Is general anaesthesia safe for your older pet?

Is general anaesthesia safe for your older pet?

Have you ever hesitated to take your pet in to see the vet because they’re getting a little bit older now and you’re worried about anaesthesia being a problem? If so you’re not alone as many people put off pet procedures because of the risks associated.

But what really are the risks involved and is it still the case that older animals shouldn’t be put under anaesthesia?

Anaesthesia allows vets to perform various important procedures that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be performed properly. Unfortunately we can’t just say “hold your right paw straight” or “open your mouth and say ahhh”. So anaesthesia is vital in procedures where positioning is important such as x-rays and procedures that might feel strange such as dental assessments or teeth cleaning.

Historically it is true that general anaesthesia has been avoided in older animals, especially those with heart conditions and similar issues.

The good news is though, that the drugs used nowadays are very safe and the ability to strictly monitor everything allows for early identification and management of any issues. General anaesthesia is performed routinely in our clinics, literally hundreds of times in a year.

The primary risks around general anaesthesia cardiac or respiratory failure, hypotension (low blood pressure) and hypothermia.

During these procedures:

  • Patients are monitored from sedation right through until recovery
  • We have monitors for heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory function (and also have ventilators available at both practices to manage respiratory failure)
  • Pre-anaesthetic blood tests can be used to evaluate liver and kidney function to also maximise safety of general anaesthesia
  • Patients’ temperature are monitored and managed with active warming (heat pads, hot water bottles)

Although any anaesthetic does carry a risk, the risk is extremely low and is always weighed against the benefit of the procedure to be performed. If you have any questions or concerns around anaesthesia you should raise them with your vet at any point so we can explain and reassure you.