Is My Dog Safe Under Anesthesia?

Your veterinarian has suggested a procedure that requires general anesthesia for your dog.

Should you be concerned about the safety of anesthetic drugs?

You ask, “Is my dog safe under anesthesia?”

Best answer? “That depends …”

General anesthesia is commonly required for spaying and neutering, for veterinary dental procedures, to repair internal injuries and for operations and certain diagnostics. Vets reason that anesthesia is used only when necessary and always carefully administered.

But some animals may develop serious reactions, including sudden death, from such drugs. Knowing about the problems involved with general anesthesia medications for dogs before the procedure can help you and your veterinarian determine how – and whether – to proceed.

Types of Anesthesia

Anesthesia can be local, that is it numbs only specific areas of the body; or general, under which the animal loses consciousness for a short period so that procedures can be administered safely, thoroughly and painlessly.

Intravenous and inhalation medications are generally used to induce unconsciousness.  Often, a combination of medications is given first to calm the dog before the general anesthesia puts the animal to sleep. This assures the experience is minimally traumatic and that the medications will leave the animal’s body entirely before the patient becomes active again.

Thiopental and propofol are intravenous medications. Isoflurane, Halothane, Sevoflurane and desflurane are inhalant medications. These medications vary in how quickly they produce unconsciousness as well as how quickly they leave the body when restoring consciousness.

Risks of Anesthesia

Reactions to anesthesia can vary from dog to dog and from breed to breed, which can sometimes lead to unfortunate consequences.
Lack of oxygen to the brain can cause permanent diminished cognitive function
Renal failure can occur with mild, undetected nephritis in the kidneys
Cardiovascular depression can result in fatalities among vulnerable dogs
Raised blood pressure levels and increased blood glucose are common

The use of accurate monitoring equipment, however, can alert the veterinarian to these reactions.

Breeds Sensitive to Anesthesia

Some dog breeds are particularly sensitive to the effects of anesthesia. A number of cases of dogs dying while under anesthesia have occurred. Animal scientists speculate that genes selection for certain physical and personality qualities of a given dog breed may also select less favorable traits, making them more susceptible to heart, liver or kidney diseases. These underlying problems can make the animal more vulnerable to the effects of anesthesia.

Large breeds such as boxers, mastiffs, bulldogs, and many of the sight hounds are known to be sensitive to anesthesia. Other breeds with shortened noses may also have problems. Breeds that carry the MRD-1 gene mutation are also known to have difficulty with certain types of anesthesia.  Of the 150 breeds listed by the American Kennel Club, 26 are recognized to have potential problems with anesthesia.

Anesthesia and Existing Health Problems

Dogs known to have diabetes, blood disorders, kidney disease, immune-deficiency – to name just a few compromising factors – should avoid anesthetic drugs whenever possible. Senior dogs also need special monitoring while under anesthesia because of diminished function of critical organs.

Blood testing in advance of any veterinary procedure that requires general anesthesia can help determine how well the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver are functioning. The veterinarian can then adjust the dosage of anesthesia, as well as monitor the organs closely during the procedure for any signs of trouble.

If you have concerns about your dog’s ability to withstand anesthetic medications, you are not alone. Discuss the issue frankly with your veterinarian. Share your thoughts with other dog people and see what they think. Whenever possible, find out if there are less invasive, holistic veterinary alternatives available.

As responsible dog and cat lovers, the difficult decision of anesthetizing or not is inescapably ours to make. We definitely don’t want them to suffer pain. And the least we can do for them is make a decision that’s fully informed of both options and consequences.

P.S. Avoid the risk of anesthetic shock during routine dog dental procedures such as dog teeth cleaning, removal of tartar and plaque, disinfecting gingivitis in dogs, and freshening bad dog breath. Try our non-alcoholic, human grade DentaSure All-Natural Oral Care Spray or Gel for Dogs and Cats.

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