Veterinarians can perform necessary procedures because they have access to safe, modern anesthetic drugs, gasses, and techniques. Although you may be concerned if your pet has to undergo an anesthetic procedure, the safety risks are minimal, because our Smithtown Animal Hospital team uses research-backed and individualized anesthetic drug protocols. In addition, our experienced team members monitor pets closely throughout their stay—before, during, and after they receive anesthesia. To help ease your mind, we share how anesthesia works and the safety measures our team has put in place to protect your four-legged friend.

Reasons for anesthesia use in veterinary medicine

Pets’ nervous systems are similar to those of people, so they feel pain in the same ways. Veterinary anesthesia’s main goal is to prevent pets from feeling pain or sensation during necessary procedures. Veterinarians can administer anesthetics locally to numb a small area, or generally to induce controlled unconsciousness, ensuring your furry pal remains motionless, which facilitates surgical precision. Pets undergo anesthesia for many reasons, the most common of which include soft tissue or orthopedic surgeries, and dental and diagnostic procedures. Anesthesia can also facilitate exams and treatments in extremely fearful pets, exotic pets, and wildlife.

The anesthesia process in pets

Our Smithtown Animal Hospital team’s anesthesia process is designed to enhance pet safety and wellbeing and to ensure we obtain the best possible surgical outcomes. Each pet undergoes specific steps during the process, with individual protocol variations according to their temperament, behavior, and overall health. The anesthesia process’s general steps include the following:

  1. Preanesthetic examination — This examination includes vital signs, heart and lung sounds, and pre anesthetic diagnostic tests, which help us evaluate your pet’s health and customize their drug protocol.
  2. Premedication — Oral and/or injectable medications administered in the morning get a jump on pain control and provide light sedation, so pets can relax while they await their procedure.
  3. Intravenous (IV) catheter — After lightly sedating the patient, we place an IV catheter to administer drugs and fluids directly into the bloodstream. This safety measure also ensures immediate venous access in an emergency situation.
  4. Anesthesia induction — We induce anesthesia using a short-acting injectable drug that provides a short time window during which to place an endotracheal (i.e., airway) tube.
  5. Intubation — An endotracheal tube protects the patient’s airway from collapse, prevents fluid aspiration into the lungs, and facilitates oxygen and anesthetic gas administration.
  6. Anesthetic maintenance and monitoring — A dedicated team member with specialized anesthetic training administers the patient’s anesthesia gas through a vaporizing machine, monitors vitals, and continuously adjusts the anesthetic depth to deliver the lowest effective dose and minimize side effects.
  7. Anesthetic recovery — We turn off the anesthesia gas, administer pure oxygen, and allow the patient to wake up in a warm, cozy, comfortable area. Our team removes the endotracheal tube when the pet can hold up their head and protect their airway with a swallow reflex.

Pet anesthetic risks

Anesthesia depresses natural body functions, which can lead to risks and complications. Generally, a serious anesthetic complication risk is extremely low. Studies show that a healthy pet’s anesthesia death risk is only 0.05%, and this number rises only slightly to 1.3% in sick pets. If an anesthetic complication occurs, it is typically mild and can be controlled with intraoperative medications or by making other adjustments. We monitor patients’ vital signs continuously, including their heart rhythm and rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature, so we can watch for trending values that might indicate a problem and intervene quickly. 

Preanesthetic safety screening for pets

The best way we can provide your pet with a safe anesthetic procedure is to understand each of their individual health factors and plan ahead. A pet with underlying health issues can still safely undergo an anesthetic procedure with modifications in place, such as avoiding certain drugs, administering anti-nausea medications, or using specific fluid types. Our veterinarians perform a patient’s complete physical examination before recommending anesthesia, and we examine the pet again on the morning of their procedure. We may also recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood work to evaluate the liver, kidneys, clotting ability, and general health status
  • Urinalysis to complement blood work
  • Chest X-ray to evaluate heart size and lung health
  • Heart ultrasound to evaluate heart function in pets with a murmur or other suspected heart disease
  • Heart electrocardiogram (EKG) to check for hidden arrhythmias that could worsen under anesthesia

Although any anesthetic procedure has risks, we strive to ameliorate them by performing each patient’s thorough preanesthetic screening and carefully crafting unique protocols and procedures. Because our Smithtown Animal Hospital team understands that surgery, dentistry, and other anesthetic procedures cause you concern for your furry pal’s wellbeing, rest assured knowing that we put your pet’s safety above all else. Contact us to learn more about our anesthetic protocols or to schedule your four-legged friend’s preanesthetic consultation.