discuss the degree of sedation or anesthesia that your dog will be under. It will depend upon the procedure and how invasive that it will be to your dog.
Sedation can be used for minor procedures that are less invasive to your dog like x-rays, ultra-sounds, and minor wounds. Emergency surgeries, and more invasive procedures require a deeper anesthesia and breathing tube.
If your dog requires general anesthesia then it will be completely unconscious during the surgery. Your veterinarian will go over the risks that are involved with your dog’s surgery and the risks of anesthesia for your dog.
What are the Risks of Dog Anesthesia?
Every surgery has its own particular risks, but there are risks involved with the anesthesia for your dog. These risks can vary according to your pets’ health and current medical conditions. Risks such as your pet’s age, weight, and breed can all have an effect.
Some risk factors that your veterinarian will look at are:
1. Dog's age
Your dog’s age can be a factor in the risks involved in anesthesia for surgery. Puppies can be sedated for surgery if they are older than three months but their small size makes it difficult because their organs are not yet fully functioning.
Elderly dogs can also have trouble during surgery and have complications from anesthesia. Older dogs may have several risks as they could have low blood pressure or diabetes, both of which could result in possible loss of organ function during the surgery.
Senior dogs most likely suffer from arthritis, too, which means that their joints have to be protected during the procedure. Complications can be avoided or reduced by preparing for the anesthesia ahead of time by going over your dog’s health history and having your veterinarian do a baseline blood work up to look for any unidentified problems.
If your dog is very elderly and has multiple health issues, anesthesia should be reconsidered if the risks outweigh the benefits your dog will get from the surgery.
2. Dog's weight
Your dog should be weighed to get an accurate weight before surgery. Drug dosages for general anesthesia are determined by the weight and the overall health of your dog.
If you have a smaller dog, the anesthesia may take longer to wear off. The drugs create a more profound effect on your dog and lasts longer because there is less fat to distribute the drug. Your dog may be colder and it will be important to keep your dog warm during surgery because of a drop-in blood pressure and metabolic rate.
If your dog is overweight, like many, surgery under anesthesia can have its risks. Dogs that are heavy can be hard to position during procedures and may have difficulty breathing. In many case the larger dogs will not be able to breathe on their own and have breathing tubes inserted.
3. The breed
Your dog’s breed may have a higher risk for complications during anesthesia or surgeries than other dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss these different types of risks with you, and go over your dog’s specific medical history with you.
Some breeds with shorter noses, like a Pekingese or a Pug, are more difficult to sedate. This is due to the shape of their shorter noses and smaller nasal passages. This can lead to airway issues during surgery.
Other dog breeds can have a history of what is known as tracheal collapse. Poodles and Pomeranians are both high risk breeds for this condition. Your veterinarian will be able to treat your dog with medications after the surgery to reduce the chance of infection.
Tracheal collapse is considered a chronic progressive condition, so your veterinarian will note this for the future. If your dog requires surgery again, it will be left intubated after surgery for as long as possible to allow for a better chance of recovery with fewer problems.
4. Medical Conditions
Pre-existing medical conditions can complicate and make the risks for anesthesia higher. The mortality rate is very low for healthy dogs, but dogs with pre-existing conditions the mortality rate goes up to 1.3%.
You should discuss with your veterinarian all pre-existing conditions. Ask if there is an anesthesiologist on staff, or find a specialty office if your dog has any type of heart, airway or other serious disease and will require a longer procedure.
Your veterinarian will help you get any current medical conditions under control prior to surgery. A full baseline of bloodwork will be done before surgery to determine if your dog has any other conditions, and allow the anesthesiologist to get an accurate determination of your dog’s current state of health.
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What to Be Aware Of
One of the first things to think about when considering the risks involved in dog anesthesia is who is going to sedate your pet? When you go to the hospital for surgery, you have a specialist, but when your dog goes to the veterinarian, it can be just the doctor and his staff. It is important to know who is going to anesthetize your dog, and what their credentials are.
Your veterinarian may have certified technicians who are trained to handle veterinarian anesthesia. They are trained to monitor vital signs, respiration, oxygenation, and heart rhythm. If there is a change in vital signs they are capable of handling it right away.
If you are worried, you can ask specifically from your veterinarian the credentials of the person who will be monitoring your dog’s anesthesia. You can ask for a specialist or anesthesiologist.
Dog's Recovery Post-Anesthesia
You may also want to follow up with your veterinarian regarding the recovery period. Ask where your dog will be during the post-surgery and what it will be like for your dog. Will your dog be in any pain? Your veterinarian will recommend and begin a pain management program for your dog right away.
During recovery, a nurse or technician will monitor your dog’s blood pressure, respiration, and oxygen levels. This is done about every 10 minutes until your dog is ready to go home. Your veterinarian may recommend follow-up care, medications, physical therapy and return visits.
Once your dog is home, taking it slow is key. Allow your pet the space it needs to recover, and keep other pets away. You may have to isolate your dog in a room by itself to give it the time and quiet it needs to heal and recover.
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