Ask the pet expert: anesthesia

January 11, 2013

When my Chihuahua had her teeth cleaned last week, the vet said her heart rate went down into the high 60s and that an episode of second-degree heart block occurred, but they reversed it with meds. Does this mean she is at risk of it happening again under anesthesia? Other than perhaps a follow-up EKG at her next comprehensive exam, should anything else be done? I am scared to have her teeth cleaned again.

First, I would schedule a consult with this pet's veterinarian and review the risks and the benefits of the procedure.

That said, there are a certain possibilities that could cause the heart rate to drop or cause an arrhythmia. Some medications used to anesthetize pets have the potential to cause bradycardia (a slow heart rate) or other forms of arrhythmia. The good news is that when you have good equipment and, most important, skilled personnel monitoring anesthetized pets to watch for these issues, you can correct them before major problems arise. And some of these medications can be reversed to eliminate those side effects.

Sometimes, underlying heart conditions or age can make anesthesia more complicated. The need for further diagnostics would depend on exam findings and how the pet responded to emergency intervention and the reversal medications. Having an anesthetic consult with your veterinarian before the procedure to discuss potential complications would give more answers.

Professional and regular dental cleanings are important for overall wellness. Sometimes, a normal-looking tooth may be very diseased. Dental issues can cause pain and discomfort and affect a pet's quality of life and personality to some extent. Having a consultation or discussion with your veterinarian to determine the risks versus benefits prior to any anesthetic or surgical procedure is important.

This week's expert is Dr. Padma Yadlapall with Freetown Animal Hospital.

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