Pet owners should always be concerned about the risks of
anesthesia and should ask their veterinarians what steps they take to
ensure that risks are kept to a minimum.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
QUESTIONS AND THOROUGHLY DISCUSS WITH YOUR VET BEFORE GOING AHEAD WITH
ANY PROCEDURE REQUIRING ANESTHESIA.
WHAT A PET OWNER CAN DO
Planned surgery – spaying, neutering, hip and elbow x-rays,
cleaning and repairing damaged teeth, removal of growths
- Your pet should be up-to-date on all his/her vaccinations
– distemper, hepatitis, parvo, rabies
- Your pet should have been tested for heartworm and have
been on the prevention program
- Your pet should be free of all internal and external
- Age and health should be taken into consideration when
planning a surgical procedure.
Sometimes it’s best to leave a lump alone on an elderly pet.
Discuss this with your vet rather than assuming that surgery is the
- A thorough examination of your pet by your veterinarian
should be done prior to any surgery. Depending upon known or
suspected medical problems or physical examination findings, some or
a complete blood work-up, x-rays, and/or an electro-cardiogram may
be recommended or essential. Liver enzymes and kidney values
testing can be performed in most clinics in a matter of minutes with
just a few drops of blood. Discuss all pre-op work-up options with
your veterinarian and always opt on the side of caution.
- Any growth should be brought to the attention of your
veterinarian right away. Rapid increase in the size of a growth may
be an urgent warning signal – seek attention immediately.
- Mention to your vet all the medications your dog is taking
and if your dog has been wearing a flea collar or has recently been
dipped for fleas and ticks. Be specific about the products used and
their ingredients. Mention any unusual behavior or change in
- EXTREMELY IMPORTANT - mention any seizure occurrences and
any medication your dog is taking for seizures.
- Try to combine procedures; i.e., spaying and teeth
cleaning and perhaps the removal of a wart, mole or growth. Consult
with your veterinarian about how much would be safe to do in one
operation. Keeping a dog under anesthesia for a longer period of
time to accomplish a number of procedures may not be a good option.
- Removal of mast cell tumors in conjunction with any
invasive procedure IS NOT RECOMMENDED due to possible internal
- If your dog has very little body fat or a great deal,
discuss with your vet that barbiturates should not be used.
- Scrupulously follow directions given to you by your
veterinarian for pre and post-operative care.
- Emergency surgery – since a number of emergency surgeries
are handled by emergency clinics that do not have a case history of
your dog, you have to make certain that you give them as much
medical history and information on your pet as possible.
- Always have your pet up-to-date on his/her vaccinations,
free of internal and external parasites and on heartworm prevention.
- Prior to any emergency surgery, advise your vet of what
medications your pet is on and when they were last given and what
your pet has eaten, how much and when last fed. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
- Mention any seizure occurrences.
- Discuss with your vet that the use of barbiturates may not
be an option with Ridgebacks.
TYPES OF ANESTHETICS
LOCAL -These are either topical or injectable and are used to
diminish or eliminate pain sensation by interfering locally with nerve
conduction and transmission of pain signals to the brain. A local
will not render an animal motion-free. This would be an option to
repair minor lacerations in good-natured, cooperative dogs. It is
also an option to provide temporary pain relief to seriously injured
animals who are not stable enough for general anesthesia to repair the
REGIONAL - Involves injecting local anesthetic agents into or
around nerves that provide pain sensation to an entire region. For
example, blocking the brachial plexus with injections renders the front
leg below the elbow pain-free. Again, it does not aid in restraint
of the animal.
EPIDURAL - Another type of regional anesthesia accomplished by
injecting an analgesic such as morphine into the space surrounding the
spinal cord to deaden sensation to a region of the body. This
procedure is usually not practiced in veterinary medicine except in
university veterinary centers and critical care centers.
INJECTABLE - Excellent choice for short procedures not
involving entering a body cavity as they do not provide sufficient pain
INHALANT - Most common form of anesthesia used for prolonged
and invasive procedures. Very safe drugs available today; i.e.,
sevoflurane. Isoflurane is also a safe inhalant anesthesia;
however, sevoflurane is the newest. As it is necessary to insert
an endo-tracheal tube so the animal can inhale the gas, an injectable
anesthetic is needed to render the animal unconscious and not fight the
insertion of the tube. Propofal is the drug of choice.
Puppies and small breeds, however, can be anesthetized using an
anesthetic mask or induction chamber.
PRE-OPERATIVE - Usually, sedatives, tranquilizers, analgesics
(pain reducers), and medication to reduce salivation.
- Sedatives – Acepromazine – can cause low blood pressure
- Tranquilizers – Domitor©, Xylazine – can cause slow heart
- Analgesic/Sedatives – Butorphanol – similar to morphine
but shorter acting
Bupreanex© - Same as above but longer acting
INDUCTION AGENTS - Injections to induce anesthesia to a level
where an endo-tracheal tube can be inserted. Barbiturates such as
Thiamylal and Thiopental should be used with caution in any sighthound.
Barbiturates are redistributed into the body fat. In the case of a
Ridgeback that is in top notch lure coursing condition with very little
body fat, the use of barbiturates should be avoided. The same would hold
true for a Ridgeback that is overweight with a lot of body fat.
However, most veterinary practices are opting for combination drugs such
as Ketamine, Valium or Ketamine and Medetomidine. Propofal is an
extremely safe induction agent. It is eliminated quickly and used
extensively in Greyhound and other sighthound surgeries. It is
much more expensive than other induction anesthetics.
MAINTENANCE - Accomplished by inhalant anesthetics such as
Halothane, Methoxyflurane, Isoflurane and the newest - Sevoflurane.
These gases are used to maintain the anesthesia throughout the
operation. Additional administration of injectable anesthetics is
not recommended, with the exception of Propofal. IV fluid
therapy is recommended for any invasive or extended procedure in order
to maintain blood pressure, decrease the risk of shock, and have a line
open to the bloodstream in the event of an emergency.
Involves constant administration of inhalant gas to maintain
the needed level of anesthesia. A good anesthetist will constantly
monitor mucous membrane color, heart and pulse rate, pulse quality,
respiratory rate and depth, and eye reflexes.
POST-OPERATIVE - With the use of the new and safer anesthetics,
animals are coming out of anesthesia quicker, and post-operative pain
may be more intense. Therefore, the use of post-operative pain
relievers and the continuation of IV fluid therapy is highly
recommended. . A growing number of veterinarians are using duragesic
patches for post-operative pain. However, they are recommend for
only the most painful of post-operative procedures such as orthopedic
surgery. There is considerable sedation with them, some
constipation, decreased appetite, and gastrointestinal stasis.
Torbutrol is a good oral pain reliever for the first 24 – 48 hours after
surgery. It should not be administered, however, unless the dog is
exhibiting signs of pain and discomfort.
Electrocardiogram gives instantaneous visual and audio
picture of the heart rate during a procedure.
Blood pressure monitoring equipment is not commonly
available in regular veterinary practices. Most anesthetics
can cause low blood pressure. Monitoring enables the
veterinarian to intervene when needed. Doppler is an
inexpensive alternative to expensive blood pressure monitoring
Pulse oximetry is becoming more available in veterinary
practices. Measures oxygen in the peripheral blood vessels.
An excellent means of determining whether an animal is breathing
sufficiently to provide oxygen to the blood.
NOTE: This article has been reviewed by three licensed
veterinarians for input and accuracy and has been reviewed and accepted
by several more since publication.