Oftentimes our clients are faced with the decision whether or not to put their pets under general anesthesia for a surgical or dental procedure. Patients do not get the care they need when pet parents are scared of anesthesia.

During this time, they look to us, the knowledgeable veterinary staff, for answers. With so many advances in the field of veterinary anesthesia there are many reasons why anesthetic procedures are safer than ever!

Here are the 5 questions you should be able to answer before a pet undergoes an anesthetic procedure.

1. What pre-op testing is required?

Often pre-op blood work can give you early clues to potential diseases such as diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Also it is important to check the function of both the liver and the kidneys since they are the organs responsible for processing and clearing anesthetic drugs from the body.

If the pet is a senior more in depth pre-op diagnostics such as and ECG or cardiac ultrasound should be considered to ensure the patient’s heart is healthy enough for some anesthetic drugs. Getting a clear picture before anesthesia can ensure that the most appropriate drugs are used.

2.Who will be monitoring the patient?

Today’s technology allows people to do more tasks at the same time, and there is a strong myth that we can “multitask”. A 2008 study at the University of Michigan showed that we don’t do lots of things simultaneously. Instead, we switch our attention from task to task extremely quickly.

As the technician in charge of a case, I want to focus solely on the anesthetic event. So, it helps that many veterinary practices now have a technician whose sole job is to monitor the pet under anesthesia. This is very important because with a dedicated technician anesthetist, the doctor can focus solely on the surgical or dental procedure being performed.

3.What monitors will be used during the anesthetic event?

During anesthesia it is important to monitor changes in temperature, blood pressure, and ventilation. These changes can influence not only what drugs will be used in the post-operative period, but will help guide the quality of recovery for your patient.

In the age of Dr. Google and information symmetry, your clients know what’s available.  Be prepared to have a conversation with the client to explain why properly monitoring blood pressure in those senior pets is so important!

4.What should the pet parents expect during recovery?

Some surgeries will only require a short recovery time.  Orthopedic and dentistry procedures that have required multiple extractions may require a longer recovery time. After surgery patients may be unsteady on their feet and unable to walk up or down stairs.

If the pet usually sleeps upstairs in the owners’ bed, it’s important to set up a comfortable area on the first floor for the patient to rest in when they come home, or be prepared to carry that patient up and down the stairs! And be realistic with expectations.

5. What will the pain management plan be?

Almost every surgical and dental procedure will involve some level of pain. Be ready to talk with the clients about the expected level of pain and how this pain will be treated. Talk about the need for post-operative physical therapy.

Orthopedic procedures greatly benefit from post-operative physical therapy such as hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and low level laser therapy. Many pain medications have to be administered orally. If it is difficult to give those patients a pill, work on other options to ensure the pet stays comfortable in the recovery period.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


Tasha is a Certified Veterinary Technician from Glenside, PA. She is also a certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner and works closely with the IVAPM to educate the public about animal pain awareness. Tasha loves to lecture on various anesthesia and pain management topics around the globe. In her spare time Tasha enjoys reading, spending time with her son, and trying to figure out “what kind of game is Petyr Baelish playing anyway”.