2011 AAHA Anesthesia Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

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There are no safe anesthetic agents, there are no safe anesthetic procedures. There are only safe anesthetists.
—Robert Smith, MDa


Safe and effective anesthesia of dogs and cats relies on preanesthetic patient assessment and preparation. Patients should be premedicated with drugs that provide sedation and analgesia prior to anesthetic induction with drugs that allow endotracheal intubation. Maintenance is typically with a volatile anesthetic such as isoflurane or sevoflurane delivered via an endotracheal tube. In addition, local anesthetic nerve blocks; epidural administration of opioids; and constant-rate infusions of lidocaine, ketamine, and opioids are useful to enhance analgesia. Cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous system functions are continuously monitored so that anesthetic depth can be modified as needed. Emergency drugs and equipment, as well as an action plan for their use, should be available throughout the perianesthetic period. Additionally, intravenous access and crystalloid or colloids are administered to maintain circulating blood volume. Someone trained in the detection of recovery abnormalities should monitor patients throughout recovery. Postoperatively, attention is given to body temperature, level of sedation, and appropriate analgesia. (J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2011; 47:377–385. DOI 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-5846)


The purpose of this article is to provide guidelines for anesthetizing dogs and cats that can be used daily in veterinary practice. This will add to the existing family of American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelinesb and other references, such as the anesthesia monitoring guidelines published by the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA)c.

This article includes recommendations for preanesthetic patient evaluation and examination, selection of premedication, induction and maintenance drugs, monitoring, equipment, and recovery. In recognition of differences among practices, these guidelines are not meant to establish a universal anesthetic plan or legal standard of care.

This report was prepared by a task force of experts convened by the American Animal Hospital Association for the express purpose of producing this article.

This report was sponsored by an educational grant from Abbott Animal Health, and was subjected to the same external review process as are all of Journal of American Animal Hospital Association articles.