...A very scary word for many of you. Whenever your vet may tell you that your dog needs surgery, or dentistry, or x-rays...and he will need anesthesia!! I know many of you may decline a procedure that your vet may recommend just because anesthesia would be needed .I would like to try to put some of your fears to rest so that you will be more comfortable with an anesthetic procedure if it is needed for your dog.
There have been many advances in the field of anesthesia and veterinary medicine: new drugs, new monitoring capability, new anesthetic machines, improved skills, and a better understanding of anesthesia. Years ago, the anesthetics available offered little control on the depth of anesthesia, and there were few choices on the choice of drugs and combination of drugs available. Now there are many improved and safer drugs that can be used to induce and maintain a controlled depth of anesthesia.
Whenever I am asked what can you use on a Bloodhound, I mostly think in terms of what can't you use. Veterinary schools teach all students about Greyhounds and sight hounds and their sensitivity to certain anesthetics. I like to tell people and vets to treat a Bloodhound as they would a Greyhound. It is not safe to use Barbiturates on a Bloodhound since these drugs can cause severe heart arrhythmias and apnea (not breathing). These problems can usually be corrected, but why cause a problem if you can avoid it. Also, barbiturates depend on body fat for distribution in the dog, and the ratio of body fat (and skin) to muscle is different in a Bloodhound than in other breeds of dogs. Barbiturates come under many different names: Surital (thiamylal), Pentothal (thiopental), and thiobarbital. Other injectable anesthetics that are not recommended include Rompun and Dormitor, these can potentially result in bloat. As far as preanesthetics, the only precaution is with acepromazine. Bloodhounds usually tend to need a lesser dose of acepromazine to result in the desired level of sedation. Inhalant anesthetics to avoid would include Halothane.
There are many anesthetic protocols that your vet may chose to use, and the choice will depend on the age of your dog, its physical condition, its temperment, the procedure being planned, etc. General anesthesia usually includes the administration of a pre-anesthetic(s) which are designed to relax your dog, decrease salivary secretions, and to support the heart. The actual anesthetic may then be an injection followed by a gas, or may involve a constant infusion (or injection) of an anesthetic. An initial (induction) anesthetic is usually given intravenously first before your dog is intubated (a breathing tube) and placed on gas anesthesia. Drugs such as ketamine and valium, or Propoflo are good choices for a Bloodhound. Once a level of anesthesia is reached with the injection, they are able to place an endotracheal (breathing) tube to protect their airway and to place them on gas anesthetic. Gas (or inhalant) anesthetics that are a good choice for Bloodhounds include Isofluorane and Sevofluorane. These gases can result in a level of anesthesia quickly, maintain a proper level of anesthesia, and an animal can wake up very quickly from these gas anesthetic when desired. If the procedure is to be a short one, your vet can also us Propoflo as a constant IV infusion to maintain anesthesia. In very high risk cases or with a C-section, it is also possible to 'mask' your dog down with a gas anesthetic. This may take longer to induce a level of anesthesia, and may be difficult with some more fractious or 'busy' Bloodhounds, but it reduces the amount of anesthetic in their bloodstream that the puppies could absorb (if a C-section).
Several very important things to ask your vet include pre-anesthetic evaluation and monitoring while your dog is under anesthesia. Most young dogs do not need pre-anesthetic blood-work, but it is not a bad idea to have a mini-chem panel done to be safe. If your Bloodhound is 5 years of age or older, I recommend a pre-screening blood-test to check the kidneys, liver, and electrolytes. And most importantly, a good physical examination to listen to the heart, lungs, and be sure that all is well for anesthesia.
Monitoring your dog while it is under anesthesia is extremely important. Use of pulse oximetry to be sure that there is good oxygenation, monitoring the heart rate and rhythm, and respiratory rate are all very important. A problem can be anticipated rather than trying to correct one when it is too late. A veterinary technician should be with your dog to be able to address a problem and adjust the level of anesthesia if needed. If your pet is older or has any abnormalities on its blood-work, then having an IV catheter in place is a very good idea in case a drug needed to be given quickly.
Yes, anesthesia can be a very scary ordeal for you and your dog, but if the proper precautions are taken and your pet is monitored while under anesthesia, then you can allay your fears and allow your vet to do any recommended procedures for your dog's health.
Disclaimer: Consult your veterinarian regarding specific health care issues or problems. This article is not intended to replace the quality care you receive from your veterinarian. Karen Leshkivich, DVM