10 Questions to Ask Before Anesthesia

It can be scary when your pet undergoes an anesthetic procedure. Here are ten questions to help ensure your pet is getting the very best care possible.

Life saving, life extending and life enhancing things are done under anesthesia that could never be done without it.  Most pets do well under anesthesia, even with complex or dangerous issues.  Most is not good enough. We are ALWAYS striving to make anesthesia even safer for every pet every time.

As a pet owner and a veterinarian, I understand how unsettling it can be when your own pet undergoes an anesthetic procedure.  These questions are meant to empower you, as a vital part of  your pet’s care team, and set your mind at ease that your pet is getting the very best care possible.

Ten Questions for Your Veterinary Team


What does this procedure involve?


Does my pet need further examinations or bloodwork or other pre-anesthetic testing before anesthesia?


Is my pet a good anesthetic candidate, health-wise?


Will you explain the risks and benefits of this procedure?


Who will be with my pet during anesthesia?


What will be used to monitor and support my pet under anesthesia?


Will you call me when my pet is waking up to let me know everything went well?


Does my pet need pain medication?


Will there be an overnight stay?  If so, who will be with my pet?  Do I need to take him or her to an overnight care facility?


What will I need to have ready at home?  Will my pet be sleepy?  Do I need to restrict activity or protect him or her from stairs and such?  Do I need to change the diet?  Will there be bandages or incisions that need special care?


One Promise to Your Veterinary Team

I will be reachable at this number!


One Comment for Your Veterinary Team

Thank you for taking such good care of my pet and addressing all of my concerns!”

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11 thoughts on “10 Questions to Ask Before Anesthesia

    1. Hi Benny and Lily!

      Yes, good thing to bring up! Brachycephalic breeds (Pugs and Bulldogs and other cute smoosh-faced dogs…and cats) have some (not insurmountable) anesthetic challenges and the team has to be extra careful with them…especially during the anesthetic recovery period. Have you done ok with anesthesia in the past??

    1. Hi Carol-Lynn! We used to use -pentol based drugs (mostly thiopentol) for anesthesia induction and Greyhounds and other Sighthounds could not process them well, because pets’ bodies dispel them by eventually discarding them in fat stores where they would be slowly released from the body. Because Sighthounds are super buff and have such small fat stores, they would get over-anethetized or take a very long time to wake up. Those drugs are rarely used any more and Sighthounds do great with the newer drugs.

  1. Dr. Finch please explain to everyone why doing lab work pre-anesthesia is so important in older dogs. It’s worth the cost as are pain medications.

    1. Donelle –

      You are so right! In fact, at my hospital, we don’t even make pet parents decide on preanesthetic bloodwork. It is included every time a pet is anesthetized, no matter what.

      What we are looking for with preanesthetic bloodwork are mainly signs of anemia, dehydration, infection, electrolyte imbalances, heartworm disease, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatic disease, protein imbalances, cancer markers and lipemia (excess fat in the bloodstream).

      Depending on what we find, along with exam findings and any other lab tests and the pet’s history, we may go ahead with anesthesia as planned, modify the anesthesia protocol, postpone anesthesia while issues are addressed, or cancel anesthesia all together.

      I just can’t overemphasize the importance of preanesthetic bloodwork! SO glad you brought it up! Thank you!

  2. I have found such a disconnect between vets who care enough about animals to write these “outreach” columns, such as Dr. Finch and such as Dr. Patty Khuly and Dr. Nancy Kay, and some of the small animal vets in “the real world” it’s hard to put the two philosophical approaches together. With all due respect to the vets who DO care and want to smooth the path in scary small animal treatment situations, if you ask those questions you as spokesperson for the furperson are far more likely to be treated with defensiveness and an attitude which bespeaks something like “I’m the vet how dare you question me”. You might not get as far down the list as that “thank you” comment which is good manners which no one should need reminding of anyway. But it is very hard especially when you have your pet’s medical history and even a letter from the vet who previously treated your pet where you lived before and the current vet gets all arrogant on you. In my situation I politely said “I don’t think we’re quite ready to go forward with this right at the moment, may we re-schedule?” and then proceeded to find another vet. If you get the “attitude” problem too many times you get worried about saying anything or speaking up and therein lies a possible path to true tragedy – and I’ve been there; when I asked twice about a contra-indicated antibiotic for my dog with kidney disease and the vet got quite upset with me for asking and advancing information that I had learned from the package insert itself (her comment was “I bet you got that off the internet didn’t you” – no, it was the package insert with the drug) I didn’t ask again and on her demand went ahead and gave a dose to my dog. And my guy died horribly. I am making an open plea to many vets out there who missed “client treatment 101” that day in vet school, please remember we as pet guardians/parents/owners are asking those questions because we LOVE our pets more than ourselves and often more even than our own human children and we are desperately frightened of things that might take those pets from us too soon. Submitted with respect and appreciation in advance for more appropriate treatment of the person paying the clinic!!

    1. Oh Jennifer, I am so sad (and angry) to hear about your dog! You did EVERYTHING RIGHT in that situation and I am so sorry for your loss.

      You are so right to move on if the vet seeing your pet will not answer questions and talk with you until you are both sure the treatment plan is the very best one. That is what I meant to convey with this list, but perhaps my post and your comment should be combined – If you cannot get through the list (or a more personalized list of your own concerns about your own pet and his or her situation) with the vet team, to a place where you can sincerely say “Thank you” and “I am comfortable with the next step of my pet’s health care” it is time to take your pet and your list to the next vet, until you find the right vet team. I am sorry that has been so rare for you! I wish that were not the case.

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