Dr Sutton is often asked if it is "safe to anesthetize" a pet, particularly senior pets. What many clients don't understand is that there are many types of anesthetics, protocols and monitoring. We treat even the young pets as if they were high risk patients. We are quite Type A when it comes to anesthesia. She likes to joke that though Type A people may not be the easiest folks to have in your life, we Type A personalities are the ones you want to anesthetize your pet! Compared to hospitals that do many procedures a day, this could be considered "boutique" anesthesia. We are perfectly fine with that description.
Dr Sutton performs the majority of procedures at TVC. Back in the 1990s Dr Sutton worked at an ER/Critical Care facility and anesthetized a lot of high risk patients. Then she spent a dozen years traipsing the globe, running spay and neuter clinics in less developed nations. Many of the pets on her volunteers spay/neuter campaigns were parasitized and malnourished pets who were "high risk" compared to the generally healthy pets we see in America. Dr Bill Moore and Dr Javiera Correa also come from a critical care and emergency background and have also anesthetized many high risk patients. We hope to never have to run CPR on any patient, but our 3 core veterinarians at TVC have significant experience anesthetizing high risk patients and with resuscitative efforts if ever needed. Keep reading to learn the many "safety nets" we have in place to minimize the risk of anesthesia. We do not allow clients to decline any of these safety nets. These are non-negotiable! These safety nets are included in the price of anesthesia. These safety nets are the things we do when we anesthetize our own pets.
We closely monitor pets under anesthesia and we try to be time efficient when we have a pet anesthetized. Further, when we have a pet under anesthesia we only have ONE pet under anesthesia at any given time. (This is unfortunately not the case at many hospitals, particularly the low cost surgery or dental clinics.) We treat anesthesia with great respect. We have everything ready to roll prior to anesthetizing your pet. We have an IV catheter in your pet for emergency drug dosing should the heart rate slow or blood pressure drop. We utilize IV fluids for every pet under anesthesia. We monitor blood pressure, end tidal C02 capnography, ECG, pulse oximetry, heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature throughout the procedure. We have many "bear huggers" to keep your pet warm during the procedure and after the procedure during recovery. We utilize nerve blocks and local anesthesia in every procedure so that we can keep your pet under the lightest plane of anesthesia possible. And finally, Dr Sutton is old and has been at this for decades. She does the majority of procedures at TVC. She does not dawdle at surgery and has a knack for dental extractions few veterinarians have. She is not a dental specialist, but is pretty darned speedy. Furthermore, we have emergency drug dosages calculated before we even anesthetize a pet so that if ever a situation arises we aren't fumbling to do math and waste time.
We give the pre-medication in the exam room with clients in the morning of the procedure. This usually is a mild narcotic and some midazolam. Occasionally we might add a microdose of dexdomitor into the mix if a young pet is particularly rambunctious or anxious. We give it under the skin and ask the client to wait with the pet for 15 to 20 minutes prior to us taking the patient to the back for IV catheter placement. This alone decreases the stress on the pet dramatically. Additionally, we limit procedures to 2 or 3 patients per day so that pets don't wait all day in a kennel before the procedure. If we do a 3rd procedure in a day, we typically have that client arrive at 11 am rather than at 8:30 am. Anesthesia is an art, and we strive to make the pet as relaxed as possible. Once the pet is awake and able to go home, we send the pet home rather than have it sit in a kennel and fret.
Once the pet is relaxed with the "pre-med", we also encourage "Pre-anesthetic Global Fast Ultrasound Exams" on the day of the procedure. Much as vets have trained clients to run "pre-anesthetic bloodwork" prior to anesthesia, we now do pre-anesthetic ultrasound exams. We look at the heart, the lung surface, the kidneys and liver, the spleen, the urinary bladder, the gall bladder. Particularly for old timers, we may see incidental findings that help us ensure your pet is safe for anesthesia and help guide us to future wellness care. Or, an ultrasound may help us investigate laboratory abnormalities we've found on the pre-anesthetic bloodwork. We charge a nominal $45 for the pre-anesthetic global fast exam. The pre-anesthetic global fast exam is optional, but we encourage it for middle aged and older pets.
Once we have everything ready to roll for the procedure, we give an "induction" agent: either Alfaxan or Propofol IV. These medications have amongst the lowest cardiac and respiratory depression of any induction agents and are very quickly out of the body. We give these meds IV slowly over about 2 minutes to effect until the pet's relaxed enough that we can place a sterile tube into the trachea (windpipe). Thereafter we maintain the pet on "gas" anesthesia and oxygen. When a pet is under gas anesthesia we have quick control of depth of anesthesia. Obviously we keep a pet on as light of a plane of anesthesia as possible. Nerve blocks to numb the surgical or dental site help us keep a pet under the lightest plane of anesthesia possible.
We are proud to be one of the 15% of veterinary clinics in America that is AAHA accredited. This means we let the inspectors come through every 2 years to evaluate our standards of care, our facility, our practices and so on. When Dr Sutton first got certified the AAHA inspector commented to her that TVC was the fastest approval she had done in her 12 years of doing AAHA inspections. (When Dr Sutton says she is Type A, she means it!) When clients are anxious about anesthesia, Dr Sutton is happy to discuss our protocols and give the client a tour of our facility. We LOVE clients who want the best for their pets and are involved in the pet's medical choices. We are never offended by clients who question our protocols or wish to have a tour of our hospital. AAHA just came out with a 2020 AAHA Anesthesia Guidelines. Clients can find AAHA 2020 Anesthesia Guidelines with a simple Google search. Know that we pride ourselves on our anesthesia protocols.
In 2016 Dr Sutton began giving every patient that undergoes anesthesia an IV injection of Cerenia at the start of general anesthesia. Cerenia is a potent 24 hour anti-nausea medication for dogs and cats. Since starting this, the incidence of perioperative inappetence and nausea has plummeted. It's now quite rare for a pet to not eat the evening of surgery or anesthesia at TVC. In 2016 Dr Sutton heard that many human patients are more worried about nausea post-op than anesthesia itself. This hit a chord with her as each time she herself has been anesthetized she has vomited post-op. Every patient receives an IV injection of this anti-nausea medication at cost.
We've added a new "habit" recently as we wish to incorporate the use of melatonin pre-operatively for our patients, particularly our senior patients. Oral melatonin is a good pre-op sedative with no side effects that has been shown to decrease stress and lower anesthetic requirements for pets. Additionally, they sleep better the night before surgery. Melatonin is particularly helpful for “skeptical” patients who get anxious in the clinic environment. Middle aged to senior and anxious pets will get melatonin pre-op (night before) and for a few nights post op. Older pets don’t get back to a normal sleeping pattern as well as the typical young pet. Old pets have a lower melatonin surge in the evening compared to young pets. If clients wish to give a dose or oral cerenia the night before, they can save the $20 injection fee the morning of surgery.
Finally, Dr Sutton rarely is more than 10 steps away from a pet under anesthesia. Many hospitals will schedule appointments for doctors during that doctor's dental procedures. If Dr Sutton is doing procedures (as she does Monday through Friday each morning), you won't likely find her at the front of the building. She will be in the back if a pet is under anesthesia. Dr Correa and Dr Moore see appointments all day long, but Dr Sutton sees appointments in the afternoon or once her surgeries and dentals are completed. We treat anesthesia with the respect it deserves.