How is anaesthetic administered?
In veterinary practice, a wide range of anaesthetic drugs are available. The combination of drugs and doses used is tailored to each individual pet and their needs.
Most commonly, pets are given a premedication before anaesthesia (usually a light sedative and pain relief). This helps reduce stress, provides a smoother anaesthetic, and contributes towards post-operative pain relief. Anaesthesia is given using an injection directly into the blood stream. Some anaesthetics can be given into the muscle, which may be more suited to pets who are anxious. Pets are generally kept asleep using anaesthetic gases delivered through a tube in the windpipe.
All patients are monitored closely from premedication, through their anaesthetic, until the point that they are fully awake. This is usually by a qualified veterinary nurse (RVN). Unless you have requested otherwise, your pet will be offered food once awake, and dogs taken out to toilet.
What are the risks?
Even in a very healthy animal, no anaesthetic is completely free of risk. Occasionally we must change the plan if an animal does not suit a particular drug, or less commonly stop the procedure altogether. The worst-case scenario is death under anaesthetic; however, this is extremely rare.
A study published in 2022 found that the risk of a healthy pet dog dying during a routine anaesthetic for neutering was approximately 1 in 10,000†. This risk was higher for pets that are older, generally unwell, or required emergency surgery. Risks are slightly higher for cats, and considerably higher for small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
How can we reduce the risks?
Since general ill health can increase anaesthetic risk, it is important to keep pets in good shape. This includes:
- Having annual vaccinations
- Being up-to date with flea and worming treatment
- Having regular exercise
- Ensuring they do not become overweight
- Regular screening of older animals for underlying illness
On the day of the procedure, you will be asked about your pet’s health, diet and medications. However, if you have any concerns, please discuss these with your vet in advance.
We can further reduce the risks of anaesthesia by doing the following:
Pre-operative Blood Test
- Checks haematology (red and white blood cells)
- Checks liver and kidney markers, which are important to breakdown anaesthetic drugs
- Can detect illness before symptoms are present
- Will be offered to all pets before anaesthetic
- Can usually be performed on the same day as results are available within 30 minutes
- This is more commonly known as a drip
- Will help keep blood pressure normal during anaesthesia - which protects the organs
- People often report feeling better after anaesthesia with fluids, compared to not having them
- May be included in the cost for major surgeries, but will be offered to all pets having an anaesthetic