Well you certainly can’t ask the patient now can you?!
Veterinarians use many different forms of anesthesia; it is tailored individually for each patient based on overall general health of the patient and other factors such as age, breed and the surgical procedure. Even though it is performed on a daily basis, anesthesia is anything but routine, and we take it very, very seriously.
Before anesthesia patients are thoroughly examined by a veterinarian and blood is taken for pre-op labs. These pre-op labs tell us a lot about what is going on inside your pet that we cannot see such as immune system function, kidney and liver function, blood sugar levels etc. Older patients usually have a pre-op electrocardiogram to check the heart, chest x-rays and a urinalysis. Once again this all determined on an individual basis. This is one area of medicine where I am pretty inflexible; I will not perform anesthesia without pre-op laboratory tests.
Next a pre-medication, or pre-med, is given. This is usually a sedative, a narcotic, or a drug to dry up secretions or any combo of the above. The pre-med helps make the anesthesia induction and recovery smoother.
Once the pre-med has worked its calming effect we place an IV catheter into your pets’ vein on the forearm. The catheter is an important piece of Teflon because if there is an emergency we have immediate access to a vein to administer life saving drugs. Again we are very firm in our practice here; IV catheters should always be used for anesthesia.
To start the anesthetic procedure an ‘inducing agent’ is given intravenously through the catheter; this allows us to place a tube, called an endotracheal tube, into your pets’ trachea to deliver the gas. The inducing agent only lasts a few minutes and then the gas takes over.
The patient is then hooked up to the anesthesia machine which delivers gas anesthesia. Gas anesthesia is the safest anesthesia because it allows us to easily control the level, or depth, of anesthesia. Most likely the gas used will be the same gas a human anesthesiologist would use on you.
Lastly, during anesthesia we monitor your pet using a pulse oximeter and/or blood pressure monitor. A small probe is attached to the tongue and it tells us blood oxygen levels and pulse rate via ‘beeps’ we can hear during surgery.
When we are done your pet will be monitored by a nurse until they are awake and, hopefully, snoozing and enjoying their post-op pain medications!
Stephen Sheldon, DVM practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital in Gypsum. Feel free to call him with your questions at 524-DOGS (3647) or visit the clinic website www.gypsumah.com