For veterinary patients, an important part of any surgical procedure is the proper use of pet anesthesia.
These drugs render us, and our animal friends, insensible to pain during the operation. Unfortunately, harrowing tales of anesthetic mishaps are often used by pet owners as a reason to avoid surgery for their pet. What are veterinarians doing to make sure your pet stays safe when a surgical treatment is needed?
It’s a common discussion thread on any pet-related website…someone mentions that they have a friend whose aunt lost a pet under anesthetic and all of a sudden, stories of dogs and cats dying under anesthesia are flying back and forth. Some businesses even play upon these fears and misinformation by incorporating scary statistics of anesthesia related deaths into their marketing.
So, what’s the real story? How dangerous is veterinary anesthesia and how does your veterinarian make sure her patients have an uneventful surgery?
First, it’s important to realize that any two pets undergoing the exact same procedure may be at different risk levels for anesthesia. The animal’s age, weight and physical condition, as well as any concurrent disease, will determine anesthetic risk. There is no “one size fits all” type of anesthesia.
Next, consider the source of the information. As an example, companies and information sites that advocate “non-anesthetic” dental cleanings for pets, will often quote a small study showing 1 in every 256 animals had an adverse event under anesthesia. What they fail to tell you is that particular study was done at a veterinary teaching hospital whose caseload included many patients with significant risk factors for anesthesia. More comprehensive research has shown that problems with anesthetics occur in less than 1 in every 10,000 pets.
Starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s, veterinarians, working alongside human anesthesiology counterparts, began developing standards and guidelines designed to provide better comfort and analgesia for animals undergoing surgery. This eventually led to the development of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia and approximately 220 board certified veterinary anesthesiologists around the world.
Their work has helped provide veterinarians in general practice better strategies in key areas, such as proper patient monitoring, prevention of drops in body temperature and how to best use the latest anesthetic drugs.
In any anesthetic event, knowing what’s happening on the inside of the patient is crucial. Modern monitoring devices, such as Welch Allyn’s ® Propaq monitor, allow veterinarians and surgical technicians to quickly spot trends in patient vital signs. By closely watching blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen saturation, body temperature, respirations and carbon dioxide levels, veterinarians can address and even prevent adverse events.
Likewise, safety precautions for the patient are highly important. Circulating warm water blankets or forced air warming blankets (Bair Hugger®) can prevent hypothermia in anesthetized patients while state of the art calibrated fluid pumps can deliver precise levels of medications or vital fluids. Many veterinary hospitals now require patients have an IV catheter for all but the shortest of procedures.
Even anesthetic drugs have improved. Veterinary science now has safe anesthetic gases that quickly leave the pet’s system once the drug is removed from the breathing circuit. Reversible injections, such as Dexdormitor®, provide ways for veterinarians to wake up your pet more smoothly and get him back home to you sooner.
Finally, trained and highly skilled veterinary technicians and assistants are on hand to monitor your four legged friend. Along with the high-tech equipment, these surgical assistants watch all vital signs so that the patient is kept at just the right level of anesthesia…deep even to prevent pain, but not deep enough to depress vital functions. Many of these technicians will also further their own education by specializing in anesthesiology and becoming part of the Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists.
Your veterinarian understands your concerns about anesthesia…it can be very scary. But, before you believe all of the Internet rumors about rampant dangers of pet surgeries or dental cleanings, consider talking with your veterinarian and asking him about the hospital’s surgical and anesthesia protocols. You might be surprised how far advanced animal clinics will go to keep your pet safe and secure during surgery.
Original article by: Dr. Jim Humphries, Certified Veterinary Journalist, Veterinary News Network
Pet Health Tips
1) Although it seems that everyone has a friend of a friend who lost a pet under anesthesia, the reality is that the vast majority of pets will come through surgical procedures just fine.
2) Dr. Murphy works hard to make sure that your pet is kept warm, safe and secure during any surgery. Advanced monitoring equipment, new safety items and even the presence of highly trained and skillful veterinary technicians are keys to keeping adverse anesthetic events to a minimum.
3) Modern surgical monitors allow us to track a pet’s body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, respirations, oxygen saturation and even carbon dioxide levels. By systematically tracking these vital signs, we can proactively respond to potential issues.
4) Safety equipment, like warming blankets and even calibrated fluid pumps, are now standard in our veterinary hospital. In addition, most pets will receive an IV catheter for their procedure.
5) Even pet anesthetic drugs have improved. New, safer inhalant gases quickly leave the body once they are removed from the breathing circuit and allow a smoother recovery. Reversible drugs can now allow our doctors to get your pet out of surgery and the recovery ward and back home to you more quickly.
6) Finally, it’s important to recognize that our veterinarians are not alone in surgery with your pet. Our team includes skilled and highly trained veterinary technicians and surgical assistants who help monitor your pet and respond to any need.
7) Ask us if you have concerns about your pet’s upcoming surgery. Please don’t rely on dubious information from the Internet. We are proud of our commitment to your pet’s safety.
8) We will gladly give you a tour of our surgical suite if you would like…in addition, we can show you how we customize our anesthetic protocol to meet your pet’s unique needs.