All About Anaesthesia
It may be unsettling to have your pet undergo anaesthesia, but the procedure is not as scary as it seems
Anaesthesia and its uses
A necessary process for medical procedures and surgeries, anaesthesia is used to relax a dog’s muscles and to prevent it from fighting against the procedure. It is also one of the few ways for dogs to tolerate breathing tubes and to not have them chew on the equipment. There are four main types of anaesthesia: pre-emptive analgesia, local, regional and general. Preemptive analgesia is usually used as a therapeutic intervention in advance of the pain, to prevent or minimise pain. While the local anaesthesia seeks to prevent pain in specific body parts such as a tooth or paw, the regional anaesthesia blocks pain in a larger body area such as the entire upper half body of a dog. The general anaesthesia, one that we are more familiar with, will prevent the patient from feeling any pain by rendering it unconscious.
Different dog, different needs
When it comes to anaesthesia administration, it is important to note that different dog breeds have different needs, where anaesthetic procedures are customised accordingly to each dog.
For instance, Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with shorter snouts) such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers require additional care as the stress placed on their airways can result in obstruction of your pet’s breathing. As such, the breathing tube should always be left in place until the dog is fully alert and awake. Due to their leaner and more muscular bodies, Sighthounds such as the Greyhound, Whippet and Borzoi will metabolise the drug at a faster rate and in turn, require smaller doses.
While bigger dogs such as Great Danes may be associated with higher drug metabolism rates, you may be surprised to learn that the anaesthetic doses are prescribed according to a dog’s body mass as opposed to its weight.
On the other hand, smaller dogs will have a higher risk of drug administration. Due to their relatively lower body temperatures, it is vital to keep Toy breeds warm when undergoing the procedure and during the recovery period.
Before the proceeding with the drug administration, risk factors that may influence the patient’s reactions to anaesthesia should be identified – these include the dog’s age, breed and temperament. A preanaesthetic evaluation can include chest examinations and blood tests, while your pet may be required to go through a fasting period as it prepares for the anaesthetic administration. Following the evaluation, pre-anaesthetic may be prescribed to the dog, to reduce its stress levels and to minimise the dose of other anaesthetic drugs.
There are several ways to administer anaesthesia, the most common being the intravenous injection. The inhalation induction method will require your pet to breathe in the anaesthetic, while the multimodal approach will see the administration of multiple drugs to achieve the analgesic effect.
Monitoring the effects
While it may be worrying, rest assured that your vet is there to monitor the effects of anaesthesia on your pet before adjusting the dosage if necessary. For example, an electrocardiogram will be used to monitor the dog’s heart rate, to detect abnormal heartbeat patterns. A blood pressure monitor will be used to provide details on the dog’s cardiovascular condition, while its body temperature will be closely monitored.
The road to recovery
While anaesthetics are to provide pain relief, there are occasional side effects such as decreased breathing, lower blood and body temperatures. As anaesthetics will result in the dilation of blood vessels and eventual body heat loss, do keep your pet warm and cosy, especially post-procedure. A common side effect will be a lack of depth perception, where the dog may encounter a loss of balance and have difficulty with walking. While the recovery rates of dogs do differ from a few hours to a day or two, rest assured that Rover will regain his cheery and energetic self after approximately forty-eight hours upon awakening. Do note that nausea and vomiting, in addition to grogginess, may also occur.
With better-developed drugs, improved protocols and consistent monitoring, anaesthetics for pets are generally safe. Despite this, it is advisable to find out more about the associated risks and to consult the vet before your dog undergoes any medical procedures.