Hippo Takes a Nap: An Anesthetic Experience

Hippo the wiggle-butt weimaraner puppy is being spayed today at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, and her owners, especially the hippo-obsessed toddler who gave Hippo her name, are understandably worried about the anesthesia and surgery. To help ease their fears, Erica, one of our veterinary technicians, talks them through what will happen, from the moment she takes Hippo’s leash, to the time when Hippo will be joyfully reunited with her family. Feeling much better, Hippo’s toddler gives her a huge hug, sweetly tells her to have a good nap, and then leads her equally relieved parents out the door, all the while talking a mile a minute about the hippo facts she learned yesterday.

Hippo’s preanesthetic exam

Erica lets Hippo say an enthusiastic hello to the other team members before asking her to step up on the scale. The dose of all the drugs administered to Hippo today will be based on this weight, so Erica ensures that Hippo stands as still as possible for an accurate reading. When they reach the treatment area, Erica informs Dr. White that Hippo’s family did a great job sticking to fasting instructions. This is another important safety step, because Hippo’s empty stomach helps decrease the risk that she will vomit or regurgitate during anesthesia, and subsequently inhale stomach contents. Next, Dr. White and Erica review Hippo’s medical history, proceed with a thorough nose-to-tail physical exam, and obtain a blood sample for pre-anesthetic testing. These steps help ensure she can be anesthetized safely by verifying that she appears outwardly healthy, her liver and kidneys are functioning well to break down and eliminate the anesthetic drugs, and she has sufficient red cells to carry oxygen, white cells to fight infection, and platelets to allow blood clotting. Hippo passes with flying colors, and manages to plant a couple of slobbery kisses on Erica during the exam. 

Preparing for Hippo’s anesthesia

Dr. White and Erica work together to create an anesthetic plan for Hippo, carefully calculating the doses of all necessary drugs, and then administer preanesthetic medications. This drug combination will help ensure that Hippo is calm and relaxed when she undergoes general anesthesia, decrease the amount of general anesthetic drugs needed to keep her asleep, and help ensure she wakes up calmly with minimal postoperative pain. While Hippo is relaxing, Erica double checks that the anesthetic equipment she safety tested earlier is still working correctly. She then places an IV catheter in a sleepy Hippo’s right foreleg. This catheter will be used to give anesthetic drugs and fluids during the surgery, and also allows rapid IV access should Hippo need emergency drugs, further ensuring her safety. 

Hippo’s anesthesia nap

Once the anesthetic drugs are injected and Hippo is asleep, Erica places the breathing tube, and then attaches the tube to the machine that supplies oxygen and anesthetic gases to Hippo’s lungs. Hippo’s abdomen is shaved and sterilely prepared for surgery, and Erica attaches the anesthetic monitoring equipment. The entire time Hippo is under general anesthesia Erica monitors Hippo’s heart rate, respiratory rate, mucous membrane color, blood oxygen saturation, heart rhythm, and temperature, while also ensuring she receives the appropriate amount of anesthetic gas and oxygen. This continuous monitoring allows Erica to quickly detect any potential problems, and work with Dr. White to fix any that arise. 

Hippo recovers from anesthesia and goes home

After Dr. White performs Hippo’s spay, the anesthetic gas is turned off to allow Hippo to wake up. Erica stays with Hippo while she is recovering to ensure her vital signs remain normal, and she does not wake up agitated or painful. Once Hippo is more alert and swallowing, demonstrating she can protect her airway, Erica removes the breathing tube. Hippo is then moved to a comfortable recovery cage, where Erica and the other team members can continue to keep an eye on her throughout the day.

Later that afternoon, Hippo’s owners come to pick her up, and Erica goes over the postoperative instructions. Hippo’s owners thank Erica, Dr. White, and the rest of the team for keeping their sweet dog safe during her anesthesia and spay, and Hippo listens intently while her toddler tells her that since Hippo needs to rest for a few days, they will have to snuggle and read lots of hippo books together. 

If, like Hippo, your beloved pet needs to undergo anesthesia, rest assured that our team is committed to ensuring your pet’s safety using the latest anesthetic protocols, excellent monitoring, and attention to detail. If you are ready to schedule your pet’s procedure, or have some anesthesia-related questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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