Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Navigating Your Pet’s Anesthesia

Two veterinary professionals standing on either side of a surgery table in a surgery suite.

Many pet parents have concerns regarding anesthesia – especially for senior pets, pets with heart murmurs, and pets with other health issues. Unfortunately, these concerns often cause pet parents to delay important procedures like dental cleanings or lump removals because they’re afraid that undergoing anesthesia will be dangerous for their pet. 

In February of 2024, Maria Killos, DVM, DACVA, our board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist, and Travis Bruns, CVT, VTS (Anesthesia & Analgesia), a veterinary technician specialist in anesthesia, joined us on Facebook Live to discuss how your pet’s veterinary team navigates risks during anesthetized medical procedures to ensure the wellbeing of your beloved pet. You can watch the Facebook Live replay here or read a summary of the video below. 

At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, our Anesthesia team consists of a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist, a veterinary technician specialist in anesthesia, and many technicians who are very well-versed in anesthesia When your pet requires anesthesia, a member of our Anesthesia team will be with your pet the entire time – from awake to awake again – ensuring they are as safe as possible throughout the anesthetic event.

A blue background with needles.

Creating an Anesthesia Plan 

When your pet needs anesthesia for a medical procedure, our skilled Anesthesia team will create a custom plan tailored to that specific pet. They will consider factors such as: 

  • Your pet’s history and medical background (including any medications or supplements) 
  • Your pet’s age 
  • Your pet’s type of heart disease (if applicable) 
  • Special considerations, including:  
    • What type of procedure is being performed? 
    • What will be the safest drugs for this pet? 
    • Does this pet have a heart murmur? 
      • Some drugs may be safe for one type of heart abnormality but not a different type – which is why the gold standard of care is for your pet to have an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) by a board-certified cardiologist prior to the anesthetized procedure. Our Anesthesia team will then consult with the cardiologist to determine your pet’s specific condition or abnormality. 
      • Sometimes, heart issues will alter what volume of fluid therapy your pet can receive throughout the procedure, versus a pet with no heart issues.  
    • What other kinds of support will this pet need?
      • Will this pet need to be ventilated (have us breathing for them)? 
      • Do we need to position the pet on the surgery table in a particular way?

Our Anesthesia team gathers all this information for each individual pet so we can cater to that pet’s specific needs.  

An anesthesia technician monitoring machines during a pet's surgery.


Once the anesthetic plan is finalized and the questions above are answered, it’s time for the actual procedure. We utilize the following to keep a close eye on your pet and help ensure their safety: 

  • Monitors that measure oxygenation of the blood, blood pressure, and how well the pet is breathing 
  • IV catheters
    • Note: Catheters aren’t just used to provide supportive fluids for pets – although that is important! Intravenous catheters also provide quick access to your pet’s veins to administer pain medications, blood pressure support drugs, and anything else your pet may need – including emergency resuscitation drugs. 
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) to reveal any abnormal heart rhythms
  • Since a pet’s body temperature will often drop during an anesthetized procedure, we use external heat sources to help keep pets warm
  • Physical monitoring of the pet that indicates if anything is amiss – such as the color of the pet’s gums
  • Most importantly, we have an anesthesia technician who accompanies your pet the entire time – from initial catheter placement all the way through recovery. The technician is reviewing the monitors for anything abnormal. They are trained to note trends that suggest a potential decline in your pet’s status and voice their concerns to the surgical team. 

All the above-listed equipment, protocols, and individuals help the anesthesia and surgery team know very quickly if the pet has any trouble throughout a procedure and adjust the plan accordingly. 

A veterinary professional wearing scrubs leaning down to boop noses with a white and gray cat.

How You Can Help  

Your pet’s veterinary team will consider how to make your pet’s anesthetic event as safe as possible in the days leading up to the procedure and the day of the procedure. However, there are a few things you can do to also help increase your pet’s safety: 

  • Be proactive with your pet’s health; don’t wait until your pet’s problem becomes an emergency issue. A pet’s health is further compromised when they are experiencing an urgent or emergent health concern, and that is another hurdle to providing safe anesthesia.   
  • Consider advanced diagnostics prior to the procedure – such as an echocardiogram for a pet with a heart murmur – so that the anesthesia team has as much information as possible. 
  • Your pet’s veterinary team is partnering with you to provide care. So, please be candid about your pet’s medical history (such as if they are taking an over-the-counter product not prescribed by your vet.) 
  • Keep pets’ preventative care up to date. See your family veterinarian regularly and follow their recommendations. The healthier your pet is, the safer anesthesia will be.  
  • If you have a young pet, accustom them to having their legs and mouth touched, as well as being comfortable around strangers. This is great practice for a more relaxed, happy, and calm vet visit rather than a stressed and anxious pet! It is preferable for pets to be as calm as possible before anesthesia.  

A dog lying down on blankets on an exam table with a gloved veterinary professional standing nearby.

We hope this information provides some peace of mind in moving forward with your pet’s procedure. Know that your pet’s anesthesia team is doing everything they can to get your pet through the procedure and home to you. If you have any questions or concerns about your pet undergoing anesthesia, consult with your family veterinarian or your pet’s specialty veterinarian. Remember, it’s better to have these conversations now than to avoid getting your pet the care they need.  

More Reading:  

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet

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