Yesterday, one of my colleagues voiced to me his frustration about the fear of sedation. He wanted to sedate a dog in order to properly flush its badly infected ears. This would be the medically sound thing to do, as removing all of the debris would allow the medications he was prescribing to work more effectively. The dog’s ears were much too painful to attempt this procedure while he was awake. Unfortunately, as soon as he mentioned anesthesia, the pet parent became nervous and refused the procedure.
I truly understand this fear of anesthesia. It can be disconcerting to think about – especially for pet parents who are making decisions on behalf of their loved one. However, most pet parents I talk to fear that their animal will fail to wake up. And in reality, this fear is a very, very remote possibility. In my office we anesthetize hundreds of animals a year, of all ages and health statuses, with very few complications. However, what we as veterinarians do fear is that inadequate treatment of a problem – such as severe ear infections, terrible dental disease or a rapidly growing mass – carries a much higher risk to a pet’s life and health than sedation ever could.
Unfortunately, no matter how reassuring we try to be, a large number of pet parents would rather deny procedures that require sedation because of a fear of the unknown. As with any medical procedure, I cannot say that sedation and anesthesia are 100% without risk, however; I can say that they are a better option than allowing medical problems to go untreated or making a pet endure a treatment in a fractious, frightened and painful state.
So, at my colleague’s request, I am writing this blog to remind pet parents that when it comes to the question of sedation, please understand that your veterinarian has your pet’s best interest in mind. It is important you feel comfortable, so ask lots of questions, and weigh the pros and cons. Most importantly, consider the health implications – both short and long term – for your beloved pet. In the end, your vet wants to provide your pet with the best possible, least traumatic care possible. And you both want your pet to quickly get back to what he or she does best: showering you with love and affection, of course!