Posts Tagged ‘Anesthesia for dogs’

Anesthesia Guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Photo Credit: The Pet Doctor Inc.

I have great respect for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). One of the many wonderful things this organization does is the gathering of experts within the profession to create practice guidelines for veterinarians. In the past, for example, I’ve exposed you to AAHA guidelines for vaccination protocols. Not only are such guidelines helpful for veterinarians, they are also available to you, the consumers of veterinary medicine. With such information in hand, I’ve no doubt that you will be better able to make informed decisions for your pets. And there’s nothing I like better than helping people become better medical advocates!

AAHA’s latest endeavor has been the creation of guidelines for anesthesia for dogs and cats. They cover multiple aspects of anesthesia including preanesthesia patient evaluation (detailed medical history, thorough physical examination, assessment of risk based on breed, age, and overall health), diagnostic evaluation, preanesthetic medications, recommendations for induction and maintenance of anesthesia, monitoring parameters and equipment, pain management, staffing recommendations, and monitoring of the patient following anesthesia. Did you know that 47 percent of canine deaths and 60 percent of feline deaths associated with anesthesia occur during the anesthetic recovery period rather than during the actual anesthesia? I had a hunch about this, but was unaware of these statistics until I read the Anesthesia Guidelines.

As a small animal internist, it’s a given that I only see patients who are sick. (I truly miss all of those well puppy and kitten exams!) So, I truly appreciate the section written about managing anesthesia for patients with preexisting medical issues including kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.

Although the AAHA guidelines are written for veterinarians, I encourage you to take a look. Let me know if you need any help interpreting what you read. Keep in mind that these guidelines are simply that- guidelines. Veterinarians are not required to follow them. This is why it is up to you to ask the right questions to learn how your veterinary staff members anesthetize and monitor their patients. In addition to reading these guidelines when formulating your list of questions, I encourage you to also read the chapter called “Important Questions to Ask Your Vet…And How to Ask Them” in Speaking for Spot.  There, you will find a thorough list of questions to ask your vet when anesthesia is recommended. Perhaps the very first question should be, “Have you read the new AAHA Anesthesia Guidelines?”

What have your experiences been with pets undergoing anesthesia?

Best wishes for a happy new year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.