Anesthesia Safety Q & A - Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills
Did you know that there is no standard of care for veterinary anesthesia like there is for human anesthesia?
Before surgery, owners should take the time to sit down with their veterinarian and ask questions about the procedure and the steps that will be taken to ensure their pet's safety while under anesthesia. Your veterinarian should be able to answer questions about how your pet's vital signs will be monitored while under anesthesia and who will be responsible for monitoring your pet.
Since we at Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills are committed to client education and patient safety, we recommend asking the following questions before allowing anyone to anesthetize your pet.
Q. Will my pet be examined the morning of surgery?
A. Your veterinarian will give your pet a thorough physical examination the morning of the procedure to make sure your pet is healthy enough for the surgery and anesthesia. Remember, pets cannot tell us if they do not feel well. A physical examination is our first defense against performing surgery on an animal that could be ill, have an infectious disease, a heart murmur or could be debilitated from parasites.
Q. Will pre-anesthetic bloodwork be done?
A. All patients anesthetized will have bloodwork beforehand. All pets - not just the old or sick - should have a basic pre-anesthetic blood test to reduce risk and increase safety. A healthy-appearing pet may be hiding symptoms of a disease or ailment and bloodwork can detect abnormalities that could affect anesthesia - even in pets younger than one year of age. We check a complete blood count (CBC), electrolytes, blood sugar, and liver and kidney values. If the bloodwork is normal, we can proceed with confidence knowing the anesthetic risk is minimized. These tests also provide a baseline for your pet if it becomes sick in the future.
Q. What kind of anesthesia will my pet receive?
A. No single anesthetic agent is best for all patients - there is no "one size fits all." Factors such as the patient's age, breed, and health determine which anesthetic protocol is most ideal. We also use the pre-anesthetic examination, blood work, and the type of procedure to select the best anesthetic for each patient. All patients receiving a general anesthetic will have a breathing (endotracheal) tube placed in order to keep the airway open and allow for supplemental oxygen or gas anesthesia as needed.
Q. Are the surgical packs of instruments sterilized separately for each patient or is the same pack used for multiple surgeries?
A. Believe it or not, there are practices that use the same surgical pack on more than one patient. Some practices soak their instruments in a disinfectant solution rather than sterilize them in an autoclave. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, each surgical patient has an autoclave-steam-sterilized surgical pack.
Q. Does the surgeon use sterile surgical attire?
A. Although most assume that all surgeons wear a sterile gown and gloves and wear a cap and mask for surgery, that is not the case. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills the answer is yes. It does increase our surgical costs to use complete surgical attire, but not doing so increases the risks of infection to the patient.
Q. Will my pet have an IV catheter in place before, during, and after anesthesia?
A. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, every patient anesthetized will have an IV (intravenous) catheter in place before, during and until your pet is well awake and recovered from the anesthesia. Intravenous catheters allow us to administer medications to your pet while keeping them more comfortable and give us instant access to a vein should an emergency arise during anesthesia - when every second counts. Fluids are also administered through the catheter to your pet during anesthesia (see below).
Q. Will my pet receive IV fluids during anesthesia?
A. Every form of anesthesia tends to lower blood pressure and that can be harmful to the body and organ function. IV fluids help to maintain blood pressure. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, your pet will receive IV fluids using a specialized fluid pump that allows us to deliver precise amounts and change the rate as needed.
Q. What monitoring techniques will be used during the anesthesia?
A. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, your pet's vital signs will be monitored by a trained veterinary technician and an electronic patient monitor throughout the entire procedure. The patient monitor will be attached to your pet and will continuously measure heart rate, ECG, respiratory rate, body temperature, the amount of oxygen in the blood (pulse oximetry), and blood pressure. The most important monitoring tool we have is a trained veterinary technician dedicated exclusively to your pet while anesthetized. This individual is very "hands on" and will be assessing your pet's heart rate, respiratory rate, gum color, and depth of anesthesia with her hands, ears, and eyes - not just relying on the monitor. Vitals are charted on paper every few minutes.
Q. Is my pet's body temperature monitored and controlled during and after anesthesia?
A. All pets, especially cats and smaller dogs, lose a lot of body heat while anesthetized. The resulting hypothermia can cause a life-threatening slowing of the heart and can also slow the anesthetic recovery. For this reason warmth should be provided and body temperature should be monitored regularly during and after anesthesia.
At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, in addition to monitoring your pet's body temperature, we use a heated surgical table, a Bair Hugger warming unit (which forces warmed air into a channeled blanket that is placed around the patient), and thick towels in order to keep your pet warm and cozy during the procedure. This keeps the temperature up during and after surgery and provides a smoother, safer and more comfortable recovery.
Q. How will my pet be monitored after surgery?
A. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, a trained technician is dedicated exclusively to carefully monitoring your pet from the moment anesthesia is induced until your pet is recovered and awake.
Q. How will pain be controlled for my pet?
A. There are significant differences in anesthesia and pain control techniques among veterinarians. Studies show that pain control is much more effective if begun ahead of the procedure. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, a specific combination of pre-medications selected for your pet will be administered in order to alleviate discomfort or stress and will also reduce the amount of anesthesia necessary for your pet - a huge safety benefit. Since anesthesia doesn't control pain once the pet wakes up, we administer a variety of additional medications to relieve operative pain.
Q. Will I be given post-surgical instructions?
A. At Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills, a doctor or technician will go through detailed instructions with you at dismissal. Most surgical patients are seen 10-14 days after their surgery (at no cost to you) to examine the surgical site and to address any concerns you may have.
Q. Why do veterinarians charge different prices for surgery?
If you are finding an extreme price difference between two veterinarians there is usually a reason for the difference. You need to be aware of what services are included in the cost of a procedure. Many veterinarians don't include services such as pain medication, pre-anesthetic blood work, balanced pre-surgery medications, intravenous catheters, fluids during anesthesia, and monitoring during and after the procedure into the general cost of the surgery.
While cost is obviously a concern for the majority of pet owners, price shopping is not always the safest thing for your pet when it comes to surgical procedures.