Veterinary anaesthesia is the practice of sedating animals by a veterinarian, usually when operating on, but sometimes for transporting, extracting samples, pathology, inspecting, tagging, clinical trials in animal testing, and inseminating.

Anaesthesia is used for a wider range of procedures in animals than in people, due to animals’ inability to cooperate with certain therapeutic or diagnostic practices. The amount and effectiveness of anaesthesia also varies widely in veterinary science due to markedly different body masses between species as well as variations in physiology. Some drugs used to sedate one species can have the opposite effect on another – inducing excitation and mania. Veterinarians need to be aware of matching the anaesthesia drug to the species.

Veterinary anaesthesia includes anaesthesia of the major pet species: dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, rabbits and rodents, as well farm animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, alpacas and pigs. Veterinarians may also be required to operate on captive animals in zoos and native Australian wildlife that have been harmed by road, feral cat predation or hunting accidents etc. Finally, the realm of drug testing on animals and general medical research can lead to the need for anaesthesia, where guidelines exist for the mandatory use of sedatives and tranquilisers for certain species.

Typical types of anaesthesia drugs such as propofol, xylazine, romifidine, ketamine, morphine and detomidine, and type and dosage will vary according to species, maturity and length of procedure. Guaifenesin can be used as a muscle relaxant prior to introducing anaesthesia if necessary in some animals.

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Experts in the field of veterinary anaesthesia are trained in the study of what species respond to what drugs and dosages. They are practising veterinarians as well as academics and researchers, which enables them to provide opinions on veterinary anaesthesia in Australia.

Clients may be interested in their knowledge about veterinary anaesthesia to assist with legal cases involving negligence and malpractice.

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Relevant Articles A new formulation of alfaxalone has been registered in Australia for use over a wider variety of species

Positive reports of a new drug variant of anaesthesia have widened the range of species for its suitable use including raptors, fish, pigs and rabbits.

Anaesthesia-free dentistry - a cosmetic procedure harmful to pet’s health and welfare

Performing anaesthesia-free dentistry (AFD) is a relatively new and increasing trend generally offered by groomers and other pet service providers. It’s often presented as an effective way to maintain the dental health of our furry loved ones but what many pet owners don’t know is that it can be dangerous to the health and welfare of their pets.

Relevant Cases Veterinary Surgeons Investigating Committee v Gelderman [2000] NSWADT 117

A veterinary surgeon was disciplined for inadequate record-keeping while administering anaesthetic to a dog. The need for monitoring was all the more critical because the dog had atrial fibrillation of the heart and pyometron (an infected uterus).

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A sample of our experts in Animals - Veterinary anaesthesia

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