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Veterinary Health Center


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a veterinary anesthesiologist?

Although all licensed veterinarians are qualified to administer anesthesia to their clinical patients, the KSU VHC is fortunate to have four veterinary anesthesiologists on faculty. Veterinary anesthesiologists are licensed veterinarians with an additional three years of specific anesthesia, pain management and critical care training that is undertaken after achieving their veterinary degree. Upon completion of anesthesia residency training these veterinarians are deemed specialists in veterinary anesthesia by the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) after successful completion of a comprehensive certification examination. Successful candidates are granted Diplomate status in the ACVAA.

What veterinary anesthesiologists do?

Veterinary anesthesiologists are concerned with many aspects of an animal's care. Their main task is to provide safe, optimal anesthesia during surgery to allow the surgeon to complete the desired tasks, and to make the hospital stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

Anesthesiologists consider any surgical procedure to be of major importance. They are constantly on guard for changes in breathing, heart activity, blood pressure or unexpected events, which although rare, may occur during surgery. Following surgery, anesthesiologists are often involved in providing pain relief for your animal and are consulted in the intensive care unit about optimal post-anesthetic management.

What will the veterinary anesthesiologist need to know about my animal?

The anesthesiologist will want to make sure that your pet is in the best possible physical condition before undergoing anesthesia and surgery. You will be asked important questions about your animal’s health upon admission to the hospital. Any difficulties that this animal has had with anesthesia in the past should be brought up at this time. If your animal has trouble exercising, tires easily or has ever collapsed after activity it is important to let the personnel at the hospital know of these events. 

Will my animal receive any medication before surgery?

Most animals require some medicine to calm them before surgery and in the case of a painful condition (like a broken bone) they will need to be given drugs for pain control. This medication is usually given by injection under the skin. The time before surgery that this medication is given will vary depending on the patient’s condition and the circumstances of the procedure. The type of medication to be given is determined after the anesthesiologist has had a chance to review your pet’s history, laboratory data and physical examination. The choice of drugs is always tailored to the individual patient’s needs.

Who administers anesthesia to my animal?

Your animal's medical record is assigned to a senior veterinary student for review. A specific care plan is created by the student taking into account the procedure to be performed and the underlying health status of your animal. All patient anesthesia plans are reviewed by the anesthesiologist on duty and either approved or modified in accordance with the anesthesiologist’s judgment of the plan’s suitability for your animal. The anesthetic agents may be administered by an anesthesia technician or senior veterinary student under the supervision of the anesthesiologist or an attending VHC veterinarian.

How will my animal be given anesthesia?

Anesthesia can be started in several ways. Most commonly, anesthesia is started by an intravenous injection so the patient becomes unconscious rapidly. Several different drugs are available for intravenous induction of anesthesia, including thiopental, propofol and ketamine. Another method that is sometimes used to start anesthesia is to let the animal breathe in anesthetic gases until they lose consciousness. The most commonly used gas anesthetic in the KSU VHC is isoflurane, however sevoflurane is available for use in the small animal hospital and halothane is used on occasion in the large animal clinic. The choice of which method is used to begin anesthesia will be made by the anesthesiologist and the decision is based on many factors. In all circumstances the Anesthesia Service strives to make the best choice for the individual animal with an emphasis on safety. Either a veterinary student or the anesthesia technician stays with each anesthetized patient for the full duration of anesthesia through recovery.

Isn't anesthesia risky? How is the risk minimized for my animal?

Your animal’s safety is our primary concern. Prior to anesthesia each patient is given a thorough physical exam, a variety of laboratory tests may be run to determine if there are serious or unseen conditions that would compromise the animal’s ability to tolerate anesthesia. Medical conditions that can be corrected or supported with therapy prior to anesthesia will be treated. Most animals that are undergoing anesthesia will have an intravenous catheter in place and receive intravenous fluid therapy to support blood pressure and offset blood loss during a surgical procedure. Most animals that are undergoing anesthesia have an endotracheal tube placed in their airway (trachea, wind pipe) to make sure they have an open route for breathing throughout the procedure. Each anesthetized patient is closely monitored by a senior veterinary student or anesthesia technician. We use state of the art monitoring equipment to assess patient status continuously. Routine monitoring for an anesthetized patient in the KSU VHC includes an ECG to monitor heart rhythm and rate, a Doppler device for monitoring blood pressure, a capnograph for monitoring breathing. We also frequently use pulse oximetry to measure oxygen in the blood, we occasionally examine arterial blood gases or monitor blood pressure directly with an indwelling arterial catheter. We have the capability to put any anesthetized animal on a ventilator to assist breathing if it is determined that the animal is doing a poor job of breathing on its own.

What should I expect?

Although anesthetics can provide complete pain relief and loss of consciousness during the procedure, they do occasionally have side effects. Anesthetic drugs tend to decrease breathing, heart activity, and blood pressure. The Anesthesia Service is very focused on vigilant monitoring of each patient in order to minimize side effects, and recognize problems as they occur so that the appropriate intervention can be started.

Different animals may awaken from anesthesia at different rates. Some animals may be fully alert upon arriving in the recovery area. Other animals may be groggy for hours after surgery. Although anesthesia and surgery is much safer now than it was in years past, the procedures still produce stress on the animal’s body and may cause your pet to be unusually quiet or depressed for several days after the event. Vomiting is an occasional side effect after surgery and anesthesia.

What methods are used to control pain in animals?

Many different types of pain control are available for animals. The particular type of pain control chosen for your animal is dependent upon the type of procedure, the source or location of the pain, and the animal’s particular health issues. It is not unusual that more than one type of pain control may be used in an animal. This is called a multimodal approach to pain therapy and it is often a more effective way to achieve excellent pain relief. Pain control is most often achieved with injectable drugs like narcotics and local anesthetics, either by periodic injection under the skin or in a continuous drip through intravenous fluids. Oral medications can be used as well, including certain types of narcotics and NSAID’s which are aspirin-like drugs. It is common especially for orthopedic procedures for an animal to be given an epidural injection of pain drugs. Also pain medication can be delivered through the skin with a drug-impregnated patch that can stay in place for several days.