All dogs and cats receive a preanesthetic injection subcutaneously (under the skin) about 20 minutes prior to undergoing general anesthesia. There is no more discomfort felt then that experienced when administered a vaccination. This preanesthetic contains medication to relieve pain, along with a mild sedative, very similar to what people receive prior to surgery. Once this takes effect, a catheter is placed in a vein, so that fluids may be administered intravenously. This catheter also serves as an access port, where we can administer other medications like antibiotics, and in those rare instances, medication to correct any anesthetic complication which may arise. You may rest assured we have a "crash cart" close by at all times, with all necessary emergency medications right at hand, that may need to be quickly administered in those rare instances when complications may develop. All of our surgical team members are well trained in CPR, and how to administer it in those extremely rare instances when it may be necessary to do so.
In many cases, an intravenous medication is next given to induce anesthesia. This is administered via the same catheter as the fluids, so the patient experiences no discomfort at all. Once anesthetized, an endotracheal tube is placed in the trachea ("windpipe"), and an inhalant anesthetic administered throughout the procedure.
It is important for you to know that each and every patient sedated/anesthetized at Aurora Pet Hospital has an endotracheal tube placed, as this is how oxygen is continuously given throughout all procedures, thus offering a greater level of safety to each of our patients. We also want you to know that at Aurora Pet Hospital, all anesthesia equipment is frequently checked to make certain it is working properly. We also have them serviced on a regular basis, once again to insure our patient safety.
Once the patient is out of surgery, they are taken to surgical recovery, which is located in the hub of our treatment area, in full view of those of us working in surgery. There they are closely monitored, and when awakened sufficiently, have the endotracheal tube removed. We always keep our patients hospitalized for a period of hours, again closely observing their satisfactory recovery, until they can safely be discharged from our care.
"Anesthesia". I realize just the word frightens most clients. When we recommend it for surgery, radiographs ("x-rays"), a professional dentistry, or other procedure, it is only natural to worry about your pets' safety. I have had my own beloved pets undergo anesthesia a number of times in the past, and know full-well how nerve-wracking it can be. I've seen my pet's blood work results, know we have a great competent team at our hospital, state-of-the-art monitoring equipment, and I'm still nervous!!
I am often asked how often pets experience complications from anesthesia? I can let you know that over the years, improvements in pain management, newer anesthetics, and very sophisticated monitors, have resulted in greater safety than ever. There is in addition better staff training than ever before. Studies I have read indicate that today, less than 1% of anesthetized dogs and cats ever experience complications. At Aurora Pet Hospital it is much less than that. In the past 12 years, I have for example, lost only 2 pets out of many thousands while anesthetized, but well realize even 1 is too many. There is always some measure of risk involved, but I promise you each of us do our very best at all times, to keep it as minimal as possible.
At Aurora Pet Hospital, anesthesia is monitored continuously during a procedure, by highly trained Licensed Veterinary Technicians. Our LVT's have a minimum of 2 years of college education, and have passed a licensing examination administered by the State of New York. Like many professions, they are required by state law, to continue their education and training to maintain their license. Dr. Meisner and I have not only invested in them, but also in the latest state-of-the-art monitoring equipment. Should a patient’s blood pressure drop, oxygen concentration in their blood decrease, heart begin to have an abnormal rhythm, or other complication begin to develop, we can immediately make the adjustments necessary to insure the safety of our patient and allow for a successful recovery.
Occasionally I have been asked if pets can feel pain while under anesthesia. At Aurora Pet Hospital, each and every patient undergoing a surgical procedure is administered analgesic medication before, during, and after treatment. We incorporate the most modern analgesics and anesthetics, to insure they feel no pain. If for instance, the heart rate begins to elevate or a patient begins to breathe more rapidly, indicating they are beginning to experience discomfort, we immediately increase our anesthesia to insure they pain free. Rest assured that a pain-free patient is every staff member's top priority.
Does my pet really need to undergo anesthesia? The honest answer is: "It depends". In the case of a pet with periodontal disease, the benefit of a professional teeth cleaning to their overall health often exceeds the minimal risk of the procedure itself. If it is to remove a fractured tooth with painful pulp exposure, we can return such a pet to enjoy a pain-free life! For a mass removal of a malignant or potentially malignant tumor, the benefit of preventing local spread or metastasis throughout the body far outweighs the minimal risks involved with anesthesia. For an orthopedic procedure such as a cranial cruciate ligament repair, the minimal risk of anesthesia must be weighed against restoring the pet to a much higher quality of life with much less pain. I had a similar decision to make when contemplating having my total knee replacements, and have never for one moment regretted the decision to have the life-changing surgery done. Like so many of my canine patients, it has allowed me to regain a life I never thought possible!!
Another question I am occasionally asked is: "Isn't my pet too old for anesthesia?" Besides the younger dogs and cats, we routinely have to anesthetize dogs and cats that are old and afflicted with a variety of diseases. I often reassure clients that old age is a condition, and not a disease! In all patients young and old, we recommend preanesthetic blood (and often urine) testing. This allows us to check the function of the organs that have to process the anesthetics, as well as hidden disease processes we may not be aware of. In such cases, we can usually alter the anesthetic protocol to assure the safety of our patient. The use of intravenous fluids before, during, and after surgery, helps to maintain a safe blood pressure, and also helps to more rapidly clear anesthetics from the body.
Many of us have had dental procedures, or even a colonoscopy, where only injectable anesthetics are used. With all professional dental cleanings, and all but the simplest surgeries such as a small skin biopsy, full general anesthesia is required for the pet's safety and comfort. Dr. Meisner and I need to be certain our surgical patient is fully relaxed, so the procedure can be performed smoothly and with precision. Even more importantly, for many of these procedures, injectable anesthetics do not provide enough analgesia to take away pain a patient my otherwise experience during the procedure. Although we do use what is termed "multimodal anesthesia" (using a combination of injectable and inhalant drugs as previously explained) at Aurora Pet Hospital, neither can be used completely alone for surgical procedures. An injectable used alone may wear off too soon, and none of us would want that for our pet.
In summary, we know many of you are concerned about anesthesia for your pet, and the level of risk that may be involved. In years past, the danger of an anesthetic complication, although low, was much higher than it is in today's modern veterinary practices like ours. Dr. Meisner, other staff members and I are always willing to discuss any concerns you may have. We want you to know that your family and our entire team have one common goal with any of our patients undergoing anesthesia. That is our patient's well-being, safety, and smooth anesthetic recovery.
Thanks for "listening".......