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Anaesthetics & Sedation

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, which may include 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. 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 dental examinations 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.

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.

A Pre-anaesthetic blood screen is offered to all owners for their pets which can detect unsuspected problems, for example liver or kidney problems that may alter that anaesthetic risk/plan. 

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 theatre monitors to track blood oxygen levels and breathing (capnography) as well as ECG and blood pressure. Patients are then monitoried closely on recovery until they are ready to go back 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. When you come to collect your pet a Nurse will discuss any instructions for care during the recovery period. We are available 24/7 on the telephone 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 advised for dogs and cats, so please do not give food after midnight the night before anaesthesia. Cats should be kept 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, Guinea Pigs and other herbivores should never be left without food. Please 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 please have your dog on a lead with a snug fitting collar, and cat in secure carriers.

What happens after I leave my pet with you?

After admission to the practice, 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 if needed. 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, a intravenous catheter is placced and the induction drug is given by injection. Once the injection is given 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 and isofluorane (the anaesthetic gases) directly to the patient. 

Surgical operations are carried out in  our 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 until the patient is well awake and ready to go home. Further pain relief drugs may be given if necessary.

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