Most patients admitted for anaesthesia are not emergency cases. This should mean that there will be time for you and your vet to discuss the reasons and benefits of the procedure. It also allows the vet to make a thorough check of your pet to ensure that he or she is fit enough to undergo anaesthetic and treatment as intended. In my practice we check our patients thoroughly before they are given any sedatives or anaesthetic agents.
A sedative is often given shortly after your pet is admitted. This keeps them calm and also means that less anaesthetic drugs may be needed to induce general anaesthesia later. Pain relief medication is often given at this stage, which gives your pet a head-start in the control of any discomfort following surgery. In my own practice the particular combination and doses of medications given are tailored to the individual pet's needs. Monitoring of the patient also begins at this stage.
When the sedative and pain relief medications have had some time to work, induction of anaesthesia will take place. This is often done via an injection of anaesthetic which may be given into a vein. Your pet will go to sleep very quickly. A tube is placed into the trachea so that anaesthetic and oxygen can be given to keep your pet asleep. The tube (called an endotracheal tube) also allows the veterinary team to control your pet's airway and keep them breathing safely.
During the surgery your pet will be monitored closely to ensure that they are safe. Veterinary staff will keep a close check on depth of anaesthesia, heart rate, breathing, body temperature, blood pressure and any fluid losses.
Once surgery is complete your pet will be allowed to recover from anaesthetic, the anaesthetic agent is no longer delivered but the endotracheal tube remains in place delivering oxygen until your pet starts to wake up. Your pet is kept warm and comfortable and extra pain relief or other medications are given as necessary. Veterinary staff continue to monitor the patient until he or she is well enough to go home.
The risks of anaesthesia will vary from patient to patient but your vet will help you to assess the needs of your pet and anaesthesia should go ahead if the benefits outweigh the risks. Usually anaesthesia is safe and the majority of animals go home the same day.
Most people will notice that their pet is drowsy and tired after anaesthesia. This is normal, but if you have any concerns you should call your veterinary practice for advice.