Q: Our Chihuahua needs to have her teeth cleaned annually, and our vet says she has so much tartar and so often needs a tooth pulled that she requires anesthesia. The older Daisy gets, the more we worry about this. Is there anything we can do to make things safer for her?
A: Anesthesia has its risks, but problems are reported in about 0.1 percent of cases, and veterinarians can take plenty of safety precautions. Here are the main ones:
• Physical examination: This is the most basic, and arguably the most important, method of screening health issues that may increase their risk.
• Patient history: Knowing a patient’s past issues with anesthesia is invaluable.
• Lab work: Blood work, urinalyses and other tests provide the foundation for assessing our patients’ degree of risk.
• IV catheterization: Having access to a vein for administration of life-saving drugs in the event of an emergency, and IV fluids when appropriate, is always safest.
• Monitoring: Tracking heart rate, EKG and blood pressure keeps veterinary personnel on top of things.
• Individualized drug usage: Every pet is different, and anesthetic drugs should be tailored a patient’s unique needs.
• Anesthetic technicians: Having a technician in the room throughout the procedure is essential. You need at least two brains and four eyes at all times.
• Veterinary experience and skill: As when choosing a health provider for yourself, it’s worth considering how many times your vet has performed the procedure in question.
• Not everyone can afford all these niceties, but if you want the best, you have to pay for it, right?