Anesthesia Anxiety: Which Breeds Have Extra Special Needs When Going Under?
If your veterinarian has recommended a surgical or dental procedure for your canine companion, you may be experiencing some apprehension about general anesthesia. This is a normal emotional response to a legitimate concern. Veterinarians take anesthesia seriously, and they enlist several practices to maximize its safety when it comes to all of their patients. Just as certain human individuals are considered higher risk candidates for anesthetic events, certain dog breeds also carry elevated risks. Find out if your dog is one of these breeds and what your veterinarian can do to reduce risks for anesthetic complications.
Many anesthetic agents are absorbed into a dog's fatty tissues, reducing the circulation time of the drug through the bloodstream. However, the physique of a sighthound is one of lean muscle mass with little fat available to absorb the drug. Thus, the drug is metabolized more slowly, which prolongs the recovery time. Some examples of sighthound breeds include the following:
- Afghan hound
- Ibezan hound
- Irish wolfhound
- Italian greyhound
- Pharaoh hound
- Rhodesian ridgeback
- Scottish deerhound
Since anesthetic drugs are metabolized in the liver, a pre-anesthetic blood panel ensures that your dog's liver enzymes are within normal levels to handle the slower metabolic rate. Special attention will also be paid to your dog's body temperature during the procedure and recovery since the lack of body fat can raise the risk for hypothermia while under anesthesia.
Brachychephalic Dog Breeds
If your dog has a pushed in face or shortened snout, he belongs to the group of brachycephalic breeds, which are those with shortened airways. Brachycephalic breeds that have been diagnosed with bracycephalic airway syndrome have compromised respiratory passages, which is why they snore while sleeping and snort when they become stressed or excited. They are also at risk for airway obstruction while under anesthesia if they are not closely monitored. Some brachycephalic dog breeds include the following:
- Boston terrier
- Cavalier King Charles
- English bulldog
- French bulldog
- Shih tzu
In addition to diligently monitoring your brachycephalic dog's respiration, the endotracheal that is placed in his windpipe for the procedure will remain in place during recovery for longer than is typical for other breeds. Only when your dog is awake and aware enough to shift positions on his own to make breathing easier will the endotracheal tube be removed.
If you have a toy breed, his tiny size increases his risk for developing hypothermia while under anesthesia. Extra steps may be taken to keep his body temperature within a normal range, such as the administration of warmed intravenous fluids, the use of devices that blow hot air around your dog and wrapping him in a warmed towel while he recovers to hold warmth close to his body. Some examples of toy breeds include the following:
- Yorkshire terrier
Another concern with toy breeds who undergo anesthesia is hypoglycemia, especially since you will likely be instructed to fast your dog prior to surgery. Your veterinarian will check your toy breed's blood glucose levels before the procedure and during the recovery period. Adding dextrose to the intravenous fluid will help to prevent a hypoglycemic episode.
Some herding breeds have drug sensitivities due to a genetic mutation that can cause some drugs to build up in the brain, leading to a deeper plane of anesthesia than desired. Some examples of herding breeds include the following:
- Australian shepherd
- Bearded collie
- Border collie
- Shetland Sheepdog
A laboratory test is available to identify if your dog possesses the genetic mutation. Your veterinarian will be selective in his or her choice of drugs when it comes to administering pre-anesthetic sedatives and pain management drugs to your herding dog.
Breed Specific Risks
Some breeds are genetically predisposed to certain health conditions that can elevate their risks during anesthetic procedures. For example, the boxer, cocker spaniel and Doberman pinscher, among a few other breeds, are genetically predisposed to cardiomyopathy, which is a type of heart failure. Your veterinarian can perform an electrocardiogram if your dog's breed belongs to this risk group to ensure that his heart is functioning optimally. Doberman pinschers are also predisposed to von Willebrand's disease, an illness that prevents the blood from clotting properly. Your veterinarian may recommend a laboratory test to confirm that your Doberman pinscher does not have this disease.
General Precautions and Tailored Anesthesia
Regardless of your dog's breed, confirm that your veterinarian performs the following safety protocols to minimize your furry friend's risk for anesthetic complications:
- Complete blood cell count and metabolic profiles should be run prior to surgery to rule out the presence of infection, anemia and metabolic diseases and to confirm that your dog's liver and kidney function can safely metabolize anesthetic and pain management drugs.
- An intravenous catheter should be placed in your dog to provide quick access to a vein in case the need for emergency drug administration arises.
- Intravenous fluid therapy should be administered to keep your dog hydrated, maintain optimal blood pressure and to help flush the drugs through his system.
- A technician, not the veterinarian who is focused on performing the surgical procedure, should be assigned in the operating suite to diligently monitor your dog's vital signs.
- A technician should closely monitor your dog during the postoperative recovery period.
In addition to these general guidelines, your veterinarian (like those at Elizabethton Veterinary Clinic and similar locations) will tailor a carefully chosen and calculated combination of drugs based on your dog's overall health, age, weight and breed to minimize complications and to provide just the right amount to keep your dog relaxed and free of pain to get the job done safely.