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What You Need to Know About Anesthesia and Your Pet

on May 26, 2015
Posted in Cats

So the time has come for your pet to be spayed or neutered and you, like many pet parents, may be concerned about your pet’s anesthesia.  When your puppy or kitten is spayed/neutered or undergoing another type of surgery, he/she is put under general anesthesia which means he/she is unconscious and not able to feel pain.

Lower Anesthetic Risk

There are always risks associated with any anesthetic but the reality is that a general anesthetic is considered a low risk event in the life of a cat or dog.  There are some things that you can do to lessen any anesthetic risk.

  • Fasting: Your veterinary office will instruct you to withhold food from your pet for several hours before the procedure.  This is because if there is food in the stomach, it can trigger vomiting.  Vomiting could cause inhalation of fluid or food into the lungs.  This can be extremely dangerous and is prevented by fasting.
  • Presurgical examination: Your pet will be examined by the veterinarian to make sure he or she is healthy enough for an anesthetic.  A medical history will be important for the doctor to know at this time.
  • Presurgical blood tests: Your veterinarian may recommend some blood work before anesthesia, if necessary.
  • Intravenous fluids: These are highly recommended for all pets to maintain blood pressure and hydration.  Fluids allow your pet to recover more quickly and the catheter provides intravenous access in case emergency drugs are needed.

Veterinarian Safeguards

The above procedures are performed before the anesthetic is given. There are also safeguards that may be put into place during the procedure to be sure your pet is safe.

These safeguards include:

  • The veterinary technician:  A technician or assistant is present during the anesthetic event to monitor your pet’s vital signs and to help adjust anesthetic levels, under the direction of the veterinarian.
  • A heart rate monitor counts your pet’s heartbeats per minute. Anesthesia and other factors, such as surgery itself, can affect heart rate. By monitoring your pet’s heart rate, your veterinarian can make anesthetic adjustments quickly.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors your pet’s heart rate and heartbeat pattern. It can detect abnormal heartbeats called arrhythmias. If an arrhythmia is detected, your veterinarian can make suitable changes in anesthesia.
  • Core body temperature may be monitored, especially if your pet is undergoing a prolonged surgical procedure. Changes in body temperature can cause dangerous complications. Most pets are placed on a warming blanket to prevent hypothermia.
  • A blood pressure monitor measures your pet’s blood pressure. When used in conjunction with other monitoring equipment, it provides detailed information on your pet’s cardiovascular condition.
  • Pulse oximetry may be used to monitor the amount of oxygen in your pet’s blood and the pulse rate.
  • Carbon dioxide is often monitored together with oxygen, as it helps determine if your pet is receiving the right amount of oxygen during anesthesia.


All of these measures ensure your pet is safe when he or she has an anesthetic. Not all hospitals provide this level of care for your pet. It is important to be informed when it comes to your pet’s anesthesia.  Be sure to ask the right questions to ensure safe and complete care for your beloved pet.

Read also: Cat Heartworm – Everything you need to know

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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