Anesthesia And Blood Testing

Anesthesia for Veterinary Dentistry and Surgery

Anesthesia is essential for veterinary dental procedures, to ensure that the procedure can be completed successfully.

Fear of general anesthesia is a natural concern voiced by many owners when a dental procedure is recommended.  However, the risk of chronic oral infection, for example, is far greater than the risk of an anesthetic complication.

Appropriately administered general anesthesia entails extremely low risk for the patient, as a result of a combination of pre-anesthetic assessment of the patient (including blood tests or other tests as indicated), use of modern anesthetic agents and local anesthetic blocks (which minimizes the depth of general anesthesia required), plus modern anesthetic monitoring equipment. Many patients are awake and standing within 15-20 minutes of completion of the procedure and go home the same day.

While no one can guarantee the outcome of anesthesia, UAH veterinarians and staff are trained to provide safe anesthesia and to minimize pain for your pet.

How You Can Help Ensure Your Pet Has the Safest Anesthetic Procedure

Pre-anesthetic blood testing will always be advised for any pet under going a general anesthesia procedure.  This will be recommended regardless of age, previous anesthetic experiences or previous blood testing.   

While we do not make this testing mandatory for all patients we want to assure you that it is always safer for your pet if this testing is done prior to their procedure.  80%-90% of animals will have alterations of their vital organs that could dramatically increase their anesthetic risks yet show no signs externally that anything is wrong. Without running pre anesthetic blood tests to check liver values, kidney values, white blood and red blood cell lines we could miss something that may be critical to your pet’s overall outcome.    Remember that your pet’s entire body is aging at a much faster rate so even if your pet had a blood test that was normal a month ago it may not be now. 

We encourage at minimum a pre-anesthetic screen for all patients; however for senior pets (those over 7 years of age) or pets with chronic medical conditions a larger blood panel is ideal so that more parameters can be evaluated. Our Doctors and staff will go over the pre-anesthetic testing options at the time of your consult so you can make the right decision for you and your pet.

The only reason we do not make this testing mandatory is because of expense.  If we could include this testing with all procedures without increasing prices we would but the reality is not everyone can afford this testing and some pet’s would go without care if it was mandatory.   It is ALWAYS recommended to have pre-anesthetic blood testing before any general anesthesia procedure regardless of your pet’s age or apparent healthy status.  

Other testing that may be recommended to your pet will depend on what the doctor encounters during your pet’s dental consultation and any current or underlying health problems your pet may have.  Additional diagnostic testing may be required or recommended during your consultation.   

Your pet’s safety is our top priority and while we believe in informed consent please understand in some cases we may not be willing to perform a procedure on your pet without additional testing or a more in depth examination.  While this may be of some frustration we assure you it is for your pet’s health and safety.

How We Improve Your Pet's Anesthetic Experience

Anesthetic Patient Care and Monitoring

At our office each patient’s anesthesia is catered to his or her specific health needs.  Every medication your pet is given is based on their health status and procedure being performed.  We take every precaution to ensure your pet’s experience is safe, as pain free and stress free as possible.       

Both a trained assistant and the doctor monitor your pet throughout their entire procedure.  High tech monitoring equipment along with direct visualization and assessment is used to ensure your pet’s anesthetic procedure is as safe as possible.  Having two people involved with each and every aspect of your pet’s procedure makes for faster recognition of problems and rapid intervention.  

Every patient is given a pre-anesthetic medication catered to his or her needs that is both a sedative and a systemic pain medication.  This helps reduce the amount of anesthetic your pet needs for their procedure and also helps them to feel relaxed while in our office and reduces the chances of complications during their anesthetic procedure.

All of our patients also receive pre-oxygenation prior to putting them completely under for an anesthetic procedure.  Each patient will wear and oxygen mask and be given direct oxygen therapy for 5-10 minutes.  This is proven to help maintain good oxygen perfusion for your pet while under general anesthesia.  Once a patient is “induced” or put under general anesthesia all patients have a cuffed endotracheal tube placed gently into their airway.  This allows us to safely administer a gas anesthesia as well as oxygen to your pet during their procedure.  In addition, this tube can be used for us to give your pet additional breaths should they be needed during their procedure.  Ventilation is provided to those patients that need it via this tube.   The endotracheal tube also protects their airway from aspiration while they are under anesthesia.  This tube is left in place throughout the entire procedure and after until your pet is able to swallow and regain control over their airway.  Once your pet’s procedure is completed they are removed from the gas anesthesia but again your pet will be kept on oxygen for a period of time until we are able to remove the endotracheal tube.  

All of our patients undergoing general anesthesia will have an IV catheter placed once their sedative has kicked in and fluid therapy will be administered throughout their entire procedure.  This not only allows any easy means of administering vital life saving medications and anesthetic agents but also provides a means of keeping your pet hydrated and combating low blood pressure to maintain good blood flow to all or your pet’s vital organs.  Their IV catheter will remain until your pet is fully recovered so that should the administration of any medications be needed after your pet is awake they can be made through this port of access.  

Each patient will have all of their vital parameters monitored throughout the procedures using state of the art monitoring equipment and direct patient monitoring.  In addition, recordings of those parameters are made approximately every 10 minutes so they can be referenced in the future if needed.  Any changes to your pet’s anesthesia, administration of medications, and alterations in fluid rates are all notated for future reference.

What parameters we monitor and record

  1. Respiration Rate
  2. Heart Rate
  3. Blood Pressure
  4. ECG – electrical impulses of your pet’s heart
  5. Carbon dioxide levels
  6. Oxygen saturation of your pets body
  7. Mucous Membrane color
  8. Anesthesia Depth
  9. Body Temperature  

Our close and consistent monitoring of your pet’s vital signs allows for us to administer life saving medications or corrective medications should any of your pet’s vital signs change in a way that is of concern.  These medications are able to be rapidly administered IV to quickly improve your pet’s status before major complications can arise. 

Cardiac Disease Modifications

At our office we often perform anesthesia on higher risk pets with heart disease, aka cardiac disease. All pet's with cardiac disease or murmurs should have a more comprehensive cardiac work up performed ideally before they have any anesthesia and in general to better assess their cardiac function.  Generally we advise having their blood pressure tested and imaging of the heart to better assess how their heart is performing.  We have specialized medications and procedures for pet's undergoing anesthesia. These help reduce the risk of complications related to underlying heart disease.  We will discuss these options with you at the time of your consultation or exam.

Pain Control  

The body feels pain even during anesthesia.  While your pet goes to sleep his or her pain receptors do not.  If pain is encountered your pet’s cardiovascular system responds and can cause changes to heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure.  This can have negative effects on your pets cardiovascular system and increase the risk of anesthetic complications.  At our office all anesthesia patients will receive systemic pain medications for their procedure and in many cases they will also receive a local anesthetic (when possible).  Our goal is to also put those pain receptors to sleep so that your pet’s body does not feel the pain and by doing so we are able to use less anesthetic medications and improve the overall safety of anesthesia.

Body Temperature  

It is normal for anesthesia to alter your pet’s ability to regulate their body temperature.  At our office we use specialized patient warming devices to ensure your pet is as warm as possible during and after their procedure.   The warming devices are continued until your pet is completely recovered and their body temperature has returned to normal.  


Your pet is carefully monitored during their recovery and kept in a safe highly visible area until they are completely awake.  This is to prevent any possible recovery complications.  Your pet will be within in both visual and audio distance of a trained staff member and doctor until your pet is able to stand on their own. 

Our goal at Union Animal Hospital is to provide a high quality, safe anesthetic procedure for all our patients.  To us your pet is family and we will do everything in our power to ensure we get your pet home safely to you.        


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