If you have navigated to this page, it is probably because you have been advised to have your pet anaesthetised or because you are thinking about booking them in for a procedure that requires general anaesthesia.
Either way, you may be concerned about what is going to happen and would like to know more about the risks involved.
If you are very concerned about your pet, then no amount of reading is going to help. Please phone the vet who is involved with your case and speak to them about your worries. We are all very approachable! We are also all pet owners ourselves so we understand how you feel. We certainly won't think you are being silly!
You can, if you wish, make an appointment to come to the surgery and speak to us about anaesthesia.
Whilst we do want to put your mind at ease, there is no doubt that there is a risk associated with anaesthesia. This risk varies between patients depending on many factors, including their age, body condition, general health and the length and complexity of the procedure involved.
Your pet will be examined prior to anaesthesia and, if we feel the risk is excessive, the procedure will be postponed or cancelled. Remember we are always trying to balance the risk involved against the benefit to the patient of having the procedure done.
We also should not forget that every situation carries some risk. Far more animals are hurt or killed each year in road traffic accidents, while they are out on a walk or a drive, than are damaged by anaesthetics!
Broadly speaking, we can divide your pet's anaesthetic into 4 distinct parts.
1) Pre-anaesthesia: From the minute you drop your pet off with us, he or she will be looked after by vets and nurses.
As soon as you depart, he will be weighed, examined and a premedication given, which is both a sedative and a painkiller. This will relax your pet and allow a lower total dose of anaesthetic agent to be used for the operation. Additionally and importantly, it means that your pet will have pain relief during the procedure and not just after. Again, this contributes to less anaesthetic being required without the depth of anaesthesia being affected.
2) Induction of anaesthesia: Once their sedative has had its full effect, your patient will have general anaesthesia induced by intravenous injection.
Normally, this will be done through a simple intravenous cannula, which is placed in the vein of the foreleg. Just like in humans, the passage from consciousness to full anaesthesia occurs over a few seconds in a peaceful and tranquil manner.
Immediately after anaesthesia has occurred, a safe airway is established with the use of an endotracheal tube, which is place in the windpipe.
Our routine induction agent is Propofol, which has been safely and successfully used for many years in a huge variety of circumstances. This drug is very rapidly broken down in the body and leaves little or no 'hang-over' effect.
3) Maintenance of anaesthesia: For all but the briefest of procedures, anaesthesia needs to be continued beyond the induction phase.
This is best achieved by the use of gaseous anaesthetics which are mixed with oxygen and breathed in by the patient through a variety of anaesthetic circuits. The circuit chosen will vary with the circumstances and the weight and condition of the patient. Each is assessed individually.
Generally, the agent of choice is Isoflurane, which has a proven safety record and is suitable for most circumstances at reasonable cost.
Recently, Sevoflurane has been employed for some geriatric patients and for procedures such as caesarian section. It is also useful for the rare occasions that mask induction is required as it is odourless and tasteless. It is considerably more expensive than Isoflurane but we will inform you when we think it should be used.
4) Recovery from anaesthesia: Towards the end of most procedures, the plane of anaesthesia is lightened until only oxygen is being breathed. As animals recover, their endotracheal tube is removed and they are returned to their kennel and monitored. For routine procedures, most patients are back on their feet within ½ hour and are ready to be fed before going home.