Sedation in Pets
Veterinary medicine has a few words or phrases that nobody wants to hear…”maggots”, “hit by car”, and “quiet”, to name a few. However, “sedation” is not one of them. As a pet owner, you undoubtedly can be concerned about your pet being sick and needing to undergo sedation or anesthesia because those are often emergency situations. Most younger pets undergoing anesthesia for a spay or neuter will do quite well and potentially may be less of a concern for pet owners. Older pets can often do fine under anesthesia or sedation as well as long we monitor closely and take proper precautions.
But when else will we use sedation?? Taking radiographs (x-rays) is a procedure that not every pet would require sedation but it can provide us with better images and limits exposure of staff to radiation (as well as your pet if we don’t have to repeat the process). Nail trimming or taking blood samples are not easy for all pets so sedation may be of help. Even regular visits to the vet clinic can involve sedation.
What is Sedation?
To be clear, sedation is not the same as a general anesthetic but it a component of it. Sedation is being relaxed to sleepy but not unconscious. A patient won’t feel pain but is still aware of their surroundings (provided the sedation is not too deep) unlike anesthesia where they are completely unconscious. Animals who are sedated can still control their own breathing in most cases whereas general anesthesia requires intubation to maintain the airway and they are hooked up to oxygen.
As noted before, there are varying levels of sedation. It might involve just a mild anti-anxiety medication that can be given orally or a liquid forms that can help cause some mild muscle relaxation. A lot of pet owners don’t realize that animals get anxious too. The bonus to these is they can be given at home before even getting to the veterinary clinic. Deeper sedation may be needed in some situations (wound repair, emergencies after an accident, aggressive animals) and will likely involve an injection once at the hospital.
The overall end goal of sedation is to make things safer and less anxious for your pets (though there is also a safety factor for staff with aggressive patients). Gone are the days when we should just hold an animal down and get things done. Wouldn’t they be happier if they weren’t afraid or know it was happening? So if your veterinarian discusses sedation, whether incredibly mild for anti-anxiety or deeper for painful concerns, it’s really for your pet’s best interest, safety, and happiness.
Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.