Monday, November 16, 2009

Question: How safe is anesthesia for my pets?

Dr. Schaeberle,

How safe is anesthesia for my pet?



Dear Jody,

As with the human medicine, anesthetic agents and protocols have greatly improved over the past few decades. When I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania 32 years ago, I was trained to use a common combination of human anesthetics to anesthetize pets. Shortly thereafter I experienced my first anesthetic death in a small poodle. It was devastating to me and I even questioned whether I wanted to practice veterinary medicine.

With the many changes in anesthesia protocols through the years, veterinary medicine is now safer for all pets, including older dogs and cats with chronic medical conditions, not just young pets for neutering.

What is the difference over 30 years?

1. Probably the biggest difference over the past few decades has been in anesthesia monitoring. As a certified member of the American Animal Hospital Association, we are
obligated to monitor all pets that undergo surgery. All of our patients are monitored for oxygen levels, respiratory and pulse rates, body temperature and EKG recordings.

2. As mentioned in last week’s article, we are proud to have 8 college graduate technicians. Our technicians are well-trained in anesthesia protocols and the monitoring of anesthesia. They stay with the pet from the beginning of anesthesia to the pet’s awakening.

3. Over the past 30 years, there have been a few new anesthetic agents introduced but what has changed veterinary medicine the most is the combination of anesthetics that we use, increasing safety dramatically.

4. The placement of an IV catheter and administration of IV fluids helps to maintain a stable blood pressure while a pet is under anesthesia. It also allows rapid delivery of the anesthetic drugs, and if necessary, life-saving medications in the event of an anesthetic problem.

5. Lastly, preoperative bloodwork is mandatory for most of our anesthesia and surgery cases. Anesthetic drugs are removed by the kidney and/or liver, and problems such as diabetes or clotting disorders are also picked up with preoperative bloodwork.

Go to our website, to download our surgery check list: under Services, Fees, click on Major & Minor Surgery. This informative brochure will help you understand the keys to a safe surgery for your pet.

Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.

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