In this article we will try to clarify a procedure widely used in veterinary medicine: cat anesthesia. There are many types of anesthesia, from total anesthesia, to local anesthesia, to the sedation of the cat, and often one wonders what can be the side effects of anesthesia in the cat, the risks that there may be, and also the time of disposal of the cat. anesthesia. Let’s see them in detail.
Anesthesia is a widely used procedure in veterinary medicine. It is an ancient practice that has been handed down and has evolved to the present day. The use of substances such as ether and chloroform has to be considered distant historical memories.
Today we have a vast number of pharmacological protocols that are chosen according to the objective that we set ourselves and that help us to limit and predict those that can be side effects.
What is anesthesia in cats and what is sedation
Often the anesthesia is compared to sleep but the two things are very distinct.
Sleep is a temporary loss of consciousness that occurs in a completely natural way and follows daily rhythms. During sleep, the neurovegetative functions are maintained by the organism in a completely spontaneous way, although they are slowed down.
With anesthesia there is a loss of consciousness and an altered perception of pain, together with a decrease in muscle tone. Also the neurovegetative functions can undergo variable changes.
The sedation, also often used as a synonym of anesthesia, is instead different from the latter, in fact allows only partial loss of consciousness.
It may be useful to resort to this type of effect to reduce the state of agitation of a cat, for example in view of normal clinical visits or during diagnostic tests that may not be well accepted by the animal, both for difficulty in tolerance towards that type of manipulation either because it is annoying or painful (for example during an inspection of the oral cavity or the removal of a foreign body).
Sedation in the cat is also useful during an anesthesia to allow the animal to begin to relax before the administration of the drugs assigned to it, so as to allow the enhancement as an effect and reduce the amount needed. This is what is called preanesthesia.
When anesthesia is needed in the cat
The first answer to the question “When do you need anesthesia in the cat?” That comes to mind for most of us is definitely: during surgery!
Absolutely unthinkable to be able to face any kind of surgery with a patient who is not only conscious but also sensory-sensitive from a sensorial point of view.
In veterinary medicine, however, the uses of sedation and anesthesia are not related solely to surgical interventions.
We have just mentioned the sometimes poor collaboration of our cats during visits to the vet.
Sometimes you have to deal with cats that do not let even approached through the carrier, let alone be manipulated to be visited.
Sometimes it is necessary to resort to anesthesia in the cat to allow to carry out diagnostic investigations, for example radiographic plates in which it is necessary to have the absolute immobility of the patient difficult to obtain with the awake animal or even of the ultrasounds, during which the our cat must remain for several minutes (which to him may seem an eternity) in positions not really comfortable, belly to air and with four legs extended.
Even a blood sample can turn into a rodeo if we are dealing with a particularly pugnacious cat.
Unfortunately, diagnostic tests are necessary and the use of sedation or anesthesia allows them to be performed without creating too much trouble for the cat.
What are the types of anesthesia in the cat
The anesthetic protocols are different and also vary depending on the type of anesthesia that you choose to perform.
A first distinction must be made between injective anesthesia and inhalation or gaseous anesthesia.
Injectable anesthesia involves the use of drugs that are injected into the patient, intramuscularly or intravenously. Usually it is proposed for rapid interventions or procedures because it is combined with the disadvantage of less effective and safe monitoring.
Inhalation or gaseous anesthesia
Inhalation or gaseous anesthesia provides, after an initial induction (the first moment of anesthesia) with injective drugs, the use of anesthetics in gaseous form. These offer the advantage of being more easily managed during the interventions.
Then we have another distinction: general anesthesia and local anesthesia.
General anesthesia is the one that involves the total loss of consciousness on the part of the animal, local anesthesia allows to lose sensitivity only to a portion of the body.
The latter offers the advantage of using the anesthetic in a targeted way, thus reducing the side effects, but leaves the patient conscious and therefore needs to be very tolerant!
Cat anesthesia: awakening
The awakening phase is the phase during which one sees the return of consciousness and the control of one’s motor skills.
Also in this case the choice of the type of protocol (injective or gaseous anesthesia) can lead to differences.
Generally, the recovery after an inhalation anesthesia is faster than that obtained by using injectable drugs. This is because the injectable drugs require more time to metabolize and eliminate than gaseous drugs.
On the time necessary to awaken from anesthesia other factors that depend on our cat also intervene.
One factor is the age: an elderly subject will on average need more time to dispose of anesthesia than a young person.
Health: cats with liver (liver) or kidney problems will slow down in metabolizing and eliminating the drug compared to cats that are in perfect physical shape.
But also other factors such as being overweight affect anesthesia and its disposal, the adipose tissue offers the possibility of depositing some drugs, delaying their elimination.
Risks and side effects of anesthesia
Cat anesthesia involves risks that can be partially predicted, assessed and limited.
The first thing that is recommended in view of a programmed anesthesia is a preanesthesiological visit with the execution of diagnostic tests (blood tests and echocardiography for example).
Cats suffering from clinical conditions are subject to greater risks in relation to the pathology they suffer and the severity of the disease.
During the pre-anesthetic visit the veterinarian will be responsible for exposing the risks case by case and in which percentage they will weigh on the choice to proceed with the anesthesia or opt for clinical / therapeutic alternatives where there is such possibility.
The side effects for a total anesthesia will affect different organs, because the whole organism is affected: nervous system, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, gastrointestinal system.
Therefore, the presence of a veterinarian who deals with the management of anesthesia and monitoring of this, through a visual and instrumental patient check, during the entire intervention up to the awakening phase, may be recommended.
Possible post-operative consequences may be related to hypothermia (decrease in body temperature), respiratory problems, vomiting (for this reason it is important to respect the preoperative fasting!), Changes in blood glucose levels. Also in this case the careful monitoring of the cat during the awakening phase and in the first post-surgery hours will be useful to limit the complications related to these alterations.
Dispose of total anesthesia
When we bring home our cat after an operation that has provided for a hospitalization in the day hospital or with 24-hour resignation, as in cases of ovariectomies and orchiectomies (sterilization and castration), usually our impression is that both awake, just like when we left him a few hours early in the clinic.
Although our cat actually appears to be conscious, it must be borne in mind that the “disposal” of anesthesia may not yet be complete. It will therefore be awake, it is true, but may not have regained full motor and / or sensory control.
You may experience nausea, following the use of anesthetic drugs or even painkillers administered at the time of surgery or immediately after, and refuse the food when proposed by us according to the indications that the vet has left us (usually it is recommended to respect fasting for a few hours after returning home).
Once home, it will be good to leave our cat a few hours quiet, maybe in a room or in a secluded environment, to allow him to recover gradually, without being bothered by us or even worse by other cohabiting animals.
In these cases, in fact, not feeling fully in control of themselves it is not uncommon for clashes to occur, sometimes with rather bright characters, which could disrupt the relationship and compromise future cohabitation!
I hope I have clarified your doubts about total anesthesia in cats and about sedatives and in which cases they are used, it is always good to ask your veterinarian for all the clarifications to dispel any doubt, and if you have any further questions or comments to anesthesia or you want to tell me about your experience, write in the comments below.