Is anesthesia safe for my cat?
There is no such thing as 100% safe anesthesia. All anesthesia of any kind carries risks. That being said, we do everything we can to make your cat's anesthetic experience as safe and pain free as possible. But yes, there is always some risk involved. However, greater than 99% of our patients do just fine on anesthesia. The age and health status of your cat does affect their anesthesia risk, but because we tailor anesthesia for each individual cat, the risk is lowered. We will routinely administer anesthesia to cats as young as two months old up to cats that are 20 years old. Of course, we always weigh benefits of the procedure against the risks of anesthesia to decide whether to proceed.
Before administering the anesthesia, we will first do an exam on your cat. We look to see that your cat is healthy and has no obvious cardiac or neurological issues. If your cat is older, we will also do a basic blood screen to check your cat's kidney and liver function since anesthesia is processed through both of these organs, and your cat's red blood cell percent to make sure that your cat can adequately oxygenize tissues while under anesthesia. If we have concerns about your cat's health status, we may do additional tests to assess disease status and safety of the anesthesia.
One of the things that we do to minimize anesthesia risk is to use multiple drug protocols. The more drugs used, the lower the doses that can be used, and so the lower the risk of each drug. We start by administering a sedative or tranquilizer, a pain medication, and an anticholinergic. The sedative or tranquilizer and pain medication lower the amount of anesthesia needed to keep your cat unconscious during the procedure. The anticholinergic helps to keep your cat's heart rate, and to some extent blood pressure up during the procedure.
During the procedure, we will monitor your cat's anesthetic depth and increase or decrease the level of gas anesthesia as needed. For cats that have increased anesthetic risk, depending on the cat and the surgery, we will also monitor blood pressure, cardiac electrical activity (ECG), body temperature, respirations, and we will have an IV running to help keep blood pressure up and protect the kidneys.
After the procedure, we continue to administer pain medications. A licensed veterinary technician will monitor your cat's recovery until they are fully awake.