Anesthesia includes more than the selection of anesthetic drugs. A comprehensive individualized anes-thetic plan will minimize perioperative morbidity and optimize perioperative conditions. Monitoring, the ability to discern normal from abnormal, and expedient intervention are critical to ensure that potentially reversible problems do not become irreversible. Vigilance and patient support must be maintained during the recovery period.

Successful anesthetic management requires trained, observant team members who understand the clinical pharmacology and physiologic adaptations of the patient undergoing anesthetic procedures, as well as the use of anesthetic and monitoring equipment. Staff must be able to assess abnormal patient responses quickly and respond efficiently, by being familiar with the expected responses seen with different anesthetic drugs and with the changes seen in the phases and/or depth of general anesthesia. Provide training and review procedures with staff upon hiring, at regular intervals, and after adverse events occur, as part of routine morbidity and mortality discussions.

Anesthesia and anesthetic drugs continually evolve with advances in pharmacology and technology. Numerous anesthesia continuing education opportunities exist, and periodically refreshing your anesthesia knowledge is mandatory. Referral to a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist should be considered for complex cases that are outside of a practitioner’s comfort zone (Table 4).


Websites for more information

Anesthesia information
Group Resources available
American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) AAHA–AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs & Cats
AAHA Senior Care Guidelines
American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) Small Animal Monitoring Guidelines; Position statements
American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Patient status scale
Colorado State University A custom emergency drug list with dosages may be printed for each patient
International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management Pain management information
Veterinary Anesthesia & Analgesia Support Group (VASG) Anesthesia information

*AAFP, American Association of Feline Practitioners.