What strikes fear into the heart of a pet lover? In many cases, it is the thought of “anesthetic complications”!
Unfortunately, some pet lovers, especially older people have experienced or know someone who has experienced pet loss secondary to anesthesia. The very thought of taking this risk is so frightening to some people that they choose to not treat their dog for preventable conditions such as tooth decay or remove lumps that may be malignant. These diseases then prove to be a far greater risk to the pet’s life than anesthetic.
THE GOOD NEWS! Fortunately, the news is good! Modern drugs and anesthetic monitoring equipment have greatly reduced the chances of anesthetic complication.
Today’s anesthetic drugs are extremely safe and have a much lower complication rate than drugs of the past. When administered competently, even the oldest of patients can usually be anesthetized safely and return home with no ill effect.
The other good news is that veterinarians now recognize that the key to making anesthesia safe is to closely monitor the pet’s condition while under anesthesia. Through close monitoring, changes in your pet’s anesthetic condition can be identified immediately and addressed.
This is where we come in. By practicing progressive medicine and investing in quality monitoring and support equipment as well as the training of our staff, we can reduce or eliminate this potential for complication. The key to making anesthesia safe is to combine the use of high tech monitors and personal observation to monitor your pet’s vital signs. Changes in anesthetic depth and drops in blood pressure, body temperature, and blood oxygen levels can all be easily corrected if identified early
The second step veterinarians can take to reduce the chance of anesthetic complication is to identify underlying disease BEFORE the anesthetic event whenever possible! In some cases, a pet may have an underlying disease (such as kidney, liver, or heart disease) which causes the body to not handle the anesthesia well.
IDENTIFYING UNDERLYING DISEASE
A full physical exam combined with pre-operative blood screening can identify many of the underlying diseases that can increase anesthetic risk. However, the most dangerous underlying disease is heart disease. If your veterinarian suspects heart disease based on the physical exam or your pet is of an age or of a breed prone to heart disease, he will recommend a chest xray and/or echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) before proceeding to anesthesia. Unfortunately, in rare instances, heart disease cannot be identified on a physical and goes undetected. If the disease is severe enough, anesthetic death may result. Again, this is extremely rare.
If you are concerned about this in an older pet, a pre-anesthetic echocardiogram can be performed to identify potential heart disease.