As a Fear Free® Certified Practice, the entire Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team is dedicated to your pet’s emotional and physical comfort. From the moment your pet enters our hospital, we strive to ensure they feel safe and at ease with everything we do—from a basic examination to surgery.

However, we recognize that general anesthesia can be stressful for pets and owners alike, so we’ve created this guide to illustrate how we care for your pet—physically and emotionally—before, during, and after anesthesia. With well-researched protocols, the latest technology, and a Fear Free approach, we strive to ensure a smooth, safe, and stress-free experience for your pet every time. 

The pre-anesthetic pet exam

The pre-anesthetic veterinary examination ensures your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia, confirms their procedure (e.g., skin tumor on the right chest, stage 3 dental disease), and establishes your pet’s health baseline. By observing and recording your pet’s “normal” for their vital signs, mentation (i.e., attitude), and physical condition, our team can determine if your pet is a safe anesthesia candidate and more rapidly recognize changes that may arise during the anesthetic process. Knowing your individual pet’s “normal” versus “abnormal,” and any complicating factors (e.g., concurrent health conditions), means we can anticipate their needs and design a safe, custom anesthetic protocol.

Pre-anesthetic pet blood work

Another pre-anesthetic procedure is blood work. While the physical exam detects physical or palpable changes, blood work assesses internal health. In addition to screening for obvious diseases and disorders, blood work results inform your veterinarian’s anesthesia plan, such as which medications to use, or whether your pet needs to be hydrated with intravenous fluids before anesthesia induction. Several key pre-anesthetic blood work values include:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs) — Insufficient RBCs (i.e., anemia) can suggest hidden bleeding, RBC destruction, or production problems, and may require a blood transfusion prior to surgery. 
  • Platelets — Adequate platelet numbers are important to ensure the pet’s blood can adequately clot.
  • Hydration — A dehydrated pet’s kidneys have to work harder to eliminate waste products in the blood, including anesthetic medications.
  • Kidney function — Altered kidney health can impair your pet’s ability to excrete anesthetic medications in a timely manner. If kidney function is compromised, your veterinarian may supply additional intravenous fluids or change medications.
  • Liver health — Like the kidneys, the liver functions as a filter, and can significantly impact drug metabolism.

Customized anesthetic protocol for each pet

Every pet is an individual—inside and out—and their anesthesia should be, as well. At Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, your pet’s veterinarian considers their health history, recent test results, pain level, and procedure type when choosing their medications. Selecting the best combination of sedation, pain medication, and anesthetic not only ensures your pet’s safety, but also reduces pre-procedure patient anxiety and alleviates post-procedure pain, disorientation, and distress—all common during recovery.

Intravenous catheter and fluid support for pets

Each pet undergoing general anesthesia receives an intravenous (IV) catheter and IV fluid support. The IV catheter is an essential anesthetic safety measure and allows direct vein access for IV medications, including those used in an emergency. Because IV catheter insertion can be uncomfortable, we do not place the catheter until the pet’s pre-anesthetic sedative has taken effect.

IV fluids are delivered throughout the procedure to support your pet’s blood pressure, expand blood volume, prevent dehydration, and support kidney function, which is especially important for filtering and excreting anesthetic medications.

Multi-parameter electronic pet monitoring

Despite many pet owners’ fears, anesthesia is a relatively safe practice, especially for young and healthy pets. However, as with any health-related process, complications can and do occasionally arise. The best way to prevent anesthetic emergencies is with preventive safety protocols—as described here—and continuous patient monitoring. 

At Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, we use electronic and manual monitoring. Our state-of-the-art monitoring equipment continuously tracks your pet’s important vital signs, including: 

  • Heart rate
  • Respiratory rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood oxygen levels (i.e., pulse oximetry)
  • Carbon dioxide (capnography or C0₂)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Core body temperature

Dips and elevations in any vital sign can signal a patient’s change in status. Causes can include pain, inadequate anesthetic depth (i.e., too light or too deep) or, in more serious cases, excessive bleeding or pre-existing internal injury or condition. Electronic monitoring equipment provides continuous data for the veterinary team and allows them to adjust your pet’s care as needed.

Dedicated veterinary technician anesthetist

Despite the pride we feel about our cutting-edge technology, no tech is more valuable or sensitive than a veterinary technician. That’s why each pet undergoing anesthesia is assigned their own dedicated veterinary technician anesthetist who provides hands-on care and monitoring.

In addition to various preparatory tasks (e.g., placing an IV catheter, intubation, surgical preparation), the technician anesthetist charts your pet’s vital signs every five minutes and closely monitors anesthetic depth, patient comfort, and pain level. Finally, they see your pet through their recovery by staying cage-side and providing gentle comfort, heat support, and continued vitals checks until they are awake, extubated (i.e., the breathing tube is removed), and able to stay upright. 

Veterinary anesthesia should not be feared, but must be respected. At Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, we practice anesthesia with the utmost care and consideration—honoring the process, and the patient, by taking an abundance of caution at every turn.

If you have additional anesthesia concerns, contact us. Our team will be happy to answer your questions and help you feel confident about your pet’s care—after all, Fear Free is not only for pets, but their owners, too!