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Why Should My Pet Receive IV Fluids During Surgery?

The administration of IV (intravenous) fluids is an important complement to surgical procedures and anesthesia. IV fluids require the placement of a catheter into a vein, by which special sterile fluids containing electrolytes can be infused directly into the animal’s bloodstream. There are many advantages to providing IV fluids to pets who are undergoing procedures requiring anesthetic, particularly surgical patients.

  • When your pet is anesthetized, it can experience decreased blood pressure from the sedative drugs; the blood vessels relax, the heart slows, and blood pressure falls as a result. Left unchecked, this drop in blood pressure can result in damage to the kidneys. Intravenous fluids help to keep your pet’s blood pressure above critical levels, ensuring that oxygen and nutrients continue to reach the vital organs that need them, including the brain and kidneys. It has also been shown, in a study done by the University of Pennsylvania, that increasing the amount of fluid delivered to the animal enhances the total number and density of vessels receiving blood flow.

  • The IV catheter is an important access point not only for intravenous fluids, but also for pain medications, antibiotics, anesthetics, and emergency drugs. If an animal experiences an unexpected, critical drop in blood pressure during a procedure, it is extremely difficult after the blood pressure drops to raise a vein and place a catheter. With a catheter already in place, emergency drugs can be given immediately and easily if a critical situation occurs, potentially saving the animal’s life.
  • IV fluids maintain your pet’s hydration while undergoing surgical or dental procedures. It is generally recommended that animals be fasted prior to surgery, to reduce the risk of vomiting while under anesthetic; as a result, pets are usually slightly dehydrated even before the procedure begins. In addition, there may be some blood loss during the procedure. IV fluids will replace these lost fluids and keep your pet well-hydrated.
  • Your pet’s core body temperature will drop slowly while he/she is sedated; one way we can correct this is to administer warmed IV fluids directly into the bloodstream, using a fluid-warming machine.
  • Finally, when your pet’s procedure is finished, IV fluids help to flush the anesthetic from the liver and kidneys and assist in a smoother and more rapid recovery, maintaining vitals and keeping the animal hydrated.

An IV catheter and fluids are recommended to maintain your pet’s blood pressure and decrease the risks of organ damage from decreased blood pressure, prevent dehydration, and to aid in recovery, as well as to provide a life-line in the event of an emergency. Your pet deserves nothing less than excellent care: fluid administration helps to ensure your precious friend’s well-being, and gives peace of mind to both you and your pet’s veterinary team.

4 thoughts on “Why Should My Pet Receive IV Fluids During Surgery?”

  1. Recently our family dog broke his leg when he was hit by a car and now needs surgery. You mentioned that an IV catheter and fluids are recommended to maintain your pet’s blood pressure and decrease the risks of organ damage from decreased blood pressure, as well as provide a life-line in the event of an emergency. I didn’t realize that and IV was so important for animals as well as humans. Do all veterinary hospitals use this technique?

    1. Thanks for asking, Mr. Mcdoogle! IV fluids are indeed equally important for both animals and humans undergoing anesthetic procedures. Monitoring of vital signs – including blood pressure – while obviously critical, does not give us a complete picture of what is going on in the animal’s body at a cellular level. While the administration of IV fluids during surgery may not be practiced routinely by all veterinary hospitals, as an AAHA-accredited hospital we follow hundreds of professional standards in order to provide the highest quality of care for our patients. These standards include the recommendation that patients have intravenous catheters in place during general anesthesia and/or sedation, and that IV fluids are administered during general anesthesia. While these are not yet mandatory standards, we believe that they help us to ensure the best possible outcome for all our surgical patients.

  2. I like how you said that IVs help veterinary surgical services counteract any negative effects and anesthetic could have on your pet. Personally, I don’t think I would ever go into a surgery without anesthesia because the idea of being awake terrifies me and I wouldn’t want any of our pets to have to do the same. If something as simple as an IV could help take care of any problems I would do it every time!

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