At our veterinary hospital in Rancho Cucamonga, it is very common to have to anesthetize our patients in order to perform diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical/dental procedures. Often times, owners express fear at the thought of anesthetizing their pets. Sometimes this is due to bad experiences in the past, or from lack of understanding of the anesthetic process. This handout will give you a basic understanding of anesthesia and what we do to ensure your pet’s safety during the anesthetic procedure.

Anesthesia is the process of taking a waking animal to a stage of consciousness where they completely unaware of their surroundings and are unable to experience pain. At Alta Rancho Pet Hospital we pride ourselves on our anesthetic safety record! We take pains to make sure that each patient is properly evaluated prior to anesthesia and that the anesthetic protocol is tailored to the specific needs of each patient.

Our pre-anesthetic safety protocol begins with a thorough physical examination, in which the doctor can check for issues which may affect anesthesia such as respiratory issues, heart problems, anemia, or age related issues. Next we encourage pre-anesthetic blood testing (and require it over the age of 5 years) to check for metabolic issues, which might influence anesthetic safety such as sub-clinical liver or kidney problems.

We use a “balanced” anesthetic protocol on most pets to reduce the amount of any one drug the pets may be subjected to. With this approach, we sedate your pet and administer pain relief medication well in advance of the anesthetic event. This has been shown to greatly reduce the stress on your pet and reduce stress related cardiovascular disturbances during anesthesia. Next, we encourage intravenous fluid therapy on all pets (we require it on pets over 7 years of age) to help maintain fluid and blood pressure balance during and after anesthesia. The catheter also gives us central access to the blood stream for the rapid administration of emergency drugs in the unlikely event that they are needed.

The process of taking your pet from the waking state, to a state of unconsciousness is called the “induction phase” of anesthesia. We use one of the safest drugs available for this purpose; Propofol, because it is very fast acting and wears off rapidly. The drug is given intravenously slowly, to effect, until the patient will allow the placement of a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) into the trachea. Once the tube is inserted, your pet is hooked up to an anesthetic gas to maintain the depth of anesthesia. The propofol wears off in a matter of minutes and leaves the patient without a “hangover” when recovering.

We use two of the safest gases available, Isoflurane and Sevoflurane to maintain anesthesia. These agents are the same drugs that are used by our human counterparts and have a long track record of safety and efficacy. They rapidly dissolve in the blood stream and so it is easy to change the depth of anesthesia rapidly as your pet’s needs change.

During anesthesia, we rely on a bevy of sophisticated electronic monitoring devices as well as trained nursing staff to monitor the depth of your pet. Our monitoring devices include:

  • Pulse Oximetry: Used to detect the level of oxygen in the blood
  • End Tidal CO2 measurement: to check the Carbon Dioxide levels in the lungs (a measure of appropriate ventilation)
  • Electrocardiogram: to monitor the heart rate and rhythm
  • Blood pressure:
  • Temperature: During the anesthetic we use heated surgical tables and warm air whole body warmers to maintain core body temperature which hastens recovery

With these monitoring devices, we have a clear picture of how your pet is handling the anesthetic and can adjust the level of anesthetic in response to their needs.

Once we have completed our procedure, your pet is recovered by our well trained technical staff. They are closely observed until they have regained their swallowing reflex, at which time the endotracheal tube is removed from the trachea. The patients are then monitored until they have regained normal body temperature and can right themselves on their own.

As you can see, we do not take anesthesia lightly, nor should you. However, with our proven protocols, you should feel comfortable that your pets are in the best hands when we have to anesthetize them.