Before the Anaesthetic
Your pet will need to be starved overnight before their anaesthetic. If this is not the case for your pet, you will be told by the vet. Your pet can have food up until 10pm the night before and should not have any breakfast before coming to the vets in the morning. Your pet should have free access to water overnight but we ask the water bowl is lifted in the morning when you get up. We recommend that cats are kept indoors overnight, just to prevent them from finding food elsewhere and for ease of getting them to the vet in the morning.
If you have a dog, you should take it out for a short walk before their appointment so they can go to the toilet. If your pet takes medication in the morning, they should be given it as usual, unless you have otherwise been directed by the vet, if you are unsure about this, contact the vet directly to ask.
When your pet is admitted in the morning, you will be asked details about any medications you give your pet. It may be helpful to bring a supply of this medication if your pet is to be staying in hospital for a few days. You do not need to bring any bedding, food or toys for your pet. However, if your pet is on a special diet, please check with the vet beforehand if it is stocked in the hospital as if it is not, we may ask you to bring a supply for your pets stay. For our small furry patients, we ask you provide a packed lunch of their normal food so we can encourage them to eat after their procedure.
Reactions to Anaesthetic
There is always a risk in giving any animal an anaesthetic or sedation. If your pet is sick, the risk of a reaction is greater. We can never eliminate all risks of anaesthetic, but we do try to minimise them. The risks do vary, from having a prolonged recovery from the anaesthetic and being sleepy for some time, or an allergic reaction to some of the drugs given or even death in the worst case. Your animal will be examined before their procedure and an anaesthetic regime that suits their history and any underlying health conditions will be used. Your pet will be closely monitored throughout their procedure using a range of anaesthetic monitoring equipment, this means if any problems were to occur, they are treated as soon as they are noted.
In some cases, multiple anaesthetics or sedations are required for the treatment of your pet. This is generally not a problem as long as your pet has recovered well from the previous anaesthetic or sedation. The risks of anaesthetic are generally greater when the patient has to be anaesthetised for longer, so sometimes it is of benefit to have several shorter anaesthetics instead. Every anaesthetic or sedation is independent and generally the risk is not cumulative over multiple anaesthetics.
Geriatric Patients and Anaesthesia
The anaesthetic risk in geriatric patients is higher than that in younger patients. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t anaesthetise older pets but we must consider the risk of the anaesthetic and procedure verses the benefit your pet will gain from the procedure. This is something that can be discussed with the vet.
There is generally a higher anaesthetic risk in older pets as there is an increased chance of the animal having underlying health conditions in addition to why they are having the anaesthetic and procedure. All patients receive a full clinical examination prior to their anaesthetic and we recommend a pre anaesthetic blood test in patients over the age of 8 years old. This allows us to identify any potential increase in anaesthetic risk and plan to minimise this where possible.
Sedation vs Anaesthesia
Whether your pet receives an anaesthetic or sedation will depend on what procedure your pet requires and the nature of your pet. The sedation or general anaesthetic will be tailored to your pet and the procedure they require. Your pet will be monitored for the duration of their anaesthetic or sedation. For most procedures, an intravenous catheter will be placed in the leg to allow us access to administer additional drugs or fluids, this means they will have a small area of fur clipped from the leg.
If your pet requires sedation, it will be given some drugs to make them relaxed and sleepy, but they are generally still aware of their surroundings. We use sedation for diagnostic procedures, for example x-rays and ultrasound, and some minor procedures, for example stitch ups.
We use general anaesthetic for surgeries and sometimes if your pet has underlying medical conditions. During a general anaesthetic your pet will be given drugs to make them unconscious and they will not remember anything that happens during the anaesthetic. Some of these drugs are given by injection, into the vein or muscle, and some are given as a gas, this is given by a tube that is placed in your pet’s airway. Sometimes this tube can cause a little irritation to the airway and will result in a cough for a few days after the anaesthetic.
Surgical procedures unavoidably involve a degree of pain, however, we do these procedures for the best long term outcome for your pet. We use a combination of drugs and techniques to reduce the pain felt by your pet. These include injectable drugs, nerve blocks and oral medications. After the surgery this can include physiotherapy and general nursing care; a calm environment and TLC.
The medicines your pet will receive depends on the procedure he or she is undergoing. We start managing pain before the procedure even begins. Giving pain killing drugs prior to the procedure helps reduce pain in the post-operative period.
Your pet cannot tell us directly when they are in pain, however, we regularly assess their behaviour and use pain scores to monitor their level of comfort. This allows us to treat any pain in a swift fashion.
During the Anaesthetic
Prior to your pet being anaesthetised they will receive a full clinical exam and any further testing required. From this information and the procedure they are undergoing, their anaesthetic regime will be devised.
Most pets will receive a pre-medication injection which includes drugs that provide pain relief and help your pet relax. This ensures they are calm for when general anaesthetic is induced, generally through an injection into the vein, resulting in them falling asleep. Once they are asleep, a tube is placed into the airway to allow delivery of anaesthetic gas and oxygen.
While your pet is under anaesthetic, they are continuously monitored by a member of our nursing team. They use multi-parameter anaesthetic monitors and manual techniques to ensure the depth of the patient’s anaesthetic is sufficient. The monitors assess heart rate and rhythm, respiratory parameters, blood pressure and oxygen levels. This combined with our nursing teams expertise, allows for as smooth an anaesthetic as possible for your pet.
Going Home After An Anaesthetic
Upon discharge from the vets, you will receive a sheet of discharge instructions from the vet who cared for your pet. This will include information of what happened to your pet during their stay and instructions of what to do once they are home.
Depending on the procedure, your pet may go home the same day as the anaesthetic. This is generally the case for routine procedures, for example neutering, and diagnostic procedures, for example x-rays. If this is the case for your pet, it is expected that they may be a little sleepier than usual and a little off food. We recommend setting up a warm, quiet place for them to relax when they are home. Cats should be kept inside and dogs should only be allowed out for toileting purposes. Further exercise requirements will be covered on your discharge form. You should offer your pet a small bland meal in the evening (chicken and rice) but do not be concerned if they don’t eat it.
For some procedures, for example orthopaedic operations, your pet will stay in our hospital for a few days to allow administration of pain killing drugs and monitoring of the surgical site. The vet will keep you updated on your pets progress and you will receive detailed instructions for your pet at discharge.
Your pet may receive pain killing medication to be given when they are at home, the instructions for this will be covered at discharge. However, if you feel your pet is still in pain despite these medications, please contact the vets directly.