Sedation and Anaesthesia

Our pets often require sedation or anaesthesia to allow their vet to perform certain procedures on them. This may range from a sedation to help pets sit still for xrays (radiographs), through to a general anaesthetic for surgical procedures such as desexing, dentistry or even orthapedics.

Sedations and anaesthetics are similar in veterinary medicine to those in human medicine - some of the agents used are the same and some are different. Whilst we are all animals, there are species differences between people and dogs, and even between dogs and cats.

Sedations calm the patients, whilst they are still awake they are very sleepy. Anaesthetics on the other hand produce a deeper plane of sleep resulting in complete unconsciousness. Both sedatives and anaesthetics are generally metabolised (broken down) by the liver and excreted (removed through the body) through the liver or kidneys.

Pets undergoing a general anaesthetic are placed on intravenous fluids prior to and during their anaesthetic. This helps in several ways

  • ensuring pets are well hydrated as they don't drink prior to anaesthesia or in recovery
  • providing adequate blood pressure (and improved tissue oxygen) whilst under anaesthesia
  • improving hepatic and renal (liver and kidney) function which assists in recovery from anaesthesia
  • providing intravenous access for medications whilst under anaeshesia

Risks with sedation and anaesthesia

These days most sedatives and anaesthetics are generally safe - but they do carry a degree of risk. Risks involve vomiting while not fully conscious, difficulties in metabolising (breaking down) the anaesthetic agent, and lowering of blood pressure or suppression of heart or lung function.

It is important that pets do not eat prior to a sedation or anaesthetic to reduce the risk of vomiting and inhalation. We recommend that pets have no food after 9pm the evening prior to a sedative or anaesthetic the following day.

How an animal responds to an anaesthetic or sedative will depend on their own liver and kidney function - and we recommend a pre-anaesthetic blood profile to determine the relative risk of anaesthetics and sedative prior to treatment. This is especially imporant in older or sick animals.

Cardiac function and ability to breathe will also affect the risk of an anaesthetic. Pets with reduced heart function, or decreased breathing ability (ie lung disease) will be at greater risk.

While anaesthetics have improved greatly in the last fifteen years, there is always a risk with anaesthetics. As well as our nursing monitoring patients we monitor all anaesthetics with modern pulse oximetry to ensure our pets heart rates and oxygen concentration are optimal. Major surgeries have ECG and Blood Pressure monitoring available also.

Please talk to our staff about risk assessment for your pet prior to anaesthetics and how we reduce the risks of anaesthesia.