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Does my cat need to be put under anesthesia to undergo surgery?

Critter Care:

By: Christina Holland

  |  Posted: Friday, Dec 21, 2012 12:48 pm

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Dear Christina,

Iíve been told my cat Munchkin needs to have her teeth cleaned, and maybe have some removed. Iím worried because a few years ago, I lost a cat while she was in having surgery. Does my cat need to be under anesthesia to have a dental?

There really are two issues here. One is anesthesia in general, and the other is anesthesia in relation to your pet.

General anesthesia (GA) is something to be respected, but not feared. If your pet is being monitored by a qualified person, either a veterinarian or a technician, then issues can be addressed immediately. For most procedures, I would feel more comfortable monitoring a patient who is under a GA rather than one who is merely sedated. A sedated patient cannot be intubated (have a tube put down the airway) and this means that if the patient stops breathing, I first have to place that tube, and then breathe for the pet.

Also in many sedated pets, an IV catheter is not placed, meaning that if I need to give emergency drugs, I first have to place the catheter, which uses precious time. In order to have a better idea of how your pet will do under GA, you should have a physical exam performed by a veterinarian, as well as some bloodwork run. Bloodwork tells us how the internal organs are performing.

If organs are not working as well as they should, different drugs can be chosen that will not be as hard on the animalís system.

The bottom line is that there are some procedures that definitely can be done with only sedation, such as removing small skin lumps, but a dental procedure really should be done under a general anesthetic. If your pet is only sedated, your vet may not be able to do a thorough job.

I understand your anxiety, and encourage you to speak with your veterinarian about your concerns. Just like you, they only want the best outcome for your pet.

Christina Holland is an animal health technologist in Airdrie. To have your pet questions answered, contact


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