Veterinary Anesthesia

What is anesthesia?
There are two main types of anesthesia used in veterinary medicine. Local anesthesia provides pain relief for a specific location in the body, for example a nerve block before a tooth extraction.

General anesthetic produces a state of unconsciousness which provides an absence of pain as well as complete muscular relaxation. Sometimes pets require anesthesia to undergo examinations or testing such as x-rays which require them to remain calm and still. They may also require anesthesia for minor or major surgical procedures.

Is it safe for use on animals?
Like any medical procedure, anesthesia does carry a small risk. However this is particularly low in otherwise healthy animals and your veterinarian will always give your pet a thorough examination prior to booking a procedure that requires an anesthetic, and in particular a general anesthetic. This is to make any risk to their health as small as possibly.

Your veterinarian may also decide to perform additional tests such as blood work or urine analysis to rule out any conditions that increase the chance of problems arising whilst under anesthetic.

During the procedure your pet will be closely monitored, with his heart rate and breathing measure to ensure that his condition remains stable.

What is the procedure for general anesthetic?
You will usually be asked to refrain from feeding your pet for a period of time before the anesthetic is administered. This is usually between 8 and 12 hours of fasting, but your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a definitive decision as to how much fasting will be required. Never withhold food from your pet without instruction from your veterinarian to do so.

The reason that fasting is necessary is that some pets with full stomachs may experience vomiting during the first or final stages of general anesthetic. Vomiting when mostly unconscious is very dangerous for your pet. A very full stomach can also inhibit the diaphragm from functioning properly, making it difficult for your pet to breathe.

The anesthetic itself is usually administered by an injection into a vein in the patient’s front leg and your veterinarian will probably shave or clip the hair in that area to make the injection as quick and painless as possible.

Once your pet is asleep the anesthesia is maintained through a mixture of oxygen and anesthetic gas that is delivered via a tube inserted into your pet’s windpipe. The level of anesthetic given to your pet is controlled by a machine and a veterinarian nurse will monitor the levels for the entire procedure.

After the procedure your pet will be given oxygen until the veterinarian states that it is safe to move him to a warm and comfortable kennel to recover in peace. Animals regain consciousness at different rates and your pet will be checked regularly and offered food and water once fully awake.

Once you take your pet home he will need a quiet space to recover where you can check on him regularly without disturbing him. Your veterinarian will give you specific guidelines for the aftercare of your pet and these should be followed exactly. If you have any worries or concerns with your pet’s recovery, speak to your veterinary surgery immediately.

What is the procedure for local anesthetic?
Local anesthetic is almost always administered via a short injection to the localized area to be worked on. Your pet will feel a short sharp scratch and then it will take a few minutes for the anesthetic to work.

After the procedure the anesthetic should wear off, although this can take up to 8 hours, and your pet should return to normal. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you how to care for any wounds that he may have from procedures carried out during the local anesthetic.

How much does anesthesia cost?
The actual cost of treatment will vary depending on your veterinary surgery and the amount of anesthesia needed, but you could expect to pay between $50 and $100 per 30 minutes of general anesthesia.

Part or all of the cost of the treatment may be met by your pet insurance. Please contact your insurer for more information.