General Anaesthesia


Why Should I Bring my Pet to Willows for Anaesthetic?

Willows is one of Europe’s leading small animal referral centres. Our state-of-the-art hospital is led by internationally renowned Specialists committed to providing the highest standards of care. Our dedicated team of Specialist Veterinary Anaesthetists who will assess every patient before anaesthesia and prescribe drugs that are tailored to each pet.

In doing so they will take in to account the age, breed, temperament of a pet as well as any conditions they may suffer from and the type of procedure to be performed.


What is an Anaesthetic?

General anaesthesia is a state of reversible unconsciousness when a pet will be ‘asleep’ under the anaesthetic. Anaesthetic drugs that are injected into the veins and anaesthetic gases which are inhaled into the lungs are carried in the bloodstream to the brain. These drugs and gases stop the brain recognising messages from nerves in the body, which means your pet will not feel any pain whilst ‘asleep’ under anaesthesia.

On the day of the procedure patients are injected with pre-anaesthetic medication (a ‘pre-med’) in to their muscle or into a vein in the least stressful way possible. A catheter will be placed into a vein, to allow administration of drugs and fluids during the procedure. An Anaesthetist will administer an intravenous anaesthetic agent which allows a tube to be placed (endotracheal tube) down the patient’s wind pipe (trachea). Anaesthetic gases and oxygen will be administered through this endotracheal tube.

Whilst under general anaesthesia patients will be continuously monitored by a dedicated Veterinary Nurse and supervised by an Anaesthetist. Advanced monitoring equipment is used to control your pet’s vital signs and every effort will be made to keep your pet warm and pain free under anaesthesia. Our aim is to keep the duration of procedure and anaesthesia to a minimum and to ensure that our patients remain comfortable at all times, whatever their problems may be.


Why does my Pet need to be Anaesthetised?

As with humans, many procedures, including surgeries, cannot be performed on a conscious or sedated patient. A pet will need to be unconscious and pain free to allow the surgeon(s) to perform the procedure. For older or very unwell animals general anaesthesia is considered to be safer then sedation.

What can I Expect when Pet has had an Anaesthetic?

If a pet is discharged on the day of procedure, he/she will probably be a little sleepy. Strong painkillers will have been given and these will last some time. You should offer your pet some light food (e.g. boiled chicken or fish and rice) and water, but do not expect them to have a normal appetite. The effects of the anaesthetic will wear off over the next few days. Please look out for any signs of pain or discomfort and contact Willows if you are at all concerned.


How do you Keep my Pet Safe During General Anaesthesia?

At Willows we aim to provide the best care for your pet at all times whilst minimising the risks associated with general anaesthesia. For the duration of the general anaesthesia, patients will be connected to an anaesthetic machine where they will be closely observed by highly trained veterinary anaesthesia staff. The advanced monitoring equipment at Willows which enables the constant measurement of pulse rate, heart rate and rhythm (electrocardiography or ECG), respiratory rate, body temperature, blood pressure, oxygenation of blood, carbon dioxide levels and much more.

Our highly skilled team will also monitor your pet’s pulses, gum (mucous membrane) colour, position of the eye and reflex activity to determine the depth of anaesthesia. All the readings and observations obtained are recorded every five minutes, to help anticipate any problems before they occur. If there are any concerns, an anaesthetist will take the necessary actions to bring all parameters back to the normal levels as promptly as possible.

When a procedure has finished, the anaesthetic gas is switched off and the patient is given oxygen until they begin to recover and wake up. They will then be taken to a warm and comfortable bed in the kennels (or our Intensive Care Unit if required) where they will be carefully monitored until fully awake.


How Can I Prepare My Pet for Surgery?

  • Overnight fasting (starving); your pet should have their normal meal the night before admission (unless otherwise instructed), but should have no further access to food after this. They should have free access to water until you leave the house to come to the surgery.
  • Cats should be kept inside the night before the procedure to prevent them eating food from elsewhere, and to make it easy to find them in the morning!
  • Take your dog for a walk in the morning to allow him or her to empty the bladder and bowels
  • Watch out for any signs of illness not related to the procedure that is to be carried out, and let the Vet or Nurse know if you have any concerns
  • Have a note of your pet’s current medication, including over-the-counter preparations, and make sure that the Vet or Nurse are aware of these at the time of admission.

What can I do for my Pet after a General Anaesthetic?

  • Provide him/her with a bed in a quiet, warm area and allow them to rest
  • Do not let cats go outside until the next day, as their balance may not be back to normal
  • Take your dog out to the garden or for a very short walk to allow him/her to pass urine, but do not let them off of the lead
  • Follow the condition specific instructions provided by your Vet for medication and general care.

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Anaesthesia and Analgesia

Find out more

To assist owners in understanding more about Anaesthesia and Analgesia, we have put together a range of information sheets to talk you through the some of the main areas of pain management at Willows.