Every cat parent I know worries when a cat  has to go under anesthesia, including me. Even though I’ve assisted with all sorts of anesthetic procedures and surgeries in my years working in veterinary clinics, and even though I understand how it all works and what constitutes safe anesthetic practice, it still doesn’t completely take the worry out of it. Knowing what to expect when your cat has to undergo anesthesia, and knowing the right questions to ask at your veterinary clinic prior to the procedure so that you can be sure that  your cat’s anesthesia will be done in the safest possible way, can help ease the worry factor.

Varying standards of care

One of the problems with safe anesthesia is that standards of care can vary widely from one veterinary practice to the next. While I would hope that no veterinarian will ever knowingly put an animal’s safety at risk, I’ve heard from far too many people about questionable standards of care at their veterinary practice when it comes to anesthetic procedures. This may be particularly true for mixed practices. Cats are not small dogs, and there is evidence that cats undergoing anesthesia have a higher mortality rate than dogs due to their unique physiology and small size.

Guidelines to ensure safer anesthesia

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) just released its first Feline Anesthesia Guidelines to the veterinary community with the goal of ensuring safer anesthesia for feline patients.

The guidelines address specific causes of disparities and ways of avoiding complications associated with monitoring, airway management, fluid therapy, and recovery. Additionally, the guidelines discuss other important aspects of feline anesthesia, including perianesthetic anxiety and stress, perianesthetic monitoring by physical and electronic means, the role of underlying diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), and the correct use of anesthesia equipment.

One size does not fit all

I find it particularly reassuring that the guidelines stress that each cat is an individual. “By proactively developing an individualized anesthetic plan that considers the uniqueness of each feline patient and recognizing that ‘one size does not fit all,’ the experience for the cat can be improved and the outcome successful. It is our hope that these guidelines will become the practice’s go-to resource and each team member will have a new awareness of all the tools and techniques available to them,” said Guidelines Co-Chairs Susan M. Gogolski, DVM, PMP, DABVP (Canine/Feline) and Sheilah A. Robertson, BVMS (Hons), PhD, DACVAA, DECVAA, DACAW, DECAWBM (WSEL), MRCVS in a joint statement.

To access the guidelines, supplemental resources, and client brochure, visit: catvets.com/anesthesia.

To access the AAFP’s consumer site with anesthesia information for cat parents, visit: catfriendly.com/anesthesia.