When Your Pet Needs Anesthesia

Some veterinary procedures need to be performed with your pet under anesthesia (for example: dentistry, surgery, and some diagnostic imaging). Simply put, anesthesia is a controlled unconsciousness, where your pet’s level of consciousness is controlled so they don’t feel pain and don’t move. We certainly don’t want our pets to feel pain whenever possible, and it’s important that they don’t move because precision is required during these procedures and movement could lead to complications. Most healthy pets - even senior pets - don’t have any problems with anesthesia and, in general, the risks are more closely related to the procedure being done and your pet’s general health than to the anesthesia itself. Most of us are anxious about going under anesthesia ourselves, so it’s understandable to be anxious about your pet being anesthetized. Anesthesia for animals has come a long way and is safer than it ever was before, and a well-trained veterinary team further reduces your pet’s risk.

Like any medical procedure, anesthesia does have risks. These risks can run from minor problems, such as mild vomiting after recovery from anesthesia, to life-threatening problems such as cardiac arrest or stroke. Anesthesia-related deaths are rare, though, and while complications can occur, the veterinary team will take all of the necessary precautions to ensure that your pet is safe and can handle anesthesia. The risks of anesthesia should always be considered along with the benefits, and the risks and benefits of any alternatives to anesthesia should also be considered. In an emergency, life-threatening situation, the risks of anesthesia are usually minimal compared to the risks of not performing the emergency procedure. For elective procedures, there’s more opportunity to postpone anesthesia if some risks that are present can be reduced by treatment prior to the anesthesia and procedure.

Click here to learn more about Anesthesia from the AVMA.