Side Effects of Anesthesia in Dogs

Anesthesia comes from the Greek meaning “lack of sensation”. Just like us, our dogs may also need anesthesia as part of a procedure or surgery.  

They need this when they are spayed or neutered, or when they need dental cleaning to suppress their nerve response. 

After the procedure, you need to know the side effects of anesthesia in dogs. Which ones are normal, and which ones are not?  

We talk about what you should expect during the anesthetic event of your dog, its side effects and risks, and how to maximize your dog’s recovery after receiving anesthesia.   

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anesthesia effects in dogs

What to Expect If Your Dog Needs Anesthesia 

Before administering anesthesia to your dog, your vet will answer any questions you have.

They will also ask you to sign a consent form that shows the recommended services before and during the anesthesia. 

You have to fully understand what will happen to your dog as you sign this form. Usually, the form will also include consent to perform surgery or other tests.  

It also has the risks of the anesthesia for you to acknowledge and accept. Safeguards are put in place to reduce the risks of anesthesia.  

For instance, there should be a technician present during the anesthetic event to monitor your dog’s vital signs all the time and to help them adjust anesthetic levels.

They are trained to observe your dog throughout the procedure. 

Make sure that there will also be a heart monitor to count your furry friend’s heartbeat per minute, as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG).  

Other devices that should be there include the blood pressure monitor, respirometer, and end-tidal CO2 monitor.  

These are all crucial in veterinary hospitals for anesthetic monitoring. 

The Side Effects of Anesthesia in Dogs 

Any medication, like anesthetic drugs, involves risks of unpleasant reactions. They can range from mild to catastrophic, and even life-threatening. 

A mild side effect, for instance, is the swelling of the injection site or a faint decrease in your pooch’s cardiac output. Adverse effects include anaphylactic shock or even death. 

Other side effects may also occur as a result of not fasting your dog prior to the anesthetic event.

They might vomit while they are unconscious, and this could be deadly since the vomit might be sucked into the lungs. 

When the vomit is sucked into the lungs, it can cause an episode of aspiration pneumonia. This video shows Dr. Becker discussing aspiration pneumonia in dogs. 

Meanwhile, here are the common side effects of anesthesia in dogs. 

  • Nausea and grogginess. This is very normal. Your vet might give you feeding guidelines to help mitigate nausea post-anesthesia. You also need to be aware about your dog being clumsy and groggy after the procedure.   
  • Behavioral changes. Your dog may not be responding to familiar people, animals, or situations the way they used too. Don’t freak out because your dog should go back to normal in just a few days. Don’t leave your kids or other pets with them while they are still recovering. 
  • Off-balance. Along with being groggy, your dog will seem to be unsteady as they walk. This is because of the nervous system’s reaction to the anesthesia, creating a poor depth perception. Make your dog feel safe by keeping them in a quiet place where all their food and water are near them. If they need to get up, make sure to assist them.  
  • Getting chills. Your dog may also experience difficulty maintaining their body temperature since anesthetics can result in the dilation of blood vessels in the skin that leads to heat loss. Keep your dog warm and cozy with a bed and blanket as they recover comfortably. 

One last thing to keep in mind when it comes to anesthesia reactions is that not all dogs are a good candidate for anesthesia.  

Some breeds have body conformation differences that are vital in delivering drugs to their system safely.

Boxers and other breeds with smushed-in noses, run the risk of airway obstruction.  

Dogs with heart disease are also risky. Talk to your vet before dog anesthetic is administered to ensure their safety. 

Find out how to comfort a dog in pain.

How Long It Will Take for Your Dog to Recover 

With the high technology in medicine, your dog should go back to normal by the time of discharge.

Take note that this still depends on their health, breed, and type of procedure. 

If your dog has been sluggish or you cannot arouse them easily days after the anesthetic procedure, contact the vet immediately to receive specific advice.  

To make recovery even faster, your vet will recommend changes in their medication and feeding schedules.

Appropriate pain and other medications may be prescribed.  

You can assist your pet at home and aid them in their recovery by making sure they are warm and comfy, and they have access to food and water. 

Your dog’s sleeping area might need to be adjusted, so you want to keep them in their bed and blanket to stay warm and to avoid unnecessary movements.  

Restrict their movement after surgery since sudden movements can interfere with the healing process.   

Be There for Your Dog! 

Just like any medical procedure and drug, anesthesia has benefits and risks.

Even with today’s advanced anesthetics, it can still cause nausea, grogginess, and behavioral changes. In some cases, it leads to aspiration pneumonia or death. 

To avoid the adverse effects of anesthesia, make sure you have followed the fasting guidelines prior to the procedure to avoid vomiting. 

Thoroughly read and acknowledge what’s in the consent form and keep your dog comfortable once they are home. 

You also want to make sure to give the medicines prescribed by the vet and to follow the feeding guidelines. 

You might also want to check out how to care for your dog before undergoing surgery.