Anesthesia is an essential part of veterinary care, allowing for painless procedures and surgeries in cats. However, it's crucial to recognise that the recovery period after anesthesia is equally as important. Most anesthetic-related deaths occur during this post-anesthetic phase, yet many cats are placed back into quiet wards as soon as they are awake, instead of being kept close to staff for monitoring. In this blog post, we will discuss why close monitoring of cats after anesthesia is crucial, the potential risks they face during this critical period, and why this question is so vitally important.
The post-anesthetic recovery phase is a particularly vulnerable time for cats recovering from their anesthetics. Effects of anesthesia can linger, potentially affecting the cat's heart, respiratory system, and overall well-being. Post anesthetic complications include respiratory depression (where cats stop breathing), heart problems, hypothermia (low temperature), delayed recovery from anesthesia, and potential adverse reactions to medications. Pain from any procedure carried out may also be particularly obvious as the cat wakes up as they are less conscious of hiding their pain during this period. Early detection and intervention can help to prevent any complications from escalating.
It is absolutely critical to monitor cats during the post-anesthetic period to ensure they are pain free, not too cold and recovering as expected from their anesthetic. This can only be achieved if the cat is close to where the surgery staff are present. At my practice, we keep cats recovering from anesthesia in warmed oxygen tents with a nurse closely monitoring them until they are fully awake and eating, and it is recommended that all vets do the same. Unfortunately, in many cases cats are placed back into wards in unheated kennels as soon as they wake up - they are left cold and unmonitored and if they display signs of distress or pain, it can go unnoticed. In worst case scenarios, cats can die unnoticed as a result of their anesthetic, which could have been prevented if they had been monitored more closely.
Unfortunately with the current strain in the veterinary industry with a huge shortage of both vets and nurses and an overall increase in pet ownership, this problem is getting worse as vet practices are expected to do more work with less staff than ever before - resulting in shortcuts being taken. For me, this is a shortcut too many. That is why it is so vitally important to be your cat's advocate and ask what your vet's practices are and where your cat will be recovering from their anesthetic and if they will be monitored in the post-anesthetic period.
Wishing you and your cat a smooth and stress-free recovery journey!