The Ins And Outs Of A General Anaesthetic

What does anaesthesia involve and how will my pet be anaesthetised?

general surgery anaesthesia in pets

At some stage your pet may need a general anaesthetic

Premed – the first stage of the anaesthetic is known as pre-anaesthetic medication, or premed for short. The premed is a combination of a sedative and a painkiller which is given as an injection into the muscle. Your pet will become relaxed and the pain killer will start to work to ensure good pain control for the procedure.

Induction – once the premed has taken effect, usually around half an hour, general anaesthesia is induced. This is known as the induction period. This is performed by inserting a catheter into a vein in your pet’s leg. The induction agent is given and the pet loses consciousness. Once unconsciousness is produced a tube, known as an endotracheal tube is placed in the trachea (windpipe). The animal is then connected to the anaesthetic machine which delivers oxygen and anaesthetic gas. From this point until the end of the anaesthetic the animal is monitored constantly by one person. In most veterinary practices this will be a veterinary nurse. In referral practices this may be a specialist anaesthetist.

Maintenance – the maintenance phase lasts for as long as it takes to perform the procedure or surgery. During this period the animal will be prepared for surgery and surgery will take place.

Recovery – once the procedure or surgery is completed then the recovery period begins. Until the animal can sit itself up and maintain its body temperature they should be monitored closely because this is one of the most risky periods of the anaesthetic.

Will my pet have to stay overnight?

Most minor procedures conducted in veterinary practice mean that the animal can be admitted the morning of the procedure and then go home that same day. In your pet is unwell or undergoing major surgery then it is likely they will be hospitalised until your vet is confident that they have recovered well enough to go home.

Feeding after anaesthesia

In people, post-operative nausea and vomiting is one of the major side effects of anaesthetic drugs. Dogs and cats however don’t suffer with the same concerns and can be fed their usual diet once recovered from the anaesthetic. However be careful not to over feed them.

What should I watch out for once my pet comes home?

Your pet should be fully recovered from their anaesthetic when you collect them from your vet. Once you get them home they may appear very tired. This is usual. You should offer small amounts of their normal food, access to fresh water and give plenty of opportunity for toilet breaks. Ensure any medications which have been prescribed are administered and if your pet has a wound ensure he or she cannot interfere with it.

Will my pet be in pain after the surgery?

If your pet has had a surgical procedure he or she will have received painkillers before and during the surgery. In cases where pain is expected to be moderate to severe, the animal will be hospitalised overnight to monitor and control their pain using injectable pain killers. Pain is monitored using pain scoring systems in both dogs and cats. It is unlikely that your vet will send your pet home if they are still painful. If you feel your pet is uncomfortable at home then you should contact your vet.