How Safe is Anesthesia in Senior Dog?
When Charlie, a 12-year-old Labrador Retriever, was diagnosed with a condition that required surgery, his owner, Emily, couldn’t help but feel a mix of concern and fear. Her primary worry revolved around the safety of anesthesia for her senior dog, as she had heard stories of older pets experiencing complications under anesthesia.
Anesthesia is used in veterinary medicine to relieve pain during anesthetic procedures such as dental work, ear cleaning, vaccinations, and surgeries. Anesthetics are administered via injection into the bloodstream. In some cases, it is necessary to use general anesthesia in senior dogs, meaning that they loses consciousness. General anesthesia requires monitoring throughout the procedure.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that dogs over ten years old not receive general anesthesia unless there is a medical reason to do so. This includes situations where the patient cannot tolerate anesthesia, such as severe anxiety or fearfulness. Other causes include heart disease, kidney failure, liver disease, tumors, seizures, diabetes, and neurological disorders.
Fatal Complications from Anesthesia in Senior Dogs are Incredibly Uncommon
Fatal complications from anesthesia occur rarely. But even minor complications like respiratory depression, aspiration pneumonia, hypoxia, hyperthermia, and bradycardia can lead to serious health issues. These complications can occur due to improper administration of anesthesia, incorrect dosage calculations, or inadequate monitoring.
Your veterinarian will consider all factors before deciding whether to administer anesthesia. Factors include the patient’s age, breed, size, medical history, current medications, and general state of health. Other considerations include how long you’ve had your pet, what type of surgery they need, and what procedures might follow.
Premedication is Necessary
If you decide to administer anesthesia to your dog, ensure that he receives premedication to reduce his sensitivity to the effects of the drugs. In addition, premedication can help prevent vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive salivation.
Premedication is administering medication before surgery to help prevent complications during anesthesia. The most common premedications used today include antihistamines (such as Benadryl), corticosteroids (like Prednisone), and narcotics (like morphine).
There are two types of premedication: induction and maintenance. Induction premedication is given just before anesthesia induction. Maintenance premedication is provided throughout the procedure.
- Induction premedication is usually given 30 minutes to 1 hour before anesthesia induction. This allows enough time for the sedative effects of the premedication to wear off.
- Maintenance premedication is typically given every 2 hours after induction until the patient awakens. This ensures that the patient remains calm and comfortable throughout the surgical procedure.
Premedication may be necessary for any type of surgery, including minor procedures such as dental work and major surgeries such as heart valve replacement.
If your senior dog needs anesthesia, ask your veterinarian whether they recommend premedication. If not, consider giving them some Benadryl or another antihistamine 30 minutes before anesthesia induction.
Dosage is Carefully Selected
The amount of anesthesia administered depends on several factors, including your pet’s body weight, the procedure being performed, and the experience level of the veterinary team. For example, a small dog undergoing a simple dental cleaning requires less anesthesia than a large dog undergoing major orthopedic surgery.
A complete workup helps vets determine the best course of action. This includes assessing the patient’s vital signs, blood chemistry profile, urine analysis, and physical exam. Additional tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiography, endoscopy, and a urinalysis may be done.
Veterinarians use several methods to determine the proper dosage of anesthesia. One way involves measuring blood oxygen levels (pulse oximetry). Another way uses a heart monitor to measure the rate at which the heart beats (electrocardiogram). Both methods help ensure that the correct dosage of anesthesia is given.
When administering anesthesia, veterinarians typically give two doses of medication. The first dose is usually enough to sedate the animal but not enough to cause unconsciousness. The second dose is used to induce general anesthesia. This means that the animal is fully asleep during the procedure.
If the veterinarian determines that the first dose is too small, they may repeat the amount. The veterinarian may add another dose if the second dose is still insufficient.
Monitor Your Pet After Surgery
Monitoring will help protect your senior pet during anesthesia. During recovery, your vet will closely monitor your pet’s heart rate, breathing, temperature, hydration status, and mental alertness. They will also check for signs of postoperative pain and discomfort.
Recovery will help keep your senior pet safe after anesthesia. After the anesthesia wears off, your pet will likely feel groggy and disoriented. Ensure your pet only moves around a little to avoid confusion and injury. Keep them warm and comfortable, and offer plenty of fluids.
Once the anesthesia wears off, the veterinarian performs a physical examination to assess whether the procedure went well. Then, the veterinarian treats any injuries or infections that occur during the process. Finally, the veterinarian discusses postoperative care with the owner.
Senior Dog Anesthesia is a Calculated Risk
Anesthesia is a calculated risk for both patients and veterinarians. Before proceeding with surgery, many factors exist, including the patient’s overall health, current medications, allergies, previous surgeries, etc. In addition, it is essential to understand how each patient responds to anesthesia.
For example, some breeds experience increased sensitivity to pain medication, while others may require less sedation.
A senior dog should always undergo a thorough physical examination before general anesthesia. This includes a complete blood count, urinalysis, heartworm test, fecal exam, thyroid panel, and dental evaluation. Treatment options must be discussed with the owner if any abnormalities are found.
Five Ways to Reduce the Risks of Anesthesia for Older Dogs
Anesthesia is used routinely to treat pain in animals, including dogs. However, there are many things you can do to help ensure that your dog receives safe and effective care during surgery. Here are five tips to keep in mind.
- Ask about the type of anesthesia being administered. There are different types of anesthesia, each with varying levels of risk. For example, general anesthesia involves drugs that cause unconsciousness and amnesia. This type of anesthesia is considered safer because it allows the animal to wake up without memory loss.
On the other hand, local anesthesia is often preferred over general anesthesia because it requires less sedation and causes fewer side effects. Local anesthesia injects medications directly into the area where the procedure occurs.
- Talk to your veterinarian about the risks associated with anesthesia. If you notice changes in behavior or breathing patterns following the administration of anesthesia, contact your veterinarian immediately. These symptoms could indicate complications such as respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest. Your veterinarian will want to know what happened and how best to proceed.
- Be aware of common side effects. Some side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, tremors, seizures, muscle twitching, difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and low body temperature. In some cases, these side effects can lead to death. So make sure your pet is monitored closely during recovery.
- Consider alternatives to anesthesia. Many veterinarians recommend avoiding anesthesia whenever possible. Instead, consider alternative methods to control pain, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, behavioral modification, and medication.
- Keep records. You should document the date and time of every dose of anesthesia given to your pet. Also, note whether the dosage was given orally or intravenously. Finally, record the name and address of the veterinary clinic where the procedure occurred.
Frequently Asked Questions
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