Leaving your pet at the hospital to have an anaesthetic can be a worrying experience for many owners. Part of this worry is often due to not knowing what exactly will happen once your pet leaves your side.

In this article we aim to give you a step by step summary of the anaesthetic procedure, and hopefully ease some of that anxiety.

1.Admit and Consent – On the morning of surgery your pet will be admitted in to the hospital by a member of our nursing team. A consent form will need to be signed for your pet’s procedure. This form covers relevant information about contact phone numbers for yourself, details of allergies or ongoing medication your pet may have and to check if food has been withheld appropriately. Please use this time to highlight any further concerns or questions your may have about your pet or the procedure.

2.Weight – Immediately after entering the hospital your pet is weighed in order for us to accurately calculate required drug doses.

3.Pre-op Blood Test – For those cases where a blood test is indicated prior to anaesthesia, a sample is collected from the jugular vein in the neck. To do this we clip a small amount of fur from the area to allow sterile preparation of the skin. The tests are run in the practice laboratory and results are available within the hour. The nurse on admit will ask if you would like a pre-op blood test running on your pet.

4.Kenneling / Premedication / Examination – The patient will be kennelled prior to surgery. The accommodation is arranged to minimise eye contact between animals and we also have separate wards for dogs, cats and rabbits/rodents.

Patients that have not recently been seen by a vet at the practice will be given a full examination to ensure they are fit for an anaesthetic and surgery.

Premedication is given as soon as examination / pre-op blood test results are received, and is usually consists of a combination of drugs given as an injection under the skin.

Premedication has a number of beneficial effects:

  • Provides pain relief for during and after the procedure
  • Relieves anxiety and provide sedation making the patient more content in the hospital
  • Reduces the amount of anaesthetic needed and so increase anaesthetic safety.

Anaesthetic safety is audited at the practice as part of the RCVS tier 3 and BVHA requirements.

5.Cannulation – All surgical patients have an intravenous cannula placed prior to anaesthesia into one of the forelegs. A small amount of hair is removed from the site to allow sterile preparation of the skin.

The cannula not only ensures the anaesthetic drugs go directly into the circulation but also provides instant access for emergency resuscitation in the rare event of an intra-operative problem. Intravenous fluid therapy (a drip) can also be given through this cannula should it be required.

6.Anaesthetic Induction – The majority of anaesthetics start with an intravenous injection given slowly and to effect until it produces unconsciousness in the patient.


7.Intubation – Once unconscious, a tube is placed into the patient’s airway. This not only allows the oxygen and anaesthetic gases to keep the animal anaesthetised throughout the procedure, but also protects the patients from inhaling any fluid which may reflux from the stomach. Having this tube along with the anaesthetic machine enables us to breathe for the patient if necessary.



8.Monitoring – Every patient at this practice has a vet and a nurse for its procedure, the most important monitoring equipment will always be the veterinary staff. To assist our staff with their monitoring, patients will be attached to a pulse oximeter machine which measures the level of oxygen in the blood and heart rate.

In more critical patients, or for those having major surgery we will also use additional monitoring equipment to measure:

  • Body temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • ECG to check heart rate and rhythm
  • Carbon dioxide levels in the expired air which assess lung and heart function.

A record is kept of your pets readings taken during the anaesthetic.

9.Surgical Clip – Most operations will require an area of your pet to be clipped to remove the hair. This is essential to allow sterile preparation of the skin and therefore reduce the risk of infection and contamination of the wound, but also gives the surgeon better visibility of the surgical site.

The area of the clip must be large enough for surgical access but we will try to avoid excessive clipping as this increases heat loss during the anaesthetic.

10.Recovery – When the operation is finished the patient remains on oxygen with the breathing tube until they are awake enough to swallow. The swallow reflex is important as this means they can now protect their own airway from inhalation of fluids.  The patient is then transferred back to their kennel where our kennels nursing team will continue monitoring until they are fully conscious.

Day patients will be offered a small meal and water following their anaesthetic. We always wait for the patient to  be up on their feet before sending them home to you. In the majority of cases this will be by late afternoon with most of our collections being from 4pm-6.45pm. If the patient is having a slower recovery then we can offer overnight hospitalisation for further monitoring. This is only available in our Lichfield hospital where we have 24 hour nursing, but we can transfer animals from our branches if needed.

Pool House Vets