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What Should I Expect After Anesthesia with My Pet?

I have been having some interesting cases, requiring levels of pain management for pets before and after undergoing some sedative and anesthetic procedures that have sparked some interesting questions and discrepancies of expectations from owners.While we try to anticipate questions and explain how your pet will respond, there is so much information we are likely to be giving you, that the things to expect post anesthesia and the side effects of the medications we send home often get overlooked or not heard or explained as well as they should.We also have to keep in mind that every animal is different.How your pet will respond specifically may not be the norm or follow general expectations.

Here are some points to help try to address more specifically the anesthetic process and some basic things to expect after anesthesia:


  • Your pet just had anesthesia/sedation with a procedure. We would like for them to stay in a calm state for at least 12-24 hours.Once home, if your pet is sleepy and not as participatory that is normal.They are home and in a comfortable place, which is letting them rest peacefully without worry of who is barking in the kennel across the way.This is an important part of the healing process.How long it takes for your pet to be not as sleepy after the procedures depends on the combination and layering of medications given as well as their potency.The goal post anesthesia for your pet is cognizant or arousable analgesia (pain control), meaning your pet goes off to rest, but if you call their name or make a sound, they look up and acknowledge you.If this is what they are doing with little anxiety, then they had a good anesthetic/analgesic experience and will probably be unafraid to visit the veterinarian next time.Older dogs, overweight animals, lower basal metabolic rate animals, and even very thin, well conditioned pets may also seem to “hold onto” their anesthetic cocktails a bit longer. Depending upon what medications were used pets may seem to take longer to recover.They also may not need re-dosing of go home meds as quickly or as frequently.This is why good communication as to what your pet is specifically doing is so important.If you are having concerns and think that something is unexpected or not normal let your veterinarian know immediately.The individual requirements of each pet need to be taken into consideration and adjustments made.

  • Medications to be given post-op: Some are anti-inflammatant analgesics that help with the healing of the incision line and decrease irritation to that area.Some medications are more potent analgesics that may have drowsiness associated.These too may have some dysphoria, or vocalization/whining, associated with them due to the nature of those medications, putting your pet in a bit of an altered state that is strange to them.It is important to distinguish this from a painful whining. Consult with P.A.W.S. team members to help to adjust any medications more specifically to your pet.If your pet is on a more potent analgesic that has drowsiness associated, your pet’s surroundings at home need to be considered.Limiting space and preventing the opportunity to fall down stairs or off couches is important.Some medications need to be taken with food and some may decrease your pet’s appetite.Medications prescribed should be given as directed and should be given until gone unless a different plan has been developed between you and your doctor.It is important for good healing that the post-op meds are administered as recommended.

  • Remember why your pet was just in for its procedure.If it was for some sort of orthopedic process (e.g. fracture repair or ligament repair) it is important that inflammation stay down and analgesia is addressed.While we want our pet’s activity to be restricted and controlled, we also want good healing in a non-painful and non-distressful way to occur.If they are staying a little sleepier for a few days with their medications, this is good and will allow for a better healing process to occur.