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Understanding Your Dog’s Anesthesia Recovery

by | Aug 18, 2020

During dental procedures and other surgeries, veterinarians routinely anesthetize dogs. While there are some risks associated with anesthesia, veterinarians closely monitor their patients throughout the process. With a comprehensive monitoring system, your veterinarian has an increased chance to identify problematic trends within your pet’s vitals. Therefore your veterinarian can intervene and reverse these changes sooner. 

Before Undergoing Anesthesia:

Before surgery, your veterinarian will recommend your dog fast as drugs often given can and will make them nauseous. Your veterinarian or another team member will provide you with specific instructions on when fasting should begin.

Other Common Recommendations or Suggestions:
  • Dogs are typically able to drink water on the morning of their surgery.
  • If your dog diabetic or takes any medications, you should inquire with your vet if a meal or drugs are allowed in the morning.
  • It will be essential to note the approximate time your dog eats the day of surgery.
  • Your veterinarian may recommend your dog be given an injectable anti-nausea medication. This will make your dog feel less nauseous, help prevent them from vomiting, and avoid choking during or following surgery. 

Under Anesthesia:

Recovery time for your pet will vary due to the drugs used and the level of sedation required for your pet’s procedure. Every veterinary clinic has a protocol-specific for various dosages and different dog weights. These drug combinations typically include an intramuscular (IM) pre-medication given ten minutes to one hour before full sedation. These medications can make your dog feel more sleepy – as they may struggle to stand or walk.

To Begin…

Your dog will typically receive an “induction” injection directly into their vein, with effects being immediate. After, the veterinary team will begin to intubate your pet and connect them to monitoring equipment. Throughout your dog’s procedure, they will be breathing a combination of oxygen and inhaled anesthetic. 

Note: Veterinarians and trained staff recognize when a dog may need a higher dose if the initial dosage does not sedate them enough. In this case, many drugs have a dosage range or can be combined with additional medications if necessary.

During…

Depending on the procedure your dog is having, they will be under a spectrum of sedation levels. For example, if your pet has a brief dental cleaning, the veterinary team will ensure they stay sedated so they will not wake up during the procedure. However, they will not need to be as profoundly sedated as a dog undergoing a limb amputation. 

After…

The effects of some drugs can be reversed with an additional injection. This would typically be administered within minutes to hours of the end of surgery. The purpose of this drug is to help your pet wake up more quickly, especially if the drugs are having a long-lasting effect. 

Dogs should be closely monitored at the veterinary clinic to ensure they are recovering from anesthesia promptly. This routine should include checking their temperature as the patient can become hypothermic post-operatively. Resulting in them waking up slowly from the anesthesia. Through monitoring a patient’s temperature, the veterinary team can use additional methods to help raise your dog’s temperature. In the end, this will make them feel more alert and encourage them to wake up.

Returning Home after Surgery:

If picking your pet up the same day of their surgery, the veterinarian is confident that they have passed the critical period in recovery. Returning home means that the risk of further anesthetic-related complications is low, and your pup will be safe to eat and drink.

However, your pet may have some lingering effects from the anesthesia for 24 hours following surgery. This effect will typically present to owners as your dog having a “drunken” appearance. They may stagger or act a little sluggish and move slower than usual. 

Once Home…

Once you bring your dog home, make sure they have a comfortable space to sleep. Try to avoid letting them sleep on a cold floor or empty crate, instead offer a blanket, carpet, or furniture for them! This will help ensure your pet’s temperature stays within a normal range, which is optimal for a quick recovery from surgery. 

Typical anesthesia side effects can include minor vomiting and diarrhea, as well as a decreased appetite and activity level.

Note: if you are worried that your dog may be experiencing an above-normal level of these side effects, please contact your veterinarian immediately. 

If your pet received surgery (as opposed to a dental cleaning), it would be recommended to keep them calm and quiet as they recover. The recovery duration will vary by surgery, but is typically at least seven days, with more invasive surgeries being longer. During this time, your dog should stay warm, dry, and not be allowed to run off-leash or wrestle with other dogs. Additionally, it is always essential to keep them from licking at any incision site. Therefore, if your dog is licking or you are not able to monitor them, it is vital to keep a cone on them.