General Anaesthetics, Sedation and Surgery
Anaesthetics are drugs that relieve pain and make animals unconscious, they can be injections or gas.
All anaesthetics carry a risk, these are minimised by thoroughly checking your pet beforehand, including blood samples, and careful monitoring during anaesthetic.
Sedation is not anaesthetic, it is a way of reducing anxiety in your pet and can be used in stronger doses for X-rays.
Age is not a barrier for anaesthetic, but let us know about other health problems.
There are specific things you need to do before your pet comes in, so read on.
What is an anaesthetic?
Anaesthetics are drugs, given to effect by injection or as gas, to make an animal unconscious and to relieve pain. We use anaesthetics daily to help us perform all sorts of procedures, from x-rays to complex surgery. At Mill House we use one of the newest anaesthetic injections on the market, with a proven safety record and rapid recovery. This is particularly important for operations like caesarian sections, where risks may be higher.
Are anaesthetics safe?
All anaesthetics carry a small risk. We minimise this risk to our patients in a number of ways:
Pre-anaesthetic checks – the vet always examines a patient before giving an anaesthetic.
Pre-anaesthetic blood and urine test is offered to all owners for their pets and is particularly useful for picking up unsuspected problems, for example kidney trouble, anaemia and diabetes.
Choosing the right anaesthetic – our modern anaesthetic is short acting, allowing quick recovery, and very safe.
We monitor your pet very closely throughout the procedure, using modern techniques and equipment. We use complex multi-parameter human theatre monitors to track blood oxygen level and breathing (capnography) as well as ECG and blood pressure. Veterinary nurses stay with patients in our recovery area, intensive care unit or on the wards until the veterinary surgeon is happy that recovery is progressing well, and only then are they allowed home.
We try to send animals home to their own familiar environment as soon as we can, and often sooner than a person would be discharged from hospital. Please follow carefully all the instructions given to you for the recovery period, and do not hesitate to ring if you are concerned or unsure about any aspect of the recovery – we always have a nurse or vet available for you to speak with. We are, of course, happy to hospitalise patients for longer if you wish.
What is the difference between an anaesthetic and sedation?
Sedatives are often used before anaesthetics to relax patients, but stronger sedative drugs can be used for many procedures such as x-rays, imaging, emergency procedures and minor surgery, and may produce similar effects to some anaesthetics. We use sedation or anaesthesia depending on the procedure to be performed and the individual patient’s needs. It is often assumed that sedatives are safer than general anaesthetics, but this may not necessaraily be the case in some patients and sedation still carries some risk. As anaesthetics are given to effect, we can use just the minimum amount to keep your pet asleep, and often use them in combination with sedation to reduce the dose. In certain breeds, particularly those with breathing problems, anaesthetics are safer as it is easier for us to control the patient’s airway and breathing. Although some sedatives are reversible, with an injection which ‘brings the patient round’, both drugs remain in the system and careful observation and monitoring are vital for maximum safety. Our veterinary surgeons are very happy to explain the options to you for your individual pet. Pain relief is always a priority at Mill House, and is a vital consideration when choosing a sedative or anaesthetic regime.
Is my pet too old to have an anaesthetic?
Age is not a barrier to anaesthesia, and we often give anaesthetics to very old animals (even 19-20 year olds!) with few problems. It is the presence of disease that increases the risk, hence the importance of the pre-anaesthetic screen. In fact, older animals are more likely to need to have an anaesthetic, as they develop problems such as bad teeth and gums, tumours, etc. The longer these problems are left, the worse they get until they can become life threatening, so don’t delay seeking treatment or having an operation because your pet is old – the disease may cause much more trouble than the anaesthetic. It is also now well established that bad teeth can cause kidney, heart and chest problems as well as a sore mouth. Of course, every case is assessed individually, and if you have any worries or questions please ask the vet or one of the Veterinary Health Advisors before making any decisions.
What do I do before I bring my pet in?
An empty stomach is essential for dogs and cats, so give no food after midnight the night before. Cats should be shut in so they do not hunt. Water should be freely available. If you are not sure whether your pet has eaten, please say so. Rabbits and other herbivores should not be left without food, so ask for our advice for all other species.
Please allow your pet to pass urine and faeces if possible, before coming to the surgery. For safety’s sake have your dogs on leads with a snug fitting collar, and cats in secure carriers.
What happens after I leave my pet with you?
Usually, patients are admitted on the morning of the operation. Fairly soon after admission, if a pre-anaesthetic screen has been requested, the blood sample is taken and tested in our lab. The results are then examined by a vet who will ring you to discuss them. Please make sure that you leave us a current contact number for this reason. A premed will then be given. This is an injection which reduces the patient’s anxiety and counteracts some of the side effects of the general anaesthetic. A pain killing drug may also be given at this time, so that it is working during the procedure and after your pet wakes up. Within 10-20 minutes, the patient is usually relaxed and may be quite sleepy.
When we are ready to start the procedure, the induction drug is given. This is usually injected into the vein on the front of the leg, after clipping away a small amount of hair. The injection is given quickly and your pet usually becomes unconscious in just a few seconds. A tube is then passed into the trachea (windpipe) and connected to a gas anaesthetic machine, supplying measured amounts of oxygen, nitrous oxide and isofluorane (the anaesthetic gases) directly to the patient. Our high-tech monitors are then in place throughout the procedure.
Surgical operations are carried out in a fully equipped dedicated theatre using sterile procedures. As soon as the procedure is finished, pure oxygen is given, and the patient usually starts to wake up within a few minutes. The tube is removed and recovery is monitored by the vet and nurse until the patient is well awake and ready to go home. Further pain killing drugs may be given if necessary.