Dog Anesthesia - What to Know If Your Dog is Given Anesthesia

What are the different types of anesthesia?

Anesthesia comes in a few different forms. We think about the initial and pre-anesthetic medications that can be given to calm the pet to help with pain management. There is also induction anesthesia, which brings that dog under anesthesia so that they can be intubated and kept on general anesthesia, which is typically gas anesthesia. And that's delivered by an endotracheal tube. And the pre-anesthetic also helps them wake up more smoothly. By giving those multiple steps along the way, we can provide fewer drugs overall and then, in turn, make that safer for your dog.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

When would my dog need anesthesia?

Dogs need anesthesia when they undergo surgery or any other type of painful procedure where we don't want them to feel that. It could be due to a wound repair if they need stitches, and it could even be dental procedures where we have to do x-rays and require them to have their mouth open for extended periods.

Are particular dog breeds more sensitive to anesthesia?

The ones that I think about are your Sighthounds or Greyhounds. There is a problem that they can have hyperthermia with certain types of sedation or anesthesia. And the other thing I think about is those smushed face breeds, like your English bulldog. The technical term is brachycephalic, and so we worry already about their breathing status before anesthesia. We don't worry during as much because they're intubated with the tracheal tube, but then afterward, that recovery of them breathing in their normal state is essential to monitor.

What do I need to know before my dog goes in for an anesthetic procedure?

So most of the time, we will have performed a physical exam on your pet, we will have assessed their risk, and we may have already completed blood work. We're probably going to ask you to fast your pet, so withhold food overnight. You may or may not have the dog on medications prior if it's needed. If so, we'll talk to you about certain medications they need to be on.

What are some of the possible complications of anesthesia that my dog could experience?

When we are anesthetizing a pet, we're taking control of their breathing—we are controlling their heart rate and their blood pressure. So, those are all potential complications if they have any underlying diseases like kidneys, kidney disease, or heart disease would increase their risk.

What monitoring will be done by the veterinary staff to ensure my dog is safe while he's under anesthesia?

The monitoring is very similar to if you and I were to go in to have a procedure, and so the things that we monitor specifically are their heart rate, respiration rate, CO2 levels, and an EKG is running during the procedure. We also have trained veterinary staff monitoring your pet physically, having their hands on them when needed, and monitoring their temperature because another risk is they can have a low temperature.

What do I need to watch for at home after my dog has had an anesthetic procedure?

We monitor them immediately after sedation or anesthesia, and when they are recovered enough to go home, we'll send them home. And so the dog might still be a little drowsy or drunk-like, and so you want to keep them confined in a safe area where they can't fall off of something or hurt themselves. You also want to limit their activities with other pets so that they aren't overwhelmed by these pets welcoming them home. And there are certain procedures where we administer IV fluids, and so their bladder is going to be full, so they might not be able to hold their bowel movements quite as long.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Dog Anesthesia - FAQs

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What kind of anesthesia is used for my dog?

The most common would either be injectable, where we give an injection in the vein, or inhalant, general anesthesia, where they are intubated.

Will my dog need an exam and lab work before anesthesia?

We perform a physical exam on all our patients before they undergo sedation or anesthesia. Most of the time, we're going to recommend, or even possibly require, blood work, depending on what we're doing.

How do you ensure the safety of my dog under anesthesia?

Those two things we just mentioned are significant. There's a lot that goes into the physical exam in assessing your pet's overall wellness—of course, the blood work results. The other thing that we do to ensure your pet's safety during anesthesia is the monitoring that we do before, during, and after anesthesia.

How long do anesthetic procedures last?

Yes, that depends on the type of procedure we're doing. There might be some rapid anesthesia, it might be minutes, and then there's some that might be hours.

What pain medications will my dog receive before, during, and after the procedure?

What we call our pre-medication has pain management in it. By doing that ahead of time, you are already calming your pet and giving that pain medicine before the pain stimulus happens. If you've ever heard of windup pain, if you don't control the pain before it happens, then it takes a lot more pain medication to help them after it happens. Then during the procedure, they would have either injectable or inhalant anesthesia that would help control pain. Then afterward, they go home on pain medication as well.

What are some of the risks and side effects of anesthesia?

Sedation and drowsiness are the big ones. Of course, we expect that but that sometimes can linger longer than we like. Another side effect can be that they're not only just sedated, but they're a little drunk or dysphoric, so they don't know what's going on, and they might act a little different than your normal pet would act. That's why we take care to monitor them before, during, and after the procedure.

Are there certain conditions that can increase my dog's risk of a reaction under anesthesia?

Yes, and we have a way to assess that and a grading system that grades the risk of anesthesia of each pet, whether there is little to no risk or high risk. If they have any underlying conditions or diseases ahead of time, whether that's maybe a heart murmur or heart disease or if they are overweight—those are risk factors. Then other things might be if they have any breathing difficulty or kidney problems. All of those things are increasing their risk for anesthesia.

We want to make sure that those diseases are controlled. Many times these diseases that I just mentioned aren't curable, but they're managed. We want to make sure that they're under control before we anesthetize the pet. The other thing that we haven't mentioned yet is the type of anesthesia that we choose would vary depending on the pet's risk. We might choose quicker-acting anesthesia that they go under quickly and then recover quickly.

When is anesthesia not necessary, or when is it necessary?

We don't take anesthesia risk lightly, so we would only recommend that if necessary, and that might be in the procedures that we talked about, whether it was surgery, certain types of radiographs where we might need them sedated stitches, or sutures.

What can you expect after an anesthetic procedure? How long does it take for anesthesia to wear off in a dog?

That would depend a lot on the individual dog. Every dog is going to act a little bit differently. Typically, or traditionally, if they're younger and have no underlying health concerns, they're going to recover faster than our pets that might have some underlying conditions or are a little older. But in general, I tell most people that the next 12 to 24 hours, they might not quite be themselves, and then after that, they usually bounce back pretty quickly.

What can I expect after I bring my dog home from an anesthetic procedure?

They might be drowsy; they might be a little drunk. One thing that we talk to clients about is we think about if we're in pain, if we were hurt or we have pain, we might be vocal about that. Pets aren't necessarily vocal when they're in pain because they want to hide that, and so if your pet goes home. They're very vocal; that might be a side effect of the anesthesia where they don't necessarily know what's going on, and they're more vocal because they're a little confused versus that they're painful. That's one thing that's important to remember.

How can I help my dog recover from anesthesia?

One of the most important things is to keep them in a quiet, less stressful environment. You staying calm will help them stay calm. If you're worrying, they might become more anxious because of that. Make sure that you ask all the questions before you take your dog home. Sometimes it's hard to remember all those questions, so write down any questions you might have. We tend to write down go-home instructions because when we talk to you, and when people talk to me, I don't always retain that, so I like to have a piece of paper just like this, where I can reference and look at it. That has important information on how to take care of your pet. You want to make sure that if they had an incision or any stitches, they're not licking or chewing at those.

What are the signs of complications from anesthesia that I should watch for as my dog recovers?

I think that the breathing rate is a big one. You want to make sure the dog isn't having any difficulty or labored breathing. Monitor their activity level. Does the dog respond to you? Are they aware of what's going on? Those would be two big ones that would be a little more obvious than others.

When and what should I feed my dog after anesthesia?

Again, depending on the type of procedure, I generally tell owners not to feed them immediately when they go home. They might be hungry, as, in many procedures, they're fasted, or we've withheld their food. But when they do that, sometimes they go home, and they gorge and then vomit, and then you get concerned and call us. Generally, after you get them home for a few hours, feed them about 50% of what you would normally feed them. If they don't eat, that's okay. I'm not too concerned about that. If they eat and act hungry, don't feed them anymore for three or four hours later. Let that food settle because they're kind of like kids; they don't always know what's best for them, and they might overeat.

I don't generally tend to change food, because again, you don't want to add in one more factor that can cause an upset stomach, but let's say they had a dental procedure and had several extractions; we might talk about softening their food during that time.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.