Anesthesia – a common fear of pet owners, but do you need to worry? A lot of dog owners are more concerned about the effects of anesthesia on their dog than the effects of undergoing the medical procedure. If you've been wondering, “Is anesthesia safe for my dog?,” you need to get all the facts and make an informed decision.

Is Anesthesia Safe for My DogAs with humans, there is always a risk when anesthesia is involved. 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.

The best thing you can do to gain information about anesthesia for dogs is to speak with your veterinarian. Your vet will not make a decision that will negatively impact your dog's health without consulting with you first.

In some cases, anesthesia is more dangerous than others, but your vet will be able to explain all of this to you based on your dog's health condition.

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Is Anesthesia Safe for My Dog?

Is Anesthesia Safe for Dogs

The Safety of Dog Anesthesia

The first thing that your vet should do before recommending any procedure in which your dog will need to be put under is give your dog a full physical. This will include blood work, and could uncover issues that would make it unsafe for your pet to receive anesthesia.

Your vet may be able to determine right away whether your dog is capable of handling the procedure or not.

We have a dog with a heart condition. Her heart beats too fast on its own, so she's on multiple antiarrhythmic medications to control it, which means she could not be safely be put under.

Senior dogs and very young puppies may also be more likely to be deemed unfit for anesthesia.

What You Should Know About Dog Anesthesia

Dog anesthesia safe or notIf you really want to know, “is anesthesia safe for my dog?,” you need to understand the process of the medical procedure your dog will be having.

If your pooch just needs a quick dental cleaning, the process will be much faster and easier than if he has a bowel obstruction.

It is your right to know what will be happening during the procedure – all you need to do is ask. Be sure that your pet will be intubated while under anesthesia.

This means the vet will put a breathing tube through your dog's mouth and into his wind pipe. It will allow him to receive supplemental oxygen, and it will also prevent blood and fluids from entering his lungs.

You should also ask about the person administering the anesthesia and the way in which your pet's heart and lungs are monitored while he's under.

Typically it is the veterinarian themselves who administers the anesthesia, but you'll want to know that it is someone who is well trained and knows what to look for while monitoring your dog.

The side effects of anesthesia can be easily noticed by someone who knows what to look for, and your veterinarian's office should have emergency drugs on hand in case something goes wrong while your pet s under.

Answering the question “Is anesthesia safe for my dog?” is as much about your veterinarian as it is about the anesthesia itself. Some questions that you should ask before you agree to anesthesia for your dog include:

  • Will the vet require blood work before the anesthetic event? If yes, how far in advance?
  • Who is dedicated to monitoring my dog while he is under anesthesia? Is the person credentialed? What training do they have with anesthesia?
  • What method is used to monitor the dog while he is under?
  • Will my dog have fluids and an IV catheter during the procedure?
  • What is the procedure for monitoring and observing my dog while he is recovering?

Consider all the above and discuss these things with your veterinarian.

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The Facts on Dog Anesthesia

According to a study performed by Dr. David C. Brodbelt, a board certified veterinary anesthesiologist in England, the death rate of dogs under sedation or anesthesia averages about 0.15%.

The study was performed using 98,000 dogs, an exceptionally high number for a veterinary study. The average age of the patients was 8 years old.

The risks of anesthesia increased with certain variables. The study found that:

  • Sick patients were 7 times more likely to have complications
  • Emergency anesthesia increased the risk by 3 times
  • More involved surgeries increased the risk by 5 times
  • Patients over 12 years of age were 7 times more likely to have complications
  • Patients weighing less than 10 pounds were 8 times more likely to have complications
  • Brachycephalic breeds were 8 times more likely to have complications.

This research also found that most patients who passed away passed after the procedure and not during the anesthesia.

The study considered a death to be linked to anesthesia if it occured within 48 hours of the dog being put under. Over half of the deaths recorded happened within the first three hours after recovering from anesthesia.

Let's Talk About Anesthesia for Dogs

Anesthesia for Dogs and Pets - Safe or Not

What are your thoughts?

This information isn't meant to scare you even more.

I simply wanted to share this information to (1) educate dog owners on the improvements in veterinary anesthesia in recent years and the low risk for most dogs, and (2) to explain the importance of having an open conversation with your veterinarian before you sign off on any medical procedure that requires anesthesia.

If your vet properly screens your pet and you follow the instructions given to you, anesthesia is likely to be very safe for your dog. Most of the horror stories that you hear come from pet owners who didn't follow the instructions given to them.

Your dog needs to fast before being put under anesthesia, and if you don't adhere to that policy your dog could vomit during the procedure and choke or the vomit could enter his lungs.

I hope I've helped to answer your question, “Is anesthesia safe for my dog?” If you've got a personal story or advice about canine anesthesia, I'd love to read about it in comments!

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.