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Published: Mar 01, 2012

There are a number of procedures that require a dog to be placed under general anesthesia.  Anesthesia involves the administration of drugs that depress nerve function and cause a dog to be unconscious for a short period of time. Many owners worry about how this procedure will affect their canine.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, there is always a risk of an adverse reaction when using anesthesia, no matter the amount of the medication given or the amount of time the dog is under. However, only an estimated one in 100,000 animals will have a reaction to an anesthetic agent. These reactions can range from mild swelling at the injection site to anaphylactic shock and death, but experts say that a dog has a greater risk of dying while driving to the veterinarian's office than it does of dying while under anesthesia.

It is crucial that owners make sure their dogs have empty stomachs prior to anesthesia. Because anesthesia drugs cause complete muscular relaxation, a dog may regurgitate or vomit if they have a full stomach. This can be a risk for ulcers within the esophagus or aspiration into the lungs which may result in pneumonia.

The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine reports that going under general anesthesia should be considered similar to partaking in a period of strenuous exercise rather than a relaxing sleep. That said, young, healthy animals with all of their dog vaccinations are better able to tolerate the slowing of heart function that anesthesia can cause, since they have stronger cardiovascular systems. Older animals with less cardiovascular strength may have less tolerance for longer procedures.

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