Is my Pet Too Old to Undergo Anesthesia?

My dog is 12 years old and needs a dental cleaning. Isn’t he too old for anesthesia?

This is an excellent question! I have performed safe and successful anesthetic procedures in patients that are in their early 20’s! Remember, age is not a disease! There are several steps that we take to accomplish safe geriatric anesthesia. The first step is a complete history which the pet owner provides for us, and a complete and thorough physical examination by the veterinarian. The second step is a senior laboratory profile which includes a complete blood count (CBC), a serum chemistry profile and a urinalysis. This gives us information about possible organ disease, infections, or other possible aging changes which may have occurred. If we hear a heart murmur or suspect heart disease we may want to investigate further by taking chest x-rays, perform an ECG (sometimes called an EKG), or have an ultrasound performed. Patients with heart disease can frequently still have safe anesthesia performed!

Once our physical exam and diagnostic tests are performed, the veterinarian will tailor an anesthetic plan for each individual pet based on our findings. We use combinations of drugs at the lowest effective doses to decrease the risk of potential side effects and provide a safe anesthetic time period. The morning of the procedure an intravenous (IV) catheter is placed to deliver drugs for the anesthetic procedure. IV fluid therapy is also provided for overall support and is used to treat changes in blood pressure which can potentially occur because of certain anesthetic drugs.

Our staff members (both veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians) regularly participate in continuing education to assure we can provide our patients with the safest and most current drugs available! Please feel free to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s geriatric anesthesia with any of our doctors!

Dr. Sherry Grisham-Cushing


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