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AAHA Anesthesia Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

Richard Bednarski, MS, DVM, DACVA (Chair), Kurt Grimm, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVA, DACVCP, Ralph Harvey, DVM, MS, DACVA, Victoria M. Lukasik, DVM, DACVA, W. Sean Penn, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline), Brett Sargent, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline), Kim Spelts, CVT, VTS, CCRP (Anesthesia)

From the Veterinary Medical Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH (R.B.); Veterinary Specialist Services PC, Conifer, CO (K.G.); Depart- ment of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knox- ville, TN (R.H.); Southwest Veterinary Anesthesiology, Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialists, Tucson, AZ (V.L.); Phoenix, AZ (W.S.P.); Front Range Veterinary Clinic, Lakewood, CO (B.S.); and Peak Performance Veterinary Group, Colorado Springs, CO (K.S.).

Correspondence: [email protected] (R.B.)

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)

*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.

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