Common Anesthesia Myths

We know that the decision to put your pet under anesthesia is not one you take lightly, and neither do we.  But there are many common misconceptions about anesthesia that may have you more concerned than is really needed.  Here are the common myths we hear regularly, and what we at Frontier do to minimize risk and maximize your pet’s safety while under anesthesia at our hospital.

MYTH #1 – Anesthesia complications are common

Complications do occur but are very rare. For normal healthy dogs and cats the risk of death is about 1 in 1000-2000.  It’s important to recognize that this number is an average that includes all different types of veterinary practices, with a wide spectrum of anesthesia standards.  The risks are decreased with the implementation of advanced anesthesia protocols, like the ones we practice here at Frontier.

What Frontier does to minimize risk:

IV catheters and fluid therapy on all patients – This acts as an emergency port as well as to administer fluids during anesthesia which supports blood pressure.

Monitoring We monitor all patients with an ECG, blood pressure monitors, oxygenation, temperature, and breathing. Because of this, we are able to spot problems before anything life-threatening arises, and take measures to correct the problem.

MYTH #2 – Most complications occur while pets are sleeping

Most complications occur after anesthesia while the patient is waking up. It is therefore very important to monitor these patients in the after anesthesia period closely.

What Frontier does to minimize risk:

We wait with our patients until their breathing tube is removed and they are breathing well on their own.  We also check vital signs frequently until we are happy and confident that they are stable. We continue IV fluid therapy for a minimum of 2 hours after anesthesia and administer pain control medications.

MYTH #3 – Most veterinarians have similar levels of care and monitoring

There are varying levels of anesthesia monitoring and protocols among veterinary facilities.  If you are concerned about your pet undergoing anesthesia, or are shopping different care providers for price, it is very important to ask your provider about their anesthesia and monitoring protocols.

What Frontier does to minimize risk:

Our veterinarians and technicians attend continuing education seminars on anesthesia and have had a board certified veterinary anesthesiologist review and help guide us in our protocols.

MYTH #4 – Aunt Moe’s cat died under anesthesia and my cat may too!

We have all heard anesthesia horror stories.  However, it is important to understand that anesthesia has changed drastically in the past 10 years in both technique and monitoring, and it continues to evolve in a positive direction for pet safety. Although we can never reduce the risk to zero, everything that we do helps reduce that risk. The downside of minimizing this risk is that proper anesthesia protocols and monitoring are more time-consuming and cost more, but in our eyes the higher cost to ensure patient safety is imperative!

Special thanks to Dr. Palmer for preparing this information.  For a great article, click here to read a piece in the Oregonian about Dr. Heidi Shafford, a veterinary anesthesiologist here in Portland.  Dr. Shafford has worked on cases with our veterinarians here at Frontier.

What's Next

  • 1

    Call us or schedule an appointment online.

  • 2

    Meet with a doctor for an initial exam.

  • 3

    Put a plan together for your pet.